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Muskegon Lumberjacks hire James Ryan to be video coach

By Scott Bradford, 07/14/20, 11:00AM EDT

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MUSKEGON, MI- The Muskegon Lumberjacks have hired James Ryan, who will step in as the Lumberjacks’ video/development coach.

Ryan, from St. Louis, Missouri, comes to Muskegon from the Buffalo Jr. Sabres program, where he was both the video coach and skills development coach. Ryan also spent time coaching at the NCAA level with Miami University, where he was the video coach.

Ryan, 27, was a talented young player in the St. Lous Jr. Blues organization growing up, but a cancer diagnosis during his freshman year of high school cut his career short.

“The cancer diagnosis kinda ruined my high-level playing career,” said Ryan. “So, at 14 years old, I decided if I couldn’t play, I was going to coach.”

After attending Miami University and playing an integral role on the hockey staff, Ryan moved to Buffalo, where he started coaching skill development as well.

“Once I started in Buffalo, I learned a ton,” said Ryan. “One day, I’m coaching seven or eight year olds with the Jr. Sabres program and the next, I’m working with NHL players.”

Last year, Ryan got to work with Owen Mehlenbacher, who Muskegon has since signed to a tender agreement. 

“Owen is one of those guys who you can talk hockey to all day,” said Ryan. “He never gets bored of watching video, and is always trying to improve. It’s nice to have a familiar face in the locker room and I’m excited for this opportunity for him.”

While Ryan has a long history with the game of hockey, his family has an even longer history coaching; but in a different sport. James’ grandfather, Buddy Ryan, uncles Rob Ryan and Rex Ryan, and cousin Seth Ryan all have coaching experience in the National Football League.

“At family gatherings, I get called the idiot who chose hockey,” Ryan said with a laugh. “But I’ve learned so much from my uncles, maybe not them saying anything directly, but just watching them as coaches on and off the field has taught me so much. Just the fact that I grew up with two uncles in the NFL made me think; if they can make it to the NFL, why can’t I make it to the NHL one day?”

“I got to go to Jets training camp in 2009 and 2010,” said Ryan. “I got to watch how Rex interacted with the players, and that’s exactly how I want to be. I’m always going to have fun and that’s exactly how Rex always was. Even during training camp at 7:00am, he was a positive influence, getting guys laughing all while holding his players accountable.”

As the Jacks’ video coach, Ryan feels his main strength is his ability to analyze the game at a high level, making players better with each video session. 

“It’s about more than just pressing the right buttons and recording the right clips,” said Ryan. “You’ve got to have the ability to break down that video and help players improve.”

“James will be a great addition to our staff,” said Head Coach Mike Hamilton. “He’ll not only be helping us in Muskegon, but will also travel with us on the road.”

“I am absolutely ecstatic about the opportunity, and I can't thank the organization enough” said Ryan. “It’s a huge step up and I’m ready for it.”