WHL Alumni Spotlight - Derek Ryan
Derek Ryan spent three seasons playing in the Western Hockey League for his hometown Spokane Chiefs, racking up 67 goals and 167 points in 216 games between 2003 and 2007.
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rNow, the 21-year-old Spokane, WA, product is hitting the books at the University of Alberta, and recently helped the Alberta Golden Bears Men's hockey team win the CIS's Canada West Conference championship - his first major team championship at such a high level.
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r“It was an amazing feeling,” said Ryan, whose Golden Bears swept a best-of-three series versus the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West Final on March 7th and 8th in front of a home crowd at Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton, AB. “Coming to the U of A, I always knew expectations are high, so it was nice to be able to deliver a championship, especially since they are not used to coming home empty-handed like last year.
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r“During my time in Spokane, we never had success as far as winning titles, so it's been nice to experience that with the Golden Bears,” he said.
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rRyan is one of 23 former WHL players who are now attending the U of A and playing for the Golden Bears, and one of 26 WHL grads attending the U of A on a WHL Scholarship. The 5' 10”, 180-lb forward says it has been a big adjustment getting used to playing high-caliber hockey while also taking on the responsibilities of being a full-time student, and learning to balance the two.
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r“It has been a big change”, said Ryan. “In Spokane, I'd take one or two classes in the spring and fall, but when it comes down to it, the focus is mostly hockey after you graduate high school. Now, with four or five classes a semester, it's much different because you have to really concentrate on school first. When you wake up, your first thoughts are about studying, taking exams or writing papers. You get your work done, and then you have to switch over to hockey. It's been a big adjustment.”
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rOn the ice, Ryan may be a rookie with the Golden Bears, but it hasn't stopped him from being a strong contributor. In 28 Conference games, Ryan notched 11 goals and 25 points to place him fifth on the Golden Bears in scoring. In the Golden Bears' Conference playoff run, Ryan picked up five points in four games, including a goal and two assists in the two-game sweep of the Huskies in the Conference championship series.
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rWith more and more WHL graduates looking to attend Canadian Universities each year, Ryan had heard plenty about the quality of CIS hockey. Now, with his first season almost complete, Ryan is even more impressed with the level of competition at the university level.
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r“It's really competitive,” said Ryan, whose Golden Bears are now bound for Moncton, NB, to take part in the University Cup tournament. “You look at the rosters of all the teams and there are so many WHL grads and WHL All-Stars. Any team can beat any other team on any given night, so it's always going to be a battle. The skill level is unbelievable, and the League just keeps getting better and better every year.”
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rBeing from the United States, Ryan certainly had many options as far as his scholastic career was concerned. However, his decision to attend the U of A, he says, wasn't difficult to make.
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r“I certainly had the opportunity to stay in the States and go to school, but I wanted to keep playing hockey,” said Ryan. “I wanted to go to school, and not play minor pro somewhere. I knew that the CIS was the best bet to keep playing competitive hockey and go to school. Plus, with my interest in their Pharmacy program, which is one of the top in the country, led me to the U of A. As soon as I came on a tour in the summer, I knew this was where I wanted to be. There is so much history with the Golden Bears, and the Alumni list is impressive.”
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rNow a year removed from his days in the WHL with the Chiefs, Ryan still has a deep connection to the team. He still regularly follows his hometown team, and tries to keep up with how things are going with his former teammates.
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r“Yeah, actually I often tune in on the radio or watch online when I'm at home studying”, said Ryan. “When they came though Edmonton to play the Oil Kings, I went and watched and saw the guys after. I keep up on how things are going there, and it's been great to see them do so well this season. They really deserve to have success because the organization is so great, and the fans are amazing.”
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rBy Jesse Watts
rwhl.ca

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rFor more Canada West Hockey coverage and links to Canada West teams, visit the Canada West Website.
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September 20 / 2014

 
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