Shift change: Ex-Everblades in new careers
Former Everblades talk about decision to call ...
Ryan Brindley says he’d like to see Southwest Florida recognized as a hockey factory like Canada, Boston or Minnesota. He’s certainly doing his part to make that happen.
Brindley, who played from 2003-07 with the Everblades, is a hockey lifer.
He began his annual youth camp while a member of the team, and it’s still going strong nine years later. He has his own website, ryanbrindleyhockey.com, which includes information about his Everblades-affiliated hockey camp as well as the latest on the Junior Everblades and Team Zoom Tan, a statewide all-star team which includes his son Gavin, 8.
Gavin led Team Zoom Tan to a second-place finish at the recent Chi-Town Shuffle in Chicago, one of the most prestigious youth hockey tournaments in the country. They fell 3-2 in the final to Bauer Selects, one of the best travel teams in the country with sons of former NHL players like Alexei Kovalev, Steve Dubinsky and Jon Klemm on the roster. Gavin was the Most Outstanding Player at the tournament, tallying nine goals and eight assists in just six games.
“People see we’re from Florida and they wonder how can we compete with the hockey hotbeds,” Brindley said. “The kids did awesome, beating a lot of hockey superpowers. We went up there and showed we can play with anyone.”
A tireless worker, Brindley has parlayed that work ethic into a successful business venture in Pelican Lawn and Landscaping, now with more than 30 employees under his wing. He led the Junior Everblades to three consecutive state championships from 2010-12, and is always looking to get his players the best possible instruction and competition. Team Zoom Tan’s next competition will be a date this weekend with Canada’s best at Top Tier, a high-caliber tournament in Toronto.
“We’ll see the top Canadian teams right off the bat,” he said. “We want to show we can develop quality hockey players down here.”
Brindley says one of the biggest advantages he has as a coach is the hometown arena.
“ Germain Arena is a state-of-the-art facility,” Brindley said. “Our kids get plenty of ice time and outstanding training. I really enjoy teaching them the game and it’s going to be great to see how they can develop and compete kids in their age group all across the country.”
Jim Brown, a teammate of Brindley’s on the 2003-04 Everblades, has served as Brindley’s assistant coach the last three seasons. Brown’s son Connor, 7, is a member of both the Junior Everblades and Team Zoom Tan.
“The kids gravitate toward Ryan,” Brown said. “He’s got a strong teaching background and is a huge proponent of cutting groups into smaller groups so the coach to player ratio is at a minimum. His philosophy is everybody should be skating on the ice. Nobody should be standing around anywhere.”
Brown says he often gives Gavin Brindley instruction, and Ryan Brindley coaches Connor Brown at practice.
“Ryan is really good at separating the two, being a coach at the arena and a dad at home,” Brown said. “Often times a kid doesn’t want to hear constructive criticism from their dad at the rink when they hear it at home. And for me, it’s good to know my boy is getting quality instruction from someone who really knows the game.”
Brown also says Brindley goes out of his way not to show favoritism to his own son, despite the fact Gavin is one of the best players on the team.
“We hosted a tournament a couple months ago and the game went into a shootout,” Brown said. “He didn’t send Gavin out for the shootout. He wanted to give other boys a chance to come through. Gavin was upset at the time but later understood why Ryan did that. People at Germain Arena know that when Ryan is on the ice, their boy or girl is getting the best instruction.”
The only thing he loves more than hockey is his family. He and his college sweetheart, Rochelle, live in Estero with their four kids — sons Gavin, 8, and Cole, 3 and daughters Taylor, 7, and Brooke, 6 months.
Cole will likely follow in daddy’s and big brother’s footsteps, as he just had his first hockey lesson last week. Brindley was coaching on an adjacent rink at Germain, but popped in from time to time to check on his little one’s progress.
“It was his first time on the ice without me or Gavin with him,” Brindley said. “But he did a really good job. He was enjoying himself out there. I am at the arena so much anyway, might as well have the kids with me.”
Brindley is a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Although he is a long way from his hometown, he doesn’t get too homesick.
His four kids keep him plenty busy, but he also has another family in Southwest Florida — his former Blades teammates.
Fan favorite Ernie Hartlieb was a college teammate of Brindley’s at Miami (Ohio) University. Hartlieb served as the best man at Brindley’s wedding and is the godfather to his children.
With well more than a dozen former Everblades still in the area, they still act like teammates. The former Blades get together for golf outings. They meet at MacDaddy’s (Brent McDonald’s sports bar in Fort Myers) during the NHL Playoffs and conduct fantasy hockey drafts. Each summer, they head to Fort Myers Beach for an alumni weekend gathering.
“We’re still a really tight-knit group, we’d do anything for each other,” Brindley said. “With a lot of our families living so far away, it’s important to have that bond.”
Brindley also couldn’t say enough about the Everblades organization and his adopted community.
“The biggest thing when you come here is how well you are treated,” he said. “(Team president) Craig Brush runs a top-notch organization. Very few teams at this level have the ability to compete and recruit the way the Everblades can. The fans really support the team. After I retired, that special bond with a lot of those people continued. It really has helped my business and in my coaching at the youth level. I really feel like a part of this community and I consider it more home than my hometown.”