CALGARY, Alta. - Blayre Turnbull isn’t the only one with Pictou County ties who will try to win gold with the Canadian women’s hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
While Turnbull, a native of Stellarton, was officially named to the team Friday, Troy Ryan will be behind the bench for Team Canada as an assistant coach when the games begin in Pyeongchang, South Korea this February.
He said in an interview from Calgary that he and Turnbull talk about their Pictou County connection “all the time – little jokes here and there that nobody else ever gets. We'll joke about Pictou County pizza and everybody else is like ‘what are you guys talking about?’ and we’ll just say ‘never mind’.”
The 45-year-old from Halifax was the first coach in Pictou County Weeks Crushers’ history and spent five years with the organization, the biggest highlight being the 2008 Fred Page Cup championship, won on home ice at the old John Brother MacDonald Stadium.
He was coach of the year in the Maritime Junior Hockey League that season and later would be named the MHL’s top bench boss again, in 2016 with the Campbellton Tigers.
Turnbull, Ryan would add, is a smart player who understands the game well and is a dogged penalty killer.
“If you ask her to do something, she understands why and does it to the best of her ability,” he said.
“I’m excited for her, so much of their careers (in women’s hockey) rides on the Olympics and they work harder off the ice than any team I’ve coached in the past.”
Over the past number of years, Ryan, a former MHL- and university-level player, has been a member of the coaching staff a number of times for Team Canada East at the World Jr. A Hockey Challenge as well as with Team Atlantic at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
He also coached Team Nova Scotia’s women’s squad at the 2015 Canada Games.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will take place in early February, and as Turnbull herself said last week, it’s gold or bust for any team that represents Canada at the Olympics.
“Hockey Canada’s business is not in winning a silver or bronze medal,” he said.
“Everything they do is to win gold. We won’t talk about silver or bronze.