Oilers Max Markowitz Coaches Behind the Scenes
By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
UP AND COMER: Oilers Assistant Coach Max Markowitz stands behind Head Coach Jason Christie during an Oilers game in Tulsa. Markowitz looks forward to a successful career in professional hockey.
Photo by ED BAILEY
There is a rumor floating around that the Tulsa Oilers have a full time assistant coach behind the bench named Max Markowitz. They say he also helps out when head coach Jason Christie holds practices for the franchise.
“Where did you hear that? Who told you?’’ quipped Christie, answering a caller who asked if it was true. “We were trying to keep this quiet.’’
It’s no joke that the unsung Markowitz has quickly become an asset for Christie and the Oilers as they embark on the second half of the season. The 26-year-old resident of Grand Forks, N.D., wears many hats for the team in his first year tutoring on ice.
“I really didn’t play hockey in Michigan growing up,’’ says Markowitz, a Detroit native. “I didn’t play in high school or college, but I did play hockey. I was a defenseman.’’
While his playing resume may be sparse, Markowitz did coach four seasons at the University of North Dakota and with the Finnish National Team for two more. He helped coach Finland in the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
During the 2014-15 season, Markowitz handled video operations as an assistant at St. John’s of the American Hockey League. When the franchise moved to Manitoba of the this year, Markowitz went along.
“They offered me a contract to be their video coach, but I had always wanted to be an (on ice) assistant coach,’’ says Markowitz. “I decided to take a gamble and turn it down because I didn’t want to go back in the same position. They told me they still wanted me to be in the organization and they told me they had a team in the , a new affiliation.’’
Eager to shed his anonymity, Markowitz jumped at his opportunity with the Oilers. He was familiar with Christie’s accomplishments as a head coach and wanted him to become his mentor.
“His coming to Tulsa was huge, for sure,’’ Christie says. “He’s a good guy to have around. He’s learning a lot and he knows the game because he’s been through it. He hasn’t played much, but he’s done a heck of a job since he’s been here. At this level there is so much going on.”
Markowitz discovered he must tackle a myriad of responsibilities. He had to make adjustments. Quickly.
“This is a big step for me. I’m the youngest assistant coach in the league by three or four years,’’ Markowitz says. “I didn’t find out until late in the summer that I had the job and it was quite a relief. I didn’t get to Tulsa until Sept. 15 and I’ve found everything is different than the . They have really big staffs and here everybody does a little bit of everything.
“I’m in charge of the defensemen and the penalty kill. I also do most of the video breakdowns and I work with our injured guys, making sure they’re skating after practice and working on their skills. I love this because it’s what I want to do with my life.’’
Markowitz’s job description also includes assisting the equipment manager and athletic trainer, helping players with their housing problems and handling minor details on the road. However, he said his greatest role is getting to work the Christie.
“It’s great because he knows what he’s doing. I know I have a lot I need to work on and I’m learning from him,’’ says Markowitz. “He lets me struggle through some things and figure it out on my own and sometimes he tells me he would do it differently. He’s not being angry, just teaching me. He’s not looking over my shoulder.’’
Christie must remain aware that Markowitz is in his maiden voyage behind the bench and be patient with his pupil.
“I know it’s an adjustment and learning period for him, but he’s a huge asset for us,’’ Christie said. “He’s involved with the players and myself and we know what he brings to the table. As a team, we’re settling into our comfort zone and everybody is getting on the same page. We’re getting better and better and he’s helped with that. We’ve got to build on it.’’
Markowitz said the most difficult part of his job is learning when to crack the whip on players. He knows he has to be tough at times and doesn’t want to be seen as a pushover. He said being close to his players’ ages makes him more accessible, but he also must hold them accountable.
“This is a team game and not everything they do out there is good,’’ he says. “Guys don’t always want or expect a pat on the back. They want to know when they mess up. I’m kind of finding my voice and earning respect from the guys.’’
While Markowitz continues finding his way through the hockey world, a journey that has taken him to Finland, Russia, Canada and Sweden, he knows his trip to reaching his dream really begins in Tulsa.
“I want to be a head coach, for sure. I would say it would take at least a couple of years,’’ he says. “Jason does a good job including me in everything and making sure people know it’s not just him, but a team effort. I don’t feel like that (unknown, unappreciated) at all. We’re working together to reach the same goal. It doesn’t matter if the fans know it or not.’’
Maybe so, but one day Markowitz is hoping people won’t be saying “Who is that masked man?’’ He can go to arenas where everyone will know his name.