Jan. 21, 2011
Irish hockey center Ben Ryan is in his fourth season with the Notre Dame hockey program and has been a key member of the offense since his freshman year. The 5-11, 197-pound native of Brighton, Mich., is currently fourth on the team in scoring with four goals and 17 assists for 21 points with a power-play goal and a game winner to his credit. One of the CCHA’s top faceoff men, Ryan has played in 141 career games and is nearing the century mark in scoring as he has 33 goals and 60 assists for 93 career points. A fourth-round draft choice of the Nashville Predators in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Ryan had a chance to talk with und.com’s Vicky Jacobsen prior to this weekend’s road series at Ohio State to talk about his career and Irish hockey.
Why did you decide to play hockey? I decided to play hockey because I grew up in the Detroit area and hockey was huge around there. I grew up around the Detroit Red Wings, who’ve been a great NHL team for a long time and have a huge following. The kids I grew up with were getting into it and there’s a lot of outdoor hockey so it’s a fun recreational sport, so that’s what got me into it. But once I started playing it was just me really liking the game and loving it.
What is your best memory from your time at Notre Dame? My best memory is definitely going to the Frozen Four my freshman year; when I think back on my hockey experience that’s definitely the one thing that sticks out in my mind. The national scale that it was on, going out to Colorado with the team, all my friends watching the games because it was nationally televised; I’ll always remember that.
If you got to put together the pregame playlist, what song would be a must-have? The song that I would consider a must have is a Lil Wayne’s song called “Right Above It.”
Do you have a favorite professional hockey team or player? My favorite player is Mike Fisher, who plays for the Ottawa Senators. He’s a center like me and I think I play a lot like him so I try to watch him and model my game after him. Who do you think is a better player: Crosby or Ovechkin? I would say Crosby is a better player because of his leadership abilities. He’s not as much of a goal-scorer, but I think he’s more valuable to his team because of his leadership and his ability to play on both ends of the ice. He plays a lot of defense, too, which helps out.
What accomplishment are you most proud of (hockey or otherwise?) I’m really happy with what I’ve accomplished in school. I have two majors and it’s been a battle for me. I was thinking the other day about how I’m really going to take pride in my degree when I graduate because I’ve been through a lot.
What is your favorite aspect of hockey? My favorite aspect of hockey is that I like the team atmosphere. You build a lot of close relationships because your lifestyle’s kind of the same as the other 20 or so guys on the team. It’s a pretty small group of guys; it’s not so small that you’re talking the same group of individuals all the time, but it’s small enough to where you get to know everyone on a personal level, and I really like that.
What is your major and why did you choose that field of study? I have two majors, psychology and economics. I chose psychology because it’s really interesting to look at the way people think and see themselves in relation to everything else. Economics is something I was really interested in terms of a career path; I want to do something in the business world, either economics or finance.
What is your favorite breakfast cereal? My favorite cereal is Kashi Go-Lean Crunch. It’s really like good; I buy it every week at the grocery store.
If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be? If I could trade places with anyone I would trade places Jack Johnson, the singer, because I’m really envious of his lifestyle. I think he’s really happy where he’s at; he separates himself from things in the world that he has a problem with. He lives out in Hawaii with his wife and kids. He was a professional surfer and he makes awesome songs; it’s really impressive and I’m really jealous of how happy he is.
Do you have any game-day superstitions? I’m actually one of the most un-superstitious people on the team, but I do like to take a nap before the game.
What is the strangest thing that’s ever happened while you were on the ice? The strangest thing that’s happened to me occurred when I was playing junior hockey. A kid hit me and I fell over backwards, my foot went right through the glass and I fell over the glass into the stands. The glass shattered and everything and I tumbled into the people sitting in the front row.
What three adjectives do you think your teammates would use to describe you? The three adjectives that my teammates would use to describe me are easy-going, reserved, and caring.
Not including the Joyce Center, what is your favorite arena to play in? I would have to say North Dakota is a really cool place to play. The whole atmosphere on the ice was awesome, even though we were the visiting team. It really got going because of how many people were there and how into the game they were.
How do you pass the time when the team is on the road? Lately I’ve passed time on the road by reading a lot of books. I’m an econ major, and I’m really interested in econ and finance so it’s something I’ve been thinking about. I’m going to need to start looking for a job or internship so I’ve been reading a lot of finance books and econ books.
What has been your biggest challenge during your hockey career or your time at Notre Dame? I’d say the biggest challenge is time management. There are so many days where you get such a little amount of sleep and you still have to get up and do your activities the next day. You’re so jammed between working out for hockey and going to class, then coming back to practice at the rink, and then you have final exams and papers going on at the same time. You have to make the most of your time; it’s almost like the better you manage your time the more you get to sleep at night.
How does playing in the United States Hockey League (USHL) compare to playing Division 1 hockey? I think that playing in the USHL and in college are very similar. The USHL is very good league, it’s got a college feel. Most of the kids go on to college. A lot of the USHL cities are places where there aren’t any pro sports so those teams are the big things in town. Some of those arenas consistently get four or five thousand people in the stands, so I think it’s very similar to college in terms of the atmosphere and talent level.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten from a coach? The best advice I was given came from I had a coach back in midgets named Tom Ross; he was a really good player – he’s the leading scoring in Michigan state hockey and he played in the minors for a while. He said that I should always think of hockey as just a game. When I think of it as more than a game it’s time for me to start doing something else.
What is your favorite Notre Dame tradition? My favorite tradition is singing the Alma Mater after football games. That’s really something that’s unique to Notre Dame. The players connect with the students and fans and it’s a really cool scene.
What will you miss most about Notre Dame after graduation? I’ll definitely miss the relationships that I’ve built. I’ve met so many great people who are going to have a huge impact on me for the rest of my life. Obviously being a student athlete is only one phase of my life and I’m going to have to move on from that but I’ll a