Rabid Habs

Exclusive Interview With Former Habs Draft Pick Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan Photo - thestar.com

In the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, the Habs held the 8th overall selection, and with that pick they selected Terry Ryan. At the tender age of 14, Terry left the comforts of his home in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland to pursue his lifelong dream. Terry would eventually make it to the big dance, lacing up the skates in eight NHL games. Although his time in the NHL was short lived, Terry still remains to be a man of hockey, even writing a compelling book called Tales of a First-Round Nothing. Being a Newfoundlander myself, this interview is extra special to me because not only did I have the privilege of interviewing a man who is from my home province who actually suited up for the Habs, it also gave me the chance to talk to a man who is the definition of perseverance, hard work and noble spirit. Terry has been in love with the game of hockey his whole life, and I’d like to think his place in hockey history won’t be defined just by the eight NHL games he played in. I’d like to think his place will be defined by being a great lover and fan of the game we all adore so much, and by being an inspiration to young men and women in this little province I call home by showing them that if you work hard enough, anything is possible.

I would like to thank Mr. Ryan for taking the time out of his day to answer a few of my questions. Here is what he had to say.

JF: At what age did you know for certain that you wanted to be a hockey player?

TR: As long as I can remember. My father played pro in the WHA so I was always around the game – we were Habs fans all the way too.

JF: Which NHL team did you root for growing up?

TR: Habs

JF: Who was your favorite NHL player as a kid? And why?

TR: There were a few – Gretzky, Yzerman, Lemieux were all so great to watch. As I got older, guys like Rick Tocchet, Cam Neely, and Chris Nilan became faves… I always liked players who could play physical AND contribute offensively. I don’t think I had one specific favorite, but if I had to pick just one, it’d be Mario Lemieux. Absolutely incredible to watch.

JF: What is your take on the dying art of fighting in hockey? And do you think it has a place in the game?

TR: I think it is being taken out more because of the aesthetics of the whole thing. It looks barbaric. But in my mind, it’s necessary in order to keep the opposition in check. Remember, there are WAY more concussions from hits than fights. So if you are removing a physical element of the game due to injuries, it’d have to be hitting. Nobody wants that do they? I honestly think the surface has to get bigger, or else bring back the clutching and grabbing… because players are big and are going faster than in the past. Concussions will only get worse as the speed of the game increases. You are seeing that happen today.

JF: What measures do you think should be taken to limit the number of concussions in hockey today?

TR: Bigger playing surface, bring back elements of the “clutch and grab” game like being allowed to hold up a winger on a forecheck so he doesn’t hammer one of your defensemen… bring back the red line… Honestly I think the biggest one is making the playing surface bigger. In Europe, people have to take themselves out of position many times in order to make a hit, so it is a less careless act. In the NHL I think it’s too easy for the meatballs to make contact with the danglers.

JF: Which player in the NHL today has impressed you the most in recent years? Why?

TR: Hmmmm… I could go on and on about a few players , but if I had to pick one I’d say Jonathan Toews. Since I watched him in that World Junior shootout and he scored four or five goals, I knew he was special. There are many players at the top of the heap, but he really is a clutch guy. And I’m proud he’s Canadian, let’s face it. It gives our hockey players and fans a sense of pride to see a player of such intensity, commitment, and character battle so hard. Sid the Kid is right up there too by the way. I’m giving Toews the nod at this particular snapshot in history, because he’s a defending Olympic champ AND Stanley Cup champ.

JF: Do you think having size is as important to a player being successful this day and age as it’s made out to be?

TR: Well, yes, it’ll always have an importance in the game I think, due to sheer physics. I’m not saying guys like Hal Gill aren’t talented, because they are, but being 6’7” was his main asset. He was big AND could turn. Had he been 6’0”, I don’t think he’d be as effective. He was a hard guy to get around because he covered so much ground. Look at Mario Lemieux, or these days, a guy like Joe Thornton. Heck, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf… Having a huge reach had a big part in making these players great. Give such creative minds a bigger wingspan and you give them more room, which equals more time to make a play. Now, do I think you HAVE to be big? No. Love the Brendan Gallaghers of the game. They tend to be faster, more agile, and are hard to contain… I think you need a good mix. Look at Chicago. Nice mix of speed, size, leadership…

JF: What is the biggest change you have seen in the NHL as compared to let’s say, 20 years ago?

TR: Toughness, respect.

JF: What inspired you to write your book, Tales of a First-Round Nothing, and when did you decide you wanted to write it?

TR: I always kept a journal and never really thought it’d be a book. I was approached by some friends about publishing it, and I’m glad I listened.

JF: What kind of feedback have you received about the book since its publication?

TR: It’s a multiple best seller here in Canada and most hockey players love it. That’s who I wrote it for – the hockey players. Not all fans get it. I mean most do, but many don’t. ALL hockey players can relate to some of the stories found within the covers of TOAFRN. In fact, over the years I’d tell those stories on bus rides and plane rides. I have hundreds, but I only published the most popular ones. I let the boys decide.

JF: Would you ever consider writing another one, or was it just a one-shot deal?

TR: I always write things in my journal, so I am constantly practicing I guess . Who knows, if the timing is right maybe I will. I don’t think I could put out the same kind of book though, it may get repetitive.

JF: Being a fellow Newfoundlander I know how important hockey is in our province, so with that being said what is your take on the state of hockey in Newfoundland today?

TR: It’s good! Much better structure than when I was a kid. I had to move at 14 to get noticed. Daniel Cleary did too… Harold Druken… John Slaney was scouted at a tourney on the mainland… Now if you’re good, you’ll get noticed through the AAA system at the very least. The island is heavily scouted by major junior. As far as overall minor hockey, I guess each system is different. I went through the Mount Pearl system and so did my son Tison. No complaints at all – very efficient organization with personable people in charge.

JF: Which rink in our beautiful little province has been your favorite to lace the skates up in?

TR: I loved the fact I played for the St John’s Leafs at the historic Memorial Stadium. A slice of history – what a barn. Right now, of the modern arenas, I dig the CEC in Clarenville. SW Moores in Harbour Grace will always be a favorite.

JF: With a number of Newfoundlanders playing in the NHL throughout its history, especially in recent years, who do you think will go down as the greatest Newfoundlander to ever play the game?

TR: Well, if you wanna talk longevity, success, and statistics I think you’d have to go with Daniel Cleary or Michael Ryder right? Cleary gets the edge on being a more complete player maybe. Now, Ryane Clowe would have an argument as well – he possesses size, skill, and toughness like no other… but he didn’t win a Cup. I find it hard to compare greatness – and all the boys are great. Teddy Purcell? Best mitts I’ve ever seen outside of Alexei Kovalev.

JF: What do you think of the current edition of the Montreal Canadiens? And how close are they to a Stanley Cup?

TR: They are real close! Every year I say it – they need a bit more grit come playoff time. But they are right there, I mean there’s so much parity in the league and they were playing in May, so…

JF: And finally, I have to ask you this doozy. With the way things turned out for you with regards to the Montreal Canadiens organization, which has been highly publicized by yourself and others, do you have any hard feelings towards the organization?

TR: No, not in the slightest. I am proud to have worn the uniform. I had disagreements with a few – mostly Michel Therrien – as is highly publicized, but honestly I’ve moved on and I think we’ve both grown as people. Many quotes taken in the media about me concerning him are taken out of context. Yes, we didn’t see eye to eye, but I respected him for the most part and we DID have good times. In my book for example, I come clean about many negative parts of our time together, but after all that there’s a chapter about us hanging out one night and sharing a lot in common. You never hear that though, because it’s not news. I attended a couple of games last season with Rejean Houle – who was the GM when I was there and people think I have a problem with. Water under the bridge man. Go Habs Go.

 

Terry’s book Tales of a First-Round Nothing was released in 2014. If you can get your hands on it I suggest you do.

Once again a big thank you goes out to Mr. Ryan.

One Comment

  1. Andre Leclerc

    August 28, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Whoa! I really enjoyed reading the interview Jeff. Great work and thanks to Terry for sharing 🙂