The Canadiens have a few openings available before the 07/08 roster is set, and the challenge is to finish in the playoffs equipped for a long playoff run. I can’t think of anyone better accustomed to a long playoff run than Ryan O’Byrne and he’d love to challenge for a spot on the opening day Canadiens roster. Ryan has been working hard this off season, but he took the time to answer some questions for the fans that wrote in with questions.
HW – Were you made aware of the Habs’ expectations for you in the upcoming camp / season in private or did you find out like everyone else in public?
O’Byrne – I actually found that out through public like everyone else. One of my buddies was on TSN’s website and read it. He told me about it. But it really doesn’t mean anything unless I go into training camp and perform. That is the bottom line. I had a strong Calder Cup run but that needs to translate into this season.
HW – If you could go back all over again, would you have finished school first and then hit the pros, or do everything the same as you did?
O’Byrne – There is no question I would have left school all over again. Don’t get me wrong. My time at Cornell University was a great 3 years of my life. I grew up a lot as a person and developed on the ice. But coming into Hamilton and playing all those games and getting accustomed to the professional lifestyle was process that I needed to experience. If I had stayed another year at college, I would have just been delaying my development. And obviously winning the Calder Cup was an experience that I will never forgot and would never pass up.
HW – Who was your favorite player growing up?
O’Byrne – My favorite player growing up was Wayne Gretzky
HW – How would you describe your style of play?
O’Byrne – I would describe my play as a physical, puck moving defenseman, who can jump up in the rush if need be.
HW – On what aspect of your game will you put more emphasis in order to impress the Habs coaches in training camp?
O’Byrne – I don’t think I can worry too much about one single part of my game. All I can do is continue to keep playing the way I was down the stretch and into the playoffs. I will just concentrate on my strengths as a player like moving the puck quickly and taking the body.
HW – What was the first thought that went through your mind when the Canadiens called your name at the NHL draft?
O’Byrne – I actually wasn’t expecting to get drafted on the first day of the draft. I was actually working at a Hotel in my hometown of Victoria. My parents came to my work to give me the news. Obviously when my parents delivered the news, I was ecstatic. Montreal is a team with a storied past and lots of friends and family are fans, so it was pretty exciting.
HW – Who in the NHL would you compare yourself to?
O’Byrne – Kyle McLaren or Mike Komisarek.
HW – how do you think your Calder cup experience with the bulldogs affected your growth as a professional hockey player?
O’Byrne – It was a great experience. Our team grew so much together during that run. We had so much fun. But I think a lot of us young players in the Montreal system really grew as players. We gained confidence as hockey players. It seemed for me that everything started to come together towards the end of the season and then into the playoffs.
HW – What aspects of your game do you feel you’ll need to improve the most over the next season(s)?
O’Byrne – Being a big guy, I always need to concentrate on my foot speed. Players are so fast in the NHL, you always have to keep your feet moving. Also, I need to just keep working on decisions with the puck. Always making the right first pass out of the zone. Making quick decisions.
HW – Describe the transition from College (University) hockey to American Hockey League hockey? The best & the worst part?
O’Byrne – It was a difficult transition early in the season. Obviously, the amount of games played in college compared to the AHL is quite a step. I played 28 games in 2005-06 and then 102 games this year. That was the toughest part. The best part about that transition is that you really get to concentrate on hockey. There are no more distractions. You get the chance to really concentrate on making yourself a better player over the course of the year.
HW – How do you prepare yourself mentally for a training camp where you’re expected to impress?
O’Byrne – All I can do is try and not put too much pressure on myself. I know this is an important training camp but all I can do is go out there and play my game.
HW – Considering the experiences you’ve had in the past entering training camps, what have you learned that you feel will serve you positively this time around?
O’Byrne – Last year, I was obviously very nervous. Being a college player, it was my first NHL training camp. All of the other guys my age were attending their 3rd or 4th training camp. This year I know what to expect at camp and hopefully that will have a positive impact for me during camp.
HW – What mental pitfalls do you have to avoid to ensure you’re at your peak?
O’Byrne – I hope that now after my first year as a professional, (outside of college) with all the highs and lows, that I will now be better suited to handle the ‘tough’ parts of the year. I learned this year that it is a very long season and you can’t get too down on yourself at any point. There will always be another game to redeem yourself and move on.
HW – What goals have you set for yourself in 07/08?
O’Byrne – My goals for the 07/08 season is to simply get into NHL action.
HW – What is the significance of your jersey number?
O’Byrne – My jersey number for the past 4 years has been number 2. When I was at training camp in Montreal it was number 3. I really don’t put any significance on numbers. I just like having a lower number being a defenseman. I try not to get caught up in which number I want to wear. It’s especially important with Montreal, where very few numbers are actually available with all the retired
Q – How do you like to spend your free time?
O’Byrne – During the summer, I spend my free time either playing golf or by sitting around a lake.
Q – What is your favorite Music group/singer?
O’Byrne – Tragically Hip
Q – What is your favorite movie?
O’Byrne – My favorite movie is Transformers.
Q – What is your favorite food?
O’Byrne – My favorite food is Japanese food.
Q – What’s your biggest pet peeve?
O’Byrne – My biggest pet peeve is people eating with their mouth open.
Q – What do your teammates tease you about the most?
O’Byrne – Leaving school early and calling me a college drop-out. And I was in the Hotel Administration program at Cornell, so everyone teases me at every hotel we go to about working at the front desk. It never stops, even the coaches get in on it.
Q – Do you have a nickname?
O’Byrne – Burner or OB
Q – Who was your favorite NHL team growing up?
O’Byrne – Vancouver Canucks
Q – What was your first hockey related Christmas present?
O’Byrne – Easton Aluminum silver stick when I was 5. Loved that stick.
Q – Are you superstitious, or do you have any pre-game rituals?
O’Byrne – I just have a routine I follow for each game day. I make sure it is flexible though because there is always changes to schedules and I can’t let superstitions throw my game off. And I put on all my gear, left side first.
Q – Who is your best friend in hockey?
O’Byrne – My best friend in hockey is Mitch Carefoot (Cornell University, drafted by Atlanta).
Thanks for taking the time to do this Ryan, we look forward to seeing you with the Canadiens soon.