Rockland, Ont. — As Matt Petizian stops a third-straight Kanata player and the Hawkesbury Hawks pour off the bench following a shootout win, head coach Rick Dorval turns and shakes hands with his towering, soft-spoken assistant.
At 32, Ryan Hand has seen his share of hockey.
After nearly 150 games as a rugged defenceman in the QMJHL, multiple tours in the East Coast, Central, Southern Professional and English leagues — and 1,000-plus professional penalty minutes — the Ottawa native is now an assistant with the CCHL’s Hawkesbury Hawks.
“It’s been awesome, I’ve been accepted by the guys right off the bat,” Hand told TheCCHL.ca at Monday’s showcase. “Having such a great coach like Rick Dorval showing me the ropes, it’s been a great start for sure.”
The decision to move behind the bench was a simple one for Hand, a certified personal trainer with a young family.
“It was a lifestyle choice,” explained the LNAH veteran. “Being from the Ottawa area, it’s tough to get down to all the games — five or six hours for a home game on a Friday night, after working all week, (was) kind of tough.”
Hand, whose QMJHL career was partially documented in CBC’s feature-length film Junior, has enjoyed his experience thus far in the CCHL.
“I’m taking it one game at a time, gaining my confidence and getting experience,” explained Hand. “I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from this side of the bench, grow, and we’ll see what the future has in store.”
The young, itinerant Hawks — temporarily unable to play in Hawkesbury due to arena issues — have rattled off eight wins in their first 12 games.
“It’s been a good transition for me, (and) it’s good to be involved and giving back to the game,” said Hand. “(I) love it, for sure.”