Club news

Catching up with: Ryan Ginand

Back in 2013, new Head Coach of the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze Matt Söderström stepped into the biggest shoes in British Ice Hockey, those of the departing Paul Thompson who after 18 years and 15 major trophies was to leave Coventry for Swedish side Troja-Ljungby. 

No one had ever coached the Coventry Blaze other than ‘Thommo’ – this was a huge position to fill, some may have called it the impossible job.

Together Thompson (in a continued role of Director of hockey operations) and Söderström built a roster containing skill (the Henrich brothers), speed (Tanaka and Guthrie mid-season) and strength (Harvey, Olson and later Egener) but one key component was missing – goals.

Step-forward American forward Ryan Ginand, a former ECHL All-Star who brought them in abundance. 51 in-fact - the third highest ever in an Elite League season behind only Jon Pelle of Cardiff (55 in 2010/11) and Coventry’s own Luke Fulghum (54 in 2009/10). 

Any detractors of Ryan (mainly the noisy one in Sheffield) used the 'selfish mentality' dig, but those who watched the tenacious goal machine week-in, week-out knew that the 5’10” Milford, MA native was a very special talent, adding 48 assists too for 99 points.

The natural first question to Ryan was about all those goals, did he ever envisage netting as many?

“Absolutely,” he said bullishly. “North American hockey is very different from European hockey. Playing in the East Coast is similar to that of Europe, where you have the freedom to play creatively. Playing in the AHL, you are a role player, therefore you don’t have the opportunity to be yourself and play your game of hockey. It does help when you have talented and creative players to play with, which is a compliment to my teammates that season, specifically Adam Henrich and the water bug Cale Tanaka.”

Ginand continues, glowing in praise for former teammate Adam Henrich who himself posted 66 points during the 2013/14 Elite League season.

“Looking back, I can easily identify the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey was when Adam and I were on the same line for the first half of that season.”

The conversation drifts to the recent Benn Olson ‘Catching up’ interview during which the big defenceman outlined his frustration of the 2013/14 season, on paper such a talented team that never quite got going. In retrospect, it’s asked if the Forward of the Year and First Team All-Star shares the same feelings as his teammate.

“I wouldn’t consider my time in Coventry frustrating. The fans were unbelievable, the team was extremely well run and the players were treated well. I would consider the season disappointing. That would be the word I would choose to use.  We had guys like Olson and Harvey that wouldn’t flinch if one of their teammates got hit.”

Ginand pauses before continuing.

 “The disappointing part of the season was not being able to manage the amount of talent in that locker room. We had two good coaches that season, however both with different styles. Adapting to new coaching strategies was difficult mid-season. I’m unsure of the pressures associated with managing a team, so it’s difficult for me to speak to what the correct move would have been.”

Off the Ice, Ginand says his time in Coventry and what turned out to be his final professional season was a happy and satisfying one.

“Now as a non-athlete, I am extremely happy with where Coventry put me in life. The Coventry Blaze organisation, along with school at Coventry University allowed me to leave with an MBA degree and fulfil a major goal of mine.”

The ‘school’ programme as most of the players call it has always been a fascination of this writer, balancing the work aspect and playing in a competitive hockey league, the question put to Ryan who graduated from Coventry University with an MBA in International Business Studies is, was it always going to be one more year with 'schooling' before retirement?

“To be honest I wasn’t sure,” said Ginand. “I went back and forth that summer but for personal reasons in my life, I decided that it would be my last season in May.”

An early retirement at the age of 27, it is put to Ryan that he was too young and had too much more to give the game.

“Honestly, I’m extremely happy and satisfied with where I’m at. I am now the captain of a co-ed soccer team! We didn’t make playoffs last year, but don’t worry, we’ll be back this season. I have the time to do things I wasn’t able to whilst playing hockey.”

Moving quickly back to the ice, Ginand continues to ponder, does he really believe he didn’t hang them up too early? He then drops a bombshell.

“With all this being said, I left unsure if I wanted to play another season or not. I still toy with the idea of returning to London (UK) to work at my company’s location there. If the opportunity arose to play – I would definitely flirt with the idea.”

After quickly reminding him in no uncertain terms that Coventry is very definitely the nearest Elite League Ice Pad to London, the conversation moves on to what he is doing now with regards employment. 

“I work for a start-up company in Cambridge, Massachusetts – a few miles away from my condo {apartment} in Boston. Working in the tech industry is fun – transactional, volatile, fast paced and keeps your heart beating just like hockey. It was a good transition.”

And does he still have any involvement in the game?

“I still run youth camps periodically during the summer through the business I started a while back. On the odd Wednesday I get out and play pick up hockey with other college and pro alumni in the Boston area.”

Life is obviously good for the former Blaze #41. The interview though can’t end without speaking about the famous ‘spin o-rama’ penalty shot that he cheekily pulled at the Skydome in early February 2014 against Nottingham Panthers, enraging goalie Craig Kowalski. 

This was no dead end game, the score tied at 1 going into the 39th minute. This was Nottingham at home, arguably Blaze’s biggest rivals. The club that Blaze fans love to beat more than any other. Ginand takes up the story with a mischievous glint in his eye.

“Yeah, we got the penalty shot and I skated by the bench. I had been practicing ‘the spin’ in practice and it felt good, I found Adam Henrich on the bench and I called to him, ‘I am going to spin him’ - Henny (Adam Henrich) says, ‘No, you can’t do that! - no way! - So that was it when Adam said that, I just had to do it,” Ginand laughed.

The move went to perfection, virtually bringing the roof off the Skydome Arena such was the reaction from the Blaze faithful.

“I was glad it went to plan, it was a nice feeling,” Ryan smiled.

 

The ‘spin’ sent Nottingham goalie Craig Kowalski into a frenzy, furiously chasing after the officials before returning to his net and throwing it on its back, something that the Blaze fans enjoyed immensely.

“At the time, I didn’t know what Kowalski had done,” said Ginand who was busy celebrating. “I watched it back on video the next day. I guess it just shows you what a prima-donna he was!”  

 

Coming to the end of the interview, with a new coach at the helm of Coventry Blaze and with Danny Stewart deep into the recruitment process it’s asked if Ginand can make any recommendations, or tell us who we should be keeping an eye out for.

“The last recommendation I made was Ryan Hayes for Edinburgh – it looks like he was off to a fantastic season.”

Hayes, who was a teammate of Ginand at Trenton Devils (2010-11) lit things up for the Capitals with an astonishing 53 points in 41 games before an ill-fated move to Sheffield following issues with the Scottish club. Things didn’t work out in Yorkshire for the league’s top goal-scorer and he soon moved back across the pond to the ECHL where he has posted an impressive 20 points (11+9) in 24 games for the Utah Grizzlies.

Ginand though says he wouldn’t be surprised to see Hayes head back overseas in the future.

“He’s definitely somebody that’s fit for a long European career.”

Concluding our time, the forward whose career saw him play nearly 150 ECHL and 15 AHL games and spend time spend time in both Denmark and Italy for hanging up the skates in Coventry says:

“I don’t follow the Blaze scores week on week so much but every so often and when I can I look them up. Certainly at the end of the season I take a look at all the leagues I’ve played in. I’m not surprised to see Blaze won a championship recently – Blaze players are given the tools to win.”

The interview ends with Ryan preparing for a four-hour flight to the Grand Caymans, confirming his earlier words, of a new “fast paced life”.

Will we see him back on these shores in his hockey gear pulling moves on angry netminders?!  Probably not, but we can all dream. 

Thanks to Ryan Ginand for his time.

Article: Rob Plaister @DRPLogistics