RYAN DUTHIE
Talks to Peter Collins January 2000

WHEN an NHL coach suggests you go to a particular team it's usually a good idea to do so, after all if you're successful you might one day end up making it to the 'The Show' as a result. That's the tack new signing Ryan Duthie took at the start of this season and it took him to tonight's opponents, the London Knights, but in a round-about way it also led to him icing for the Storm who are now reaping the benefits. And who's to say the circle won't be completed with an NHL birth in the future? "I had the chance to go back to the Finnish elite league with Lukko Rauma this year but Andy Murray, coach of the LA Kings, who like London are owned by the Anshutz Corporation (as well as the DEL's Munich Barons) recommended me to Chris McSorley so I went to London, now I'm glad to be here," said the 25-year-old centre who arrived on New Year's Day in a straight trade for Rick Brebant. "I've really enjoyed coming to Manchester, it's been easy to fit in as there's lots of team spirit in the locker room and the fans, well, they are just fantastic. Anytime you come out to 'Maaaaanchester Storm!' and thousands of people going nuts you're lifted straight away. This is a really professional organisation, everyone is pulling in the same direction, as the size of the crowds shows, although to be fair to the Knights it's a really tough sell down there. "I enjoyed living in London, there was a lot to see and experience and it was special having my girlfriend Cyndi with me for the Millennium celebrations. But I've settled into my flat and I'm looking forward to exploring this magnificent city. It's a huge opportunity for me and I've come here expecting to be in with a shout for all four cups, that's how highly I regard this club."

For such an approachable guy it took a huge difference of opinion for Ryan to finally arrive in Manchester. "Chris' way of doing things wasn't mine, which is pretty much what it came down to - I wasn't his type of player and that was that. Like any coach Kurt has a certain way he wants guys to play but he doesn't want me to hold back on what I do best and I'm grateful to him for that." It was Storm's memorable 4-3 penalty shoot-out B&H Cup final win over the Knights on 4 December that had a pivotal role in shaping Ryan's future here in Britain. "At first you don't really appreciate how important these different competitions are, so I didn't really know what the B&H Cup was all about. Combine that with the turmoil that was going on with the Knights at the time and I had mixed feelings during the final. I hate to lose but there were other things going on, I wasn't picked to take a penalty shot and all the guys were complaining about it but there were forces outside of the game that were controlling things. I knew way before the final I wouldn't be with the club for long but I still wanted to win. It was after the game that it became really hard, I was man-of-the match in the following two games but it didn't seem to matter and I still don't know how Chris took that. He wanted me out clear and simple and he got his way, I'm just glad I'm with Manchester."

Ryan, from Red Deer, Alberta, started out with the WHL's Spokane Chiefs, spending three seasons with the club (1991-94) during which time he never scored less than 23 goals, earning selection on to the league's All Star team. His most productive period was the 93-94 campaign when he scored 57+69 for 126 points! That brought him to the attention of the Calgary Flames who drafted him (4th round, 91st overall) in 1994 (he'd actually been drafted once before - by the New York Islanders in 1992 - 4th round, 105 overall - but nothing came of it). Calgary assigned him to their AHL affiliate, the Saint John Flames where he scored 18+21 for 39 points. The following season he moved to the Adirondack Red Wings where he produced similar figures - 16+21 for 37. Selected by Team Canada for the 96-97 season he returned impressive figures of 18+37 for 55 points with the national side - coached by Andy Murray, who has gone on to play an important role in his career - also managing to play four games for the IHL's Manitoba Mose. He then moved to Finland for the 97-98 season starting out with SM liiga side Tappara Tampere before moving to Lukko Rauma. "Finland is a great place to play and I really enjoyed it. It was a lot different to what I was used to and prepeared me for playing in Italy and now Britain. Their practices are very different, they work on their skills - skating, passing, shooting - all the time which gave me an opportunity to work on those things a lot more. But Tampere's coach was also the Finnish national coach and he had guys he wanted to move up, one of them being a centreman so I moved to Lukko and made their first line and fininshed the season strong."

Last year he was with Storm and former London teammate Scott Campbell in Italy and picked up a championship medal with HC Merano, "It was a good experience, we had to de-throne four-year champions Bolzano to win the title, but we never lost to them all season even though they had three Russians in their line-up who are now in the DEL. Merano wanted me to go back but the money just wasn't there. I'm in hockey to win championships but you have to make a little money too. Last year I was one of 10 imports, this year I was going to be the only one so I knew I didn't want to be there. Plus with Andy Murray recommending I go some place else I thought I'd respect his judgement." It may seem strange to British hockey fans for a team to swap it's top points scorer for another team's hitman mid-season, but that's what happened with Ryan leading the Knights' points chart with 6+15 for 21 points from 21 games.

Since his move to the Storm he's maintained his point-a-game ratio with 1+4 for five points from four games so far. "I always want to improve and I've never given up on playing in the NHL, after all there's been a lot of players who have made it from lower leagues than SuperLeague. I go out every night to try and win games and put up some points and you never know what may come of it. If Manchester win all four cups maybe I might go somewhere in future years." But don't panic, Ryan's not for moving just yet: "

Although I go year-to-year if Manchester want to offer me a deal I would be interested in re-signing. At the start of the year there was an opportinity for me to come here and maybe I should have taken it, but like I said I thought it might be an idea to go where Andy Murray suggested." As for tonight's game Ryan feels he has nothing to prove to either Chris McSorley or his former teammates: "Chris knows what I can do it just wasn't what he wanted, as for the guys they are a great bunch and I'd like to think I got on well with all of them, but I'll be out there trying to make sure Manchester win tonight."

 

PETER COLLINS