Every kid up north (north of the Mason-Dixon Line prior to 1992) grows up with dreams of one day playing in the National Hockey League. For some, that road may take a little longer with more stops before realizing their dream. It’s that journey and the relationships they build which lay the foundation for what should promise to be a rewarding career.
After putting together the best year of his young career, Dallas Stars forward, Ryan Garbutt was rewarded with a contract to start the 2011-2012season to play for the Texas Stars of the AHL. Then in mid-February, Jamie Benn, the face of the franchise was diagnosed with appendicitis and required emergency surgery. It was then that head coach, Glen Gulutzan made a call down to Cedar Park.
“He’s a guy the guys in the American League say has played hard and solid for them down there,” Gulutzan said about Garbutt. “He’s got some speed and some toughness and he’s earned the opportunity to come up here and see what he can do.”
And show them he did. Ryan ended up scoring his first NHL goal in Montreal and in his 20 games with Dallas, Garbutt inserted himself as a physical presence that the team sorely lacked with injuries to the likes of Benn, Brenden Morrow and Sheldon Souray.
We had the opportunity to ask Ryan about his journey and what the ride has been like.
StarsInsider: What player did you look up to growing up? Do you find yourself fashioning your play based on that individual?
Ryan Garbutt: I was always a huge fan of Doug Weight. Although the Oilers weren’t the best team during his tenure with the team, he was always exciting to watch and a fan favorite. Doug was always a playmaker. Growing up I definitely wanted to emulate his style of play. As much fun as it is to score goals, it’s just as rewarding to set up a teammate.
SI: You went to Brown University…what was your major? What is your best college memory?
RG: I majored in Sociology/Economics, and my best memories are of the people that I met during my four years at Brown; my teammates, my roommates, and my classmates that have become lifelong friends.
SI: If you weren’t a hockey player, what do you see yourself doing?
RG: Many of my friends from my graduating class at Brown are working in management or finance, so that would be a possibility.
But I also have strong interest in the fitness and health industry, as well as leading a small business or a team.
SI: What is your favorite stop among the 29 other cities? Where’s your favorite non-hockey related place to visit?
RG: Chicago is on top of my list for places to play on the road. Playing there for a year in the AHL was a great experience, and going back to play in the United Center was surreal. It is truly the Madhouse on Madison.
SI: We just completed the Summer Olympics…What’s your favorite event of the summers?
RG: Women’s Gymnastics. The women’s team at Brown, which was led by Alicia Sacramone, would often come to our hockey games so we would go to their meets. They are certainly very talented and committed athletes.
SI: What do you do to relax and enjoy yourself in the offseason?
RG: My summer months are focused on training to prepare for the long hockey season, but I do enjoy golfing, cycling, baseball or just lying by the pool. Fantasy baseball has also become a ritual that only adds to my enjoyment of America’s pastime.
SI: Statistically, your best season came in 2010-2011 with Gwinnett Gladiators and the Chicago Wolves with 29G/25A and 142 PIMS. Do you consider yourself more of a “physical” player or “skill” player?
RG: I’ve always been a player who combines elements of skill and grit. I love being a guy that can get under the opposition’s skin by playing a physical type of hockey. Playing with an aggressive style allows me to get in on the forecheck and create scoring opportunities.
SI: How do you see your role unfolding with the departure of Steve Ott, Derek Roy out with his shoulder surgery and Cody Eakin still being a relative unknown?
RG: Just as when I joined the team last year, I will do whatever it takes to make the team out of training camp and earn a spot in the lineup. I think there is potential for my role on the team to grow, but that is certainly not something that will be given to me because of injuries. This team is transitioning, and I am excited by the opportunity to be a part of something special here.
SI: Speaking of Eakin, how long have you known each other? You YWG boys seem to have a pretty special bond with one another. Is Winnipeg that close in general?
RG: Cody and I have been training together for the past 2 summers. Winnipeg has a lot of professional hockey players, and most of us know each other from summer skates in the city.
SI: What was it like playing against the Jets in your hometown? How many tickets did you end up getting for friends/family?
RG: I ended up getting 8 tickets for my family, but there were at least a dozen of my close friends who came to watch as well. The experience was something that is difficult to put into words. There is a certain level of excitement for every game that you play, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a few extra butterflies that night.
SI: Your first goal came IN Montreal…what were your thoughts/feelings having obtained such a milestone in such a storied building?
RG: Growing up watching games in the Montreal Forum on Hockey Night in Canada was something that every young hockey fan did. Scoring my first goal in the Bell Centre is something that I will look back on after my hockey career and never forget. It made me feel like I was a part of the team.
SI: What was the first thing you bought with your first pro contract?
RG: Well the first thing I did was pay my agents fee, and then I met with a financial planner.
Steak or Chicken: Steak
Beer, Wine or “Other”: Beer
Beach or Mountains: Beach
Its Saturday morning-Sleep in or up and at ‘em: Sleep-in
Paper or Plastic: Paper
Playstation or Xbox: X-Box
Win Olympic Gold for your country or Lose in Stanley Cup Finals: win Olympic Gold
As you can tell, Ryan Garbutt is anything but your typical “jock.” You don’t graduate Brown University with degrees in sociology and economics by “just getting by.” He’s intelligent and very driven to do whatever is asked of him. Those two ingredients together in one fiery pot of aggression will make Ryan a player to watch for many years as he continues to develop and one day, becomes a leader for the Dallas Stars