MANCHESTER, NH – Since its inception in 2001, 281 players have donned a Manchester Monarchs jersey. Whether it was purple or the new black and white sweaters, each player has represented both the Monarchs and Los Angeles Kings organizations. Those hundreds of players have memorably graced the ice at the Verizon Wireless Arena leaving lasting impressions on the Monarchs’ faithful.
This past summer, the Monarchs organization asked fans to vote for their favorite Monarchs of all time. Eighty-one different names were written in. This season-long series will highlight the top eight players on the fan-voted list. From 281 to eight, these are the players, you the fans, have put on the All-Time Monarchs list.
The first of eight to be remembered is former Monarchs center, Matt Ryan. Hailing from Sharon, Ontario, Ryan played for the organization from 2004 to 2008, appearing in 266 games and registering 86 points.
“I’m honored because so many great players have come through this organization,” Ryan said of the fan recognition. “It’s great to be recognized by the fans for my hard work and what I contributed to the organization. It’s extremely gratifying for me.”
Ryan began his professional career in Manchester in 2004 after signing with the Kings as a free agent. From the beginning, he felt right at home with the organization at every level.
“I was always treated with such respect and class from the top of the organization to the bottom,” Ryan said. “I always felt welcomed and felt it was a family atmosphere. I was always taken care of so that I could perform for the best of my ability.”
Although they will not be revealed just yet, Ryan joins a welcoming group of familiar friends on the All-Time list. When learning of his teammates joining him, Ryan noted that the Kings organization has an amazing ability to pick and develop character players remembered throughout the organization.
“All those guys are fantastic characters and fantastic team guys,” Ryan said. “They were always extremely well-liked by our teammates and respected.”
Four of the players who made the All-Time list have a common bond, as they appeared on the 2006-07 team that made an impressive Calder Cup Playoff run. Although they lost a difficult series to the Hershey Bears in four games, their accomplishment of making it that far remains a positive memory for Ryan.
“Certain years you have a group of individuals that seem to be able to gel and play well together,” Ryan said. “It was an amazing run. We had some very good players that year. Mark Morris was our coach and it was his first year as head coach there. We just had a great group of guys, and a staff that seemed to bond together and really gel at the right time. We peaked at the right time heading into the playoffs.”
The bond he had with his teammates also extends off the ice. In his last year with the Monarchs, Ryan accepted the Mark Bavis Unsung Hero Award. For him, to receive this acknowledgement from his peers was a personal achievement.
Although not every former Monarch can be on the All-Time list, if Ryan had a vote, he would choose former teammate, Petr Kanko.
“I played with Petr for four years,” Ryan said. “He’s a character. He’s a good guy who always played hard, always competed hard and I know the fans really appreciated his style of play.”
Ryan spent his four seasons in the AHL with the Monarchs. In his second year, Ryan accomplished a lifelong goal of playing in the NHL when he was called up for 12 games and remembers the moment Monarchs Head Coach Jim Hughes announced the news.
“That was obviously a big moment, a fulfilling moment for myself and my family,” Ryan said. “I think we were in Springfield and I think [Hughes] knew before the game, well obviously he knew before the game that I was getting called up. After the game he came out in front of the team and went, ‘Listen up guys. Matt Ryan’s going to be sent to the NHL tomorrow.’ We cheered and that was a fantastic moment. One that I will definitely always remember for the rest of my life.”
After his time in Manchester, Ryan played six and a half seasons overseas. He played in several leagues and countries including Germany, Sweden, Austria and most recently, the United Kingdom.
Ryan finished his career overseas with two seasons in the UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League. His last season of professional hockey was with the Dundee Stars. For Ryan, ending his career in the UK was personal and an experience tied to family roots as both of his parents are from England. Ryan even holds a British passport and lived there for many years.
“It was one of those things that I knew my career was winding down,” Ryan said. “I always wanted to go over to the UK and play so that all my aunts, uncles and cousins could see me play. It was a big motivating factor for me to finish my career over there.”
Ryan retired from the game in December 2014. He now holds a position with the NHL’s Central Scouting working on the upcoming draft.
When asked, Ryan said he would not change anything about his playing career.
“I learned so many valuable lessons that I’m taking with me and into my new career, so I’m very grateful for the career that I had.”
Looking back on his time in Manchester, Ryan values the connections he had with the city and Monarchs fans.
“It was always the people that made the place,” Ryan said. “I loved the New England area. I think the people are amazing, and they really love the team and the organization. I met so many great people in my time there, and a made a whole lot of relationships that I still maintain today.”
The Monarchs are back in action Saturday, Oct. 24 (7 p.m.), when they visit their division rival, the Adirondack Thunder, for the front end of a home-and-home series. The Monarchs will return home Sunday, Oct. 25 (3:00 p.m.) for a matinee with the Thunder. Click here for tickets.