With the offseason for the majority of professional hockey players in full swing, a lot of the skaters have already begun preparation for the 2011-12 season.
Photo by Jim Orlando
IceHogs defenseman and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Ryan Stanton recently took a break from his summer training regiment to chat with icehogs.com.
Stanton is spending his offseason in his hometown of St. Albert, Alberta, just outside of Edmonton and is training with Vancouver Canucks prospect Kevin Connauton and Senna Acolatse under the watch of Simon Bennett who is the Fitness Consultant for the Edmonton Oilers.
Coming off his first full professional season, Stanton was named Rockford’s Most Improved skater after compiling 3g-14a-17pts with a +9 in 73 games with the IceHogs.
The 2011-12 season will be the second in the Blackhawks organization for Stanton, who was signed to a three-year entry level contract by Chicago following a four-year junior career with the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL).
Mike Peck: How difficult was it for you to have the 2010-11 season come to an end even though the IceHogs were the hottest team in the AHL?
Ryan Stanton: It’s tough to end the season on such a high note and know that we came up short for the playoffs. We had a lot of momentum at a time where everyone wants to keep playing and that’s the playoffs.
We were peaking at the right moment and it would have been awesome to have gotten in there. I think we could have turned some heads. It was definitely a tough situation to heat up like that and then have the season end.
MP-Now that you are a fulltime professional hockey player, are the NHL playoffs different or more difficult for you to watch?
RS- A little bit. You’re still a fan of the game and I’ve been trying to watch as many games as possible. You still find yourself rooting for certain teams, watching the style and the different players that you like on those teams. It’s been a little different watching guys that you possibly played against this year. It was definitely cool watching in Chicago there as a Black Ace, being at the game. It’s been a little different now being a professional hockey player, but it’s still been pretty cool and I’m still a huge fan of the game.
MP-How would you assess your first full season of professional hockey?
RS-It was definitely a learning experience on and off the ice. I think I learned a lot about myself, once again on and off the ice. It’s a huge adjustment living on your own and cooking on your own and not having anyone there to take care of you.
On the ice, it’s different going from playing against 16-year olds to playing against guys who are 35-years old and are stronger and faster. I felt I learned a lot and I got better as the season went on and definitely gained more confidence as the season went on.
MP-What was the biggest challenge for you as a first-year pro?
RS-Off the ice the biggest challenge is getting the right meals in you, getting into the right sleeping patterns. Figuring out what’s best for you and how are you going to be playing at your best.
On the ice, adjusting to the game, being a consistent player night-in and night-out. I had a different role from what I had in junior. I could chip in a little more offensively, the game was slowed down more and you had a little more time with the puck. Playing pro last year you didn’t have as much time with the puck, guys were faster and stronger so you had to move the puck quicker, make smarter decisions. Just all around, you have to be a little bit better at everything compared coming from junior.
MP-Being undrafted, I’d say that you are flying under the radar a bit as prospects go in the Blackhawks organization. Entering the 2010-11 season, did you feel that you had to prove yourself a little more?
RS-Yeah definitely. They signed me as a 20-year old free agent. They probably didn’t know too much about me. They obviously showed some interest by signing me so I wanted to go in there and show everyone that they made a good choice and were happy with their signing. Just go out there and play my game and not try to do too much.
I’m a pretty simple player I’d like to say. Keep it simple, know my role and play the game hard and hopefully turn some heads and make people believe in me.
MP-What would you say is the biggest thing that you have to work on heading into the 2011-12 season?
RS-I’d like to improve my skating, lateral movements and just becoming more dynamic. Dynamic skating wise, being able to move a little quicker out there defensively in the corners, lateral movements. Little stuff like that you don’t notice too much. Fans watching won’t notice too much but it helps out a lot.
And just becoming overall stronger. Guys are so much bigger and stronger in the professional leagues and just becoming a well conditioned athlete ready to play an 80-game schedule.
MP-Was it difficult to get back into training mode this summer or were you anxious to get it going again?
RS-The first week or two you’re so sore that you can barely sit down or walk up the stairs. It’s like that every year, your muscles are getting used to it again. It’s going to benefit you and after a while you feel good, you start to get back into that groove of working out and you notice changes. You can feel yourself getting stronger. It’s definitely hard to get back into. You have to do it, right, it’s part of the job.
MP-What is your least favorite aspect of off-season conditioning/training?
RS-That might change day-to-day. Maybe the conditioning, the hard bikes, it’s a battle. It’s tough to do, there are some long bike rides sometimes. You’re on the bike for 45-minutes, exhausted, you’re butt hurts from sitting on the seat for so long, that catches up to you. It sucks at times but you know doing it you’re getting better. At least I’m not out there digging holes and I try not to complain too much.
MP-Now that you are in the offseason, what is something that you get to do that you might not get to do during the hockey season?
RS-Spending time with family and friends. I live quite a ways away up here in Canada from Rockford. So it’s nice doing that. Getting out and doing some activities like golfing, throwing the ball around with friends. Spending time doing that, I’ve been trying to get out golfing a couple times a week. That’s awesome, soft sports, just relaxing. Frustrating at times, but fun to get out there and play.
MP-You were one of 15 players on the IceHogs last season that were 21-or younger. Talk about playing with such a young group of guys and getting the opportunity to grow as a collective unit last season.
RS- That was something that was pretty cool. You hear a lot stories from other guys who’ve gone and played pro and there’s so many old guys on the team and they don’t have too many guys to hang out with.
Last year, yeah, there were tons of younger guys so it was awesome. Got to meet a lot of new people and make a lot of new friends. It’s cool that we’re all in this together and that we all have the same goal. We can work on it together and hopefully we get better and better each year and eventually someday be a part of the big club.
MP-How much can what the team accomplished in March and April carry over to October after a long offseason?
RS-We were a young team and we started off a little slow, but by the end we got that winning mentality. I’m sure there will be a lot of guys back on that team next year. It’s definitely something that you want to take into next season, that winning mentality and how good it feels to win and how much fun it is to go to the rink when you’re winning. It’s a big confidence thing, winning, and hopefully we can carry that into next year.
MP-I know that the goal is to make the Chicago Blackhawks come training camp, but how difficult is it to be patient as you make your way through the AHL and to keep your current status in perspective?
RS-You just have to take it day-by-day and work your hardest to eventually make it (to the NHL) one day. I think that you just have to be patient, you can’t get too down on yourself or you can’t be blaming other people for being there when you think you should be.
Obviously you have to work hard and keep grinding away every day and hopefully you make people notice and enough people will think that you should be up there playing in the National Hockey League and I think everyone wants to show that they can do that.
Throughout the summer icehogs.com will catch up with current and future IceHogs skaters. Stay tuned to icehogs.com for more exclusive Q and A’s and feature stories throughout the summer.