MUSKEGON, MI- The Muskegon Lumberjacks have hired Ryan Bennett as their general manager, the team announced Thursday. Bennett replaces John Vanbiesbrouck, who accepted an executive position with USA Hockey yesterday.
Bennett, 36, spent the last three seasons as the GM for the Chicago Steel, constructing the 2017 Clark Cup championship team. Bennett was able to turn a Chicago franchise that had missed the playoffs for eight-straight seasons into a champion in just two years at the helm.
In Bennett’s final season with the Steel, he formed a team that got into the playoffs for a second-straight year, and ousted the Lumberjacks in the first round.
“We are thrilled to have met and hired Ryan Bennett,” said owner Dan Israel. “He’s coming to Muskegon to help us toward our goal, which is to build the world’s best junior hockey organization on and off ice.”
“I’m confident Ryan will make an immediate and long-term impact toward accomplishing this goal. While we are happy for John Vanbiesbrouck and his new job, we are just as excited to bring Bennett on board.”
Bennett, in addition to being a general manager in the USHL, also played and coached in the league. Most of his USHL playing career took place in Des Moines, with a brief stint in Omaha. Bennett also spent two years as an assistant coach behind the Buccaneers’ bench.
The Glen Falls, New York native continued his career collegiately at the University of Nebraska-Omaha before playing a seven-year pro career in the AHL, UHL, ECHL and CHL.
“I wasn’t expecting to get back into the USHL,” said Bennett. “But the ownership treated me and my wife great. They were confident I was their guy, and their trust in me pushed me over the edge.”
“We can be very successful in Muskegon, Beezer has done great job building the foundation here. We want to put a team together that can win. We have a very good foundation, and just have to figure out what we need and what we don’t. I have to figure out coach Hamilton’s type of player and what he needs to win.”
Bennett doesn’t think the Jacks need major changes- he already sees potential in the group of players on Muskegon’s roster.
“There are a lot of good players, no need for big changes,” said Bennett. “We have the personnel win this year. Beezer is very happy with what he has brought in, we just need to fine-tune them and continue to build a winning culture.”
Much like Vanbiesbrouck has been able to do with stars like Andrei Svechnikov, Bennett has been able to lure top European players to the USHL. Bennett brought Ales Stezka, Aaro Vidgren, Samuel Bucek, Eduards Tralmaks and others to Chicago.
“Building relationships is critical,” said Bennett. “I have a good network in Europe and I’ve been able to do that because I have very good relationships with my players; it’s like family. Players want to be taken care of and be wanted, and once you take care of one or two, the word spreads. Above all else, being honest and doing what you say you’re going to do, that is the foundation of any relationship.”
With main camp beginning today (Thursday) at 2:00pm, Bennett is anxious to get started.
“I’m excited, can’t wait to get going,” said Bennett. “I want to thank Dan Israel and John Vanbiesbrouck for the opportunity.”
Away from the rink, Ryan enjoys spending time with his family. He is married to Shannon and has four children: Charlotte (2), Isabelle (14), Brandon (17), and Megan (19).