At the end of the 2005/06 campaign, it was announced that Mike Blaisdell wasn’t returning to the NIC with the Nottingham Panthers. As a result of Blaisdell’s less than glamorous exit, Mike Ellis was appointed as the new Head Coach of the Nottingham Panthers. Ellis recruited several players from the CHL for the for the 2006/2007 season including netminder Even Lindsay, defenceman Mike Rees, and wingers Steve Simoes & Ryan Shmyr. Jay Courtney spoke to Panthers former enforcer Shmyr about his two seasons in Nottingham, where he became an integral part of the team and won two trophies.
Jay: You came to England at the start of the 2006/07 season, but your brother Jason played in Scotland for Dundee Stars in 2004/05, was Jason much of an influence when you were searching for a team that season?
Ryan: Yes, my brother has always been a big influence on my hockey career. I went to visit him in March of 2005 and watched him play and got a chance to see a bit of Britain. He really enjoyed it there and I thought I would too.
Jay: I’d like to ask about your teammates of that season, Evan Lindsay and Steve Simoes. Were you surprised that Evan didn’t last the season and were you also surprised that Simoes got released?
Ryan:I was very surprised that Evan didn’t last the season. He is a great goalie and a great guy. He was top three in every major goalie stat when he was released. The team was struggling and unfortunately he was held responsible for our losses. Steve Simoes wasn’t really fitting in with the team and again the team wanted to make a change so he was the odd guy out.
Jay: I understand that Steve Simoes and yourself were rivals in the CHL with the Bucks and Killer Bee’s, was that strange for you?
Ryan: It really doesn’t make a difference whether I’m rivals with a guy before I play with him or not, you have to keep it professional.
Jay: Whilst in Nottingham you had many fights, who was the toughest guy you fought?
Ryan:It’s hard to pick the toughest guy I fought, every one of them were tough and had different strengths. My favorite fight would have been the fight with Jeremy Cornish after he did his chicken dance in our rink and then was chirping me in the papers. He came in to town with the Steelers a few weeks later, just after Christmas and I was pretty fired up to get after him. Coach didn’t want me fighting the game before when the Steelers were in town so I didn’t, but he knew I was going to be going after him that night. I was fired up and hit him with a few good shots that sent him to the ice. It felt great to do my talking on the ice and making him look like an idiot for talking bad about me.
Jay: And who was the weakest guy you fought?
Ryan: There were really no weak guys that I fought in Britain.
Jay: With ice hockey entering the zero tolerance age, has your job as an enforcer got tougher?
Ryan: It is tougher with the new age of zero tolerance. You can’t go after a guy for taking a cheap shot on one of your teammates as easy as you used to be able to. I think this does allow some of the cheap shot guys to get away with more and I don’t like that they get away without answering to their actions.
Jay: In your debut season with the Panther’s you played a versatile role in the team, what would you say is your natural position?
Ryan: Well, I was a goalie until I was 19 so I suppose that is my natural position. I have been playing both forward and defence since then and I don’t really have a preference.
Jay: Many Panther fans thought Mike Ellis kept a ‘leash’ on you, do you agree with that?
Ryan: In this new age of zero tolerance you need to put your team first and can’t always be looking to settle scores, as much as you’d like to. Mike felt that some nights it was more important to focus on winning the game instead of getting involved in the rough stuff.
Jay: What was more satisfying for you, winning the play-offs or Challenge Cup?
Ryan: Winning the play-offs was certainly one of the highlights of my career. When you have the play-off format and it comes down to the last two teams at the end of the season and you pull out the win, there is no better feeling in sports.
Jay: Sheffield Steelers forward Ryan Finnerty made some comments about your hockey abilities before the second leg of the Challenge Cup final. How satisfying was it hit the final nail in coffin?
Ryan:It seems to motivate me when guys make negative comments towards me and it is great when you can answer back through your play on the ice. When I scored that goal in the second leg of the Challenge Cup I was extremely happy, not only because of what Finnerty had said but also because of the big rivalry and the fact that they had come back from a 3 goal deficit to close it to one and my goal late in the game seemed to end their momentum and secure our win.
Jay:You’ve played in both the CHL and EIHL, which league would you say is better?
Ryan: It’s tough to compare leagues, both have different styles. Both have great players, great fans and big tough guys for me to deal with!
Jay: What are your plans for next season?
Ryan:I have decided not to play hockey this season. I have opened up a motorcycle accessories and apparel shop in McAllen, Texas with a couple of friends. Hopefully I can find some success in the business world too.
Jay: Would you ever return to Nottingham to play hockey?
Ryan: I loved my time in Nottingham and if I were to play again it would be my top choice.
Jay: Do you have a message for the Nottingham fans?
Ryan: I’d like to thank all of the Panther fans in Nottingham. I really enjoyed my time there. I made some great friends and thoroughly enjoyed playing in that great rink with those enthusiastic fans. I wish them great success in the future. I think it’s about time the Panthers won the League Title!
The Cat’s Whiskers would like to thank Ryan for his time and Jay for conducting the interview.