Mike Van Ryn Interview

By Brad Coccimiglio

Defenseman Mike Van Ryn of the Sarnia Sting came to the OHL after playing 2
years with the Michigan Wolverines in the CCHA. Van Ryn has made a very
smooth transition from the NCAA to the OHL. I had the opportunity to sit down
with Mike and ask him a few questions.

HF: What were the differences between the OHL and the NCAA?

Van Ryn: “There are a lot of differences. Mostly it’s just how the game is
played. It’s tough to say anything about the talent or anything like that
because the game is played so differently. The college game is a quick game,
it’s more of a speed type or a finesse type game. In the OHL there’s quite a
bit of fighting and in college you don’t have to worry about that. I never
saw a fight in my two years there. Guys tend to play bigger than they are for
the most part. The fact that there is no red line it’s faster and you gotta
be aware of guys sneaking behind you. In the OHL game it’s more of a
pro-style game, with the number of games you play. In college, because I
played in the World Juniors I only played in the high 30’s in terms of games.
I’ve only played about 38 games a season. In two seasons there I played just
over 70 games there. This year alone, with playoffs, I’ll end up playing over
70 games I’m hoping. It’s more of a pro game with the number of games.
There’s always the intimidation factor and just the way the game is played. A
lot of the systems are the same as the pro systems. I know our coaches here
(Jeff Perry and Rich Brown) have both coached in the American Hockey League
so they are very aware of the new systems that are in place in the NHL and
that’s what they try to do with our team.”

HF: What was it like to play under Red Berenson at Michigan (NCAA)?

Van Ryn: “He’s a very, very smart man. I loved playing for him but I’m happy
I got to know him. He’s a great man. He’s a little upset with me right now
still. He doesn’t agree with what I’ve done and I’m fine with that. He’s
got a great program there and I still think it’s a great program. It’s
amazing while I was there the amount that he taught me both on and off the
ice. He’s just a very smart man. Everything from what car to purchase, to how
to invest your money and how to play the game. He’s very good at describing
each player and what role they should be playing.”

HF: What did you want to accomplish when you came to the OHL?

Van Ryn: “First of all, I knew I was coming to the Sting and I heard that the
Sting was in a rebuilding stage after what they went through last year. I
just wanted to come in and help the team out and hopefully chip in and try to
make the team that they felt, the coaches felt, wouldn’t be a rebuilding
team, that would be a very good team. I think we still have the makings of
going a fairly long way in the playoffs. I think we do have a shot at
eventually going to the Memorial Cup with the team we have here right now. I
just wanted to chip in where I could and help out and try to be a leader as I
did in that past. Coaches have put me in that role and I just wanted to try
and help out the best I could.”

HF: What was it like to play in the World Junior Tournament?

Van Ryn: “They were very different experiences. It’s tough to really describe
the Canadian experience of what it’s like to play for your country. It’s
really something I’ve never felt because every time it’s a little different.
No two times are ever the same. Having played in that program it was an
unbelievable experience to have the chance and the opportunity to represent
your country. When you’re growing up it’s something you always dream of
(playing in the World Juniors) and something you watch over Christmas with
Canadian pride. During Christmas-time it’s such a tradition that people watch
the World Juniors. The first year (1998) I was somewhat disappointed at how
we finished up. We had the makings of a good team. I kind of question our
unity sometimes. I don’t really know what went on there. I was just happy
with the way the team responded the second year (1999) and how the guys did
again this year. I thought that the guys on our team last year (1999) just
gave it everything they had. I felt that the coaches put all the perfect
systems in and did a great job. Mr. (Tom) Renney, Claude (Julien) and Stan
(Butler) are just unbelievable coaches. They really understand the
international game very well. They guided us. They did a great job with our
team. The guys on our team I’m really proud of about how they played even
though we didn’t win gold, but we were one shot away from winning it. I was
just happy with how the guys played. They played hard right up until the end.”

HF: What type of player would you describe yourself as?

Van Ryn: “Really I’m more of a defensive-style defenseman than offensive. I
do chip in when I can on the offense but mostly it’s a defensive game that I
play, especially with the team I’m on right now and the team that I had been
playing on in the past at Michigan. We have enough firepower to do the job
and you try to generate most of your chances off playing the defensive.
That’s really the way the game is played now. In the NHL it’s more of a
defensive-style game. That’s the role that Coach Brown has put me in here
again and that’s really what I play on most teams. I just like to take no
pride in turning the puck over. I guess you could almost say I’m a two-way
defenseman. That’s what most coaches describe me as. I’m a guy who can help
out in my own end and help out in the offensive zone when I have to. I guess
that’s the mold I put myself in.”

HF: How would you compare Red Berenson to (former Sting coach) Mark Hunter?

Van Ryn: “I guess you could say they’re hard nosed. Both don’t talk a whole
lot, but when they do everybody listens. They have a certain presence about
them. They have the respect of the public. Coach Hunter is highly, highly
regarded in the city of Sarnia. I don’t know the word to describe them,
everybody respects them. Many people know them or know of them. Both had
great careers in the NHL. They both know the game very well. Both have been
there and know from experience what it takes to win games. I learned a great
deal from both of them. I’m just happy that I was able to help them out.”

I want to thank Mike for taking the time out of his schedule to sit down
and conduct this interview with me.