RED DEER – This month’s Alumni Spotlight focuses on Ryan Allen, formerly of the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers.
Ryan was born and raised in Fort McMurray, where he played all of his grassroots Minor Hockey. He said his love of the game started when he was just a toddler.
“I can remember walking on bob skates at the age of maybe 2 or 3. My mom actually confirmed I was 2.5 years old and my dad bought them for me,” Ryan said. “I can also remember my dad and I passing the tennis ball around in our basement on the bare concrete floor. I got into the game because of my dad and his passion for the game”
Ryan added that both his parents were the biggest influence on his hockey career, providing him and his brother with every opportunity – not just in hockey, but in life.
“There was nothing we wouldn’t get or couldn’t do when we wanted to do something,” he said. “The countless hours spent with early morning practices, road trips, fundraisers, pre/post-game meals, tying skates, buying equipment the list truly does go on. But for me being from and living in Fort McMurray the dedication to traveling for hockey was the most impressive by my parents.”
After a season with the Fort Saskatchewan U15 AAA Rangers, Ryan went on to play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) for his hometown Fort McMurray Oil Barons for parts of five seasons, which included an AJHL Championship in 2005-06.
“We had such a tight team filled with some really good people and players,” Ryan said. “Our head coach was Gord Thibodeau and he was the architect of it all. The night after we won, we stayed up and called all the guys from last years team (where we lost in the finals), thanking them for paving the way, it was actually a pretty neat experience. We eventually lost the Doyle Cup that year in 6 games to the Burnaby Express and a guy by the name of Kyle Turris.”
Ryan said he feels incredibly fortunate to have been able to play all of his Minor Hockey – and Junior Hockey – in his home province, and, outside of his season with the Rangers, in his hometown.
“My minor hockey experience taught me to love the game, have fun and make new friends,” he said. “Through numerous good quality coaches/volunteers I learned so much and so many lessons at a young age that I was very well prepared and ready for higher level hockey.”
Following his Junior Hockey career with the Oil Barons, Ryan attended Brock University, where he played for the Brock Badgers Men’s Hockey Team for five seasons, and earned an honours degree with a Bachelor of Physical Education.
“My favorite thing about playing hockey was scoring a goal,” Ryan said. “Just the excitement and rush you get is hard to describe. And of course as you get older and play in front of larger crowds that rush becomes even more intense. Probably a bit different answer as most might say the relationships you create or winning. Perhaps for me it is this because I didn’t score a whole lot.”
Ryan also went from the ice to the bench, and has coached in numerous capacities since 2012, including three seasons with his former AJHL team in Fort McMurray as an assistant coach. Ryan also volunteered with Hockey Alberta’s Team Alberta program as an assistant and head coach for Team Northeast in the 2014 and 2015 Alberta Cups, respectively, and as the video coach for Team Alberta U16 Male at the 2016 WHL Cup. He has also served as a coach mentor for the Prospects Cup and Alberta Winter Games.
He is currently the Technical Director for the Grande Peace Athletic Club (GPAC), and also is the Head Coach of the Grande Prairie U15 AAA Storm of the Alberta Elite Hockey League.
Ryan said his advice to young, aspiring hockey players is to just have fun, meet new people, and enjoy the grassroots years.
“Listen to your coaches, and play other sports,” he added. “Live in the moment and create positive life-long memories.”