Photo by Rena Laverty
There are many kids who would dream of living close enough to Walt Disney World that they could visit often. However, for Floridian Ryan St. Louis and his younger brothers, Lucas and Mason, their amusement park was the hockey rink.
“My dad had a weekend off when we were living in Tampa and he wanted to take us to [Disney World],” explained St. Louis. “We really wanted to go skating at the Tampa Bay Arena then go to [Disney World]. It sounded more fun to us. We definitely had a different childhood than most kids.”
To understand his childhood, St. Louis is the oldest son of Martin St. Louis, the former University of Vermont Catamount and veteran of 14 seasons in the NHL. Most of those years were spent in Tampa with the Lightning, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 2004.
“When my dad played in Tampa, we would always go to the games,” explained Ryan. “In the second period, we would stay downstairs and play mini sticks in the players’ lounge. We would always watch the first and third periods in the arena. I always thought how cool it would be to play hockey, especially since I grew up with it.”
Starting hockey was never much of a decision for St. Louis. He has been playing since he was 3 years old.
“I started learning to skate when I was 3 and started playing hockey when I was 4 years old,” he explained. “I grew up around hockey; I was always at the rink and I fell in love with the game. I did play soccer when we lived in Florida but when we moved to Connecticut, I quit playing to focus on hockey. I just loved the game and felt that I really wanted to make hockey my purpose.”
Dad may have provided his introduction into hockey, but St. Louis says his mom Heather may have been the MVP of the family.
“She sacrificed so much for me,” said St. Louis. “Growing up, it was my mom or my grandpa that would drive me to the early 7 a.m. games or practices. She was always driving us around and would bring us all over for hockey. She always claims that she doesn’t like hockey, but I think she enjoys it and being with us.”
It should come as no surprise that St. Louis was quick to accept an invitation to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Tryout Camp in March of 2019. After all, playing for the NTDP is something that he had his sights set on.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“I was definitely nervous at tryout camp,” St. Louis said. “I knew most of the players there. I really went in with an open mind. I didn’t want to get caught up so I really went in with a positive attitude. I couldn’t worry about it — I just wanted to control what I can control.
“I was with my dad when I received the invitation. I couldn’t believe it at the time. I was so happy to have the opportunity.”
He did have a little insight from two former NTDP players — Trevor Zegras (Bedford, New York/2017-19) and Spencer Knight (Darien, Connecticut/2017-19).
Photo by Rena Laverty
“I had a chance to talk with them about the setup here. They really told me how much it helps you with your game and developing you as a person and a player,” explained St. Louis.
And of course, his dad was always there for some words of advice.
“He has always said it is not how good you are now; it is how good you will be when you are 20,” said St. Louis. “You need to work hard to get better. You have to be a sponge and learn how to add to your game and focus on getting better. That’s why I’m taking advantage of all the NTDP opportunities.”
The 5-foot-9, 161-pound forward took advantage of those opportunities in his first year and watched his game grow. He finished with 11 goals and 22 points in 45 games this season.
“My confidence [was one of the biggest factors],” said St. Louis. “Going in, I wasn’t sure about what to expect especially since you are playing with the best players every day.
“Now, I really appreciate how much it has helped my game. You know there is going to be competition but it is fun when you are going against the best players. You can watch what they do and learn from them It just helps add to your game.”
In addition, he credits the NTDP Under-17 coaching staff — John Wroblewski, Dan Hinote and Mike Leone — in teaching him some lessons along the way.
“They told me that the little details matter,” said St. Louis. “You need to get up and make your bed. You have to clean up after yourself. You need to do whatever you can to help out. The tiny things you do can go a long way.”
At the end of the day, St. Louis is proud to wear the USA jersey and the colors of his country.
“It means everything to wear it every day,” he said. “I can’t take it for granted. I know how hard you have to work to be there. You are representing more than yourself. It is way more than just a hockey team; you are representing your nation, the military and the others who have worn it before you.”
St. Louis knows that he will need to work hard this summer to prepare for his Under-18 year. He has a simple plan in place to do that.
“I will be training back home in Connecticut this summer. I’ll be skating with a skills coach and of course, spending time with my brothers,” he said.
And there will be plenty of hockey talk and competitive games between the brothers this summer.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.