|Volume 92, Issue 59
Wednesday, January 13, 1999
sleeping with the enemy
Van Ryn leads with head
© Dipesh Mistry/Gazette
By John Dinner
The dream for many young boys in Canada is to climb through the system on their way to the National Hockey League.
For London native Mike Van Ryn, that dream never left him, but he has taken a somewhat different route. Van Ryn decided instead of joining the Canadian junior ranks, he would attempt to land a scholarship south of the border.
"It was a tough decision. Both systems have their advantages," Van Ryn said. "I wanted something to fall back on because you never know what's going to happen."
That decision took him to the University of Michigan in 1997 where he anchored the blue line as the Wolverines won the national championship. It was marked as Van Ryn's first major success of the year, but certainly not his last. He recently took home a gold medal at the World In-line Hockey Championships and a silver medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
The American varsity path, growing in popularity recently thanks to the likes of Paul Kariya of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, has allowed Van Ryn to become both an improved all-around player and person, while it has led to his role as captain for this year's Canadian junior team.
"I really think my overall skill as a player has improved. There's no fighting in university hockey so that puts a lot more emphasis on skill," said the six-foot-one prospect. "The college game is faster and much more wide open."
As a university player, he doesn't get to play as many games as his junior counterparts (45 compared to about 80 as a junior player) but said the practice and level of play balances that out.
"We practice a lot more because we don't have as many games," said Van Ryn, who was also the New Jersey Devils' first round pick in the 1998 draft. "The guys are bigger down south and a lot older. In junior, the average age is 17 or 18. I play against guys 21 and 22, sometimes even older."
Van Ryn said he believes this to be a key aspect in being able to jump to the NHL. This isn't, however, the only plus for going to school according to Van Ryn.
"I love the college life. I'm going to have memories that are going to last me a lifetime," said the second-year advertising and marketing student. "My classes are preparing me not only for the next step but for the rest of my life."
Captaining the Canadian junior entry allowed Van Ryn to answer many of the critics of Canadian hockey and Canadian players, taking with him lessons learned in college.
"[Canadians] may not be as cute with the puck as Europeans," he said. "But we can skate with them and we're more physical. That's why so many Canadians are in the NHL."
Copyright © The Gazette 1999