>Exclusive: My Interview with Ryan Jones
>Ryan Jones needs no introduction. Those in the Miami community know who he is, what he’s done, and where his career is heading. I recently had the chance to find out a little more about his career in professional hockey, his thoughts on the Frozen four, and his reflection on Miami, straight from the man himself. Enjoy.
AM: What went through your mind when you found out you were being traded to Nashville? Had Minnesota given you any indication of where you’d be playing this season and what was your reception like within the Predators organization when you arrived?
RJ: “The first thing that went through my mind initially was shock. I really couldn’t believe that I was being traded before my first full professional year. Minnesota had a meeting with me just after I had surgery to repair my shoulder (combination of 4 years of college and a freak collision with the boards in my first pro game) and told me that they were looking for me to compete for a position on the big squad. They had some holes that weren’t filed and were looking to go with a more youthful line up, so things looked good. The Predators were great when I got here. I actually came down two months early to rehab my shoulder and live with Jason Arnott. His brother is my agent so that is how the connection was made. It was good to meet the guys prior to the season and get a chance to establish my work ethic within the organization.”
AM: Talk a little about how life in professional hockey differs from life as a collegiate hockey player. In addition, how does “game day” differ?
RJ: “Well, there is a lot more down time. Just think of when you were sitting in class or doing homework and saying, “man I could do so much if I wasn’t in class or doing work.” That is what it is like. It is actually a fairly boring lifestyle if you ask me. Travel is second to none. We have a private jet and basically all we do is show up at the private runway and step on the plane. Meals are provided on the plane so it is extremely nice. My game days have actually settled down from college. I spent a lot of the game day at Miami getting myself pumped up because there was so much practice time between games. Here I try to calm myself down because it is the NHL and I am so excited every game.”
AM: Living in Ohio and being an admitted Blue Jackets fan, I don’t get to see many Predator games on TV. I know that a large part of your game is camping in front of the net and driving to it to try and create offense. Has the Predators system/your role on a line/Coach (Barry) Trotz allowed you to focus on doing this? Would you consider your game in the NHL to be similar to the game you played as a RedHawk?
RJ: “My game is exactly how it was at Miami, minus the confidence. As a rookie you spend so much time worrying about if you’re going to be in the line up and dwelling on mistakes and what not. My confidence has been a roller coaster so far this year and I think my game has taken a hit because of it. Much like my freshman year at Miami, I haven’t been as productive as I would have liked to be, but I continue to work hard and try to provide energy. The goals and points will come next year when I have had the experience, the game starts to slow down, and I start to be confident in my game again.”
AM: We all know the story of why you chose to grow your hair long…because of Korinne Croghan and Locks of Love. In her passing, how have you been affected and how did Korinne’s fight inspire you, on a personal level?
RJ: “Well, the whole thing was a little more publicized than I would have liked it to be. I worry that I took a little bit of attention away from who the attention should have been on. People made a big deal about me growing my hair and it took off because I was an athlete. I would have liked the stories to be more about her and how amazing of a person she was; a celebration of her life so to say. The one regret that I have is not showing the world more of how amazing of a girl she was. On a personal level, I still stay in contact with her family and sent some equipment, (jerseys and what not) to her brother and her foundation. I’ll always remember her and how she enjoyed everyday of her life despite her struggles. I always thought about her when I was in the AHL, feeling sorry for the situation I was in. She taught me to enjoy everyday which is what I did and it ultimately led to my being re-called.”
AM: With it being tournament time, here’s a two-part question: Watching the Boston College game last year, I remember you were shown leaving the bench after the Eagles had scored the game winner in overtime. What was that moment like for you, knowing your Miami career had come to an end?
RJ: “I have said before and still say that that moment was one of the saddest days of my life. Miami was a huge part of who I was. I had life-long friends there, people I loved and whom I enjoyed working so hard for. Everything about Miami was amazing in my eyes; the community, classes, partying. It just couldn’t get better to me. I expected, going into that tournament, to be playing two weeks later, so I never braced myself for what might happen. At that moment, reality hit me that I would never wear the Miami jersey again, which is why I didn’t want to take it off.”
AM: Second part: you said after that game, in the press conference, that you’d be the first alum to call once the program made the Frozen Four. I know that after several attempts, you did in fact manage to reach Coach Blasi. Explain the feeling you had when you found out that Miami beat Minnesota-Duluth to advance.
RJ: “I was able to watch the games this past weekend at my place due to not traveling with the team because of my injury (which I am quickly healing from. SORRY Jackets fans, I’ll be back to punish them!). What I saw was exactly what Miami hockey is all about: hard work, sacrifice, dedication and passion. I was proud beyond words to be an alumni of the team that was playing. When they won those two games, all I could think about was a promise that I had made to my school to be the first person to call and I was not going to break it. I was able to get ahold of Rico after the meeting and it was a pretty emotional conversation, I’ll leave it at that. I have talked to most of the guys since and I look forward to another excited phone call in two weeks.”
AM: To me, you are a large part of what “The Brotherhood” is about and in my opinion, a perfect example of what a captain should be. What do you personally feel that you’ve done to better the Miami hockey program? I could list about 1,000 things and am sure others could too, but what does Ryan Jones feel that he’s done?
RJ: “My goal in life is the leave every place I stop a better place than when I arrive. I am not sure in which way I have made Miami better. It was an amazing place when I got there. However, many people have told me how much I have impacted the program and that is one of the greatest compliments I will ever receive.”
AM: Put your rookie season, thus far, into perspective. Explain how it has played out vs. your initial expectations. Were you at all…”starstruck,” more or less, to playing with/against guys that you maybe had watched throughout your years in college and before?
RJ: “I told myself I was going to do everything in my power to play in the NHL this year and I accomplished it. I wish I could have played the year a little more consistently. There were games I felt like I was one of the best players on the ice and others where I questioned if I could keep up. If I can eliminate the latter, I will be a darn good NHL player. Another thing I wish, is that I could eliminate the injury I am currently dealing with. It is kind of a pain and is really testing my mental strength off the ice. I was star struck at first, but I can recall winning a face-off against Mike Modano and at that point I realized that all these guys I looked up to were just players and I could compete.”
AM: One of the highlights of this rookie season was your first NHL goal, which you scored against Marty Turco, another CCHA guy, from Michigan. Explain that moment.
RJ: “My first goal is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. It is a moment when everything kind of came together and a childhood dream came true, (actually Turco is so old that when I was 6 I was probably imagining scoring on him, joking). That goal was a big thank you to so many people that have had such a huge impact on my career. The main people being my parents, especially my father who sacrificed so much for me to play hockey at the level I did. My dad is the greatest leader the world will ever see and only a few people will see it. That however, is a long story. Not far behind my family is my second family, the people at Miami. Coach Blasi, Bergeron, Blashill, and Petraglia. Athletic Director Brad Bates, Steve Cady, Josh Fenton, the man himself Mr. Goggin, who without him, Miami hockey would not be possible. I could list 100 people at Miami that I scored that goal for, including many fans. It was just nice to be able to give people something to cheer about and be happy for.”
AM: I’m very curious to know what type of rookie hazing you’ve been subjected to?
RJ: “Nothing other than paying for the rookie meal, which was more than I want to share. I’ll just say it was somewhere between five hundred and five thousand. You can guess which end it was closer to.”
AM: Inquiring minds were wondering: Is there any significance as to why you wear the number “10” in Milwaukee (which you also wore in Houston) and “28” in Nashville? I know Steve Sullivan has 26 occupied, for now.
RJ: “I was always a be “19” fan, but I think my calling is 26/27. “26,” because of the obvious, I played the best hockey of my life in that number and “27” because my cousin, John Tonelli, wore that number and I think it would be cool to have it in the family. Both of those numbers were taken, so I just stayed with the number they gave me at camp. You haven’t seen the last of the Jones 26 jersey though, I promise you that.”
AM: Is there anyone you keep in contact with at Miami, or guys you’ve played with on past teams? Do you feel you’ll always follow the program in years to come and as I’m sure many will wonder, do you plan on going back to Oxford at all?
RJ: “I keep in contact with a bunch of the guys that I played with. Mitch Ganzak and I were roomates throughout our time at Miami, so we still have lots to talk about, but I have made so many good friends that I will stay in touch with them all. Brian Kaufman is someone I live with in the summers, so I have to congratulate him publicly for being the oldest player in Miami history. Brian and I train together and we are life long friends. I plan to come to Miami in the summers for the Alumni events which sound exciting beyond belief. I will always follow Miami hockey because of how much the program meant/means to me.”
AM: Closing thoughts? What advice would you give anyone considering making a commitment to play college hockey at Miami?
RJ: “If you’re looking for a place where hard-work, dedication, sacrifice and comradery are the core of everyday living, then Miami is your place. If you want individualism and spot light, try Michigan (laughs). Miami is a place where dreams and life long friends are made. It is the best four years anyone can ever wish to experience.”