Some coaches are tough to replace

Kevin Adshade
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It's not like a good coach can't be found out there, and losing Troy Ryan won't be a the end of the junior A Crushers, but the next guy behind the bench will have huge shoes to fill.
It was announced yesterday that the two-time coach of the year would be leaving the team, after five years at the helm.
Ryan always fielded a hard-working club and got as much as he could out of the teams he had. Ryan answered critics of his coaching prowess when the Crushers won a Fred Page Cup a year ago, yet even without that on his resume, his annual assistant coaching gigs with Team Canada East at World tournaments show he's respected in the coaching fraternity. He literally has hockey contacts from here to San Jose.
It's common knowledge that Ryan has had good offers from other hockey organizations in various leagues, so it's doubtful he'll be out of work for long.
He had a reputation when he played in junior for being an instigator, who tested the win-at-all-cost boundaries, a Sean Avery type (only not as greasy, then again nobody's as greasy as Sean Avery). He can straddle that line as a coach, too - and for that matter, when he's golfing - but Ryan is also a student of the game: there was never a question about game-planning and decision-making that he couldn't answer. Despite an unfair reputation as a goon coach, he doesn't merely unleash snarling dogs over the boards and yell "sic 'em!", he knows what he's doing as a tactician. And he prepares like a mad scientist, searching for any angle to exploit, any edge.
It's not just Xs and Os, either; coaching and being responsible for 20 hockey players, teenagers or barely in their 20s, can't be a piece of cake either. There were millions things small and big he had to deal with and I bet we don't even know the half of it. And wouldn't want to.
But just for examples, he would routinely make two or more round trips a day to Antigonish to pick up or drop off players after practice, and who knows how many stressful phone calls he fielded over the years from players for this reason or that? I doubt those things were in his coaching contract.
From the time the franchise landed here, the Crushers made it a point to be visible and active in the community; it makes sound business sense in that it promotes the team, but it also has a good-corporate-citizen element to it as well, and helps foster more selfless attitudes in hockey players: part of junior hockey is helping develop good people, not just good athletes. The next coach better have the same outlook - and better have a lot of time he didn't know he'd need.
No coach is liked by every player, especially in Junior 'A' where the agendas of players and parents (yes, parents...let's not forget them) can vary greatly, but Ryan is one of those coaches who inspire players to play hard for him. You are either born with that ability or you never have it - you certainly can't go buy it at Wal-Mart. He hates floaters and players who aren't mentally tough, loves smart players and hard workers who are dedicated. Not surprisingly, his favourite players - and deep down, every coach has them - weren't necessarily his skill players, but those who most fit the above criteria.
No one is irreplaceable, but some are more easily replaced than others.

Kevin Adshade is a columnist with The News

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