Locked out NHL player returns home to help coach Victoria Grizzlies

Grizzlies name Avs defenceman an assistant

The National Hockey League’s loss is the Victoria Grizzlies’ gain.The B.C. Hockey League club announced Wednesday that Colorado Avalanche defenceman Ryan O’Byrne has joined the team as an assistant coach while he and his NHL brethren are locked out. O’Byrne, who played for Victoria when the organization was known as the Salsa back in 2001-02, also played for the Nanaimo Clippers in 2002-03, under the guidance of coach Bill Bestwick,  the current Grizzlies’ general manager and head coach.“Indeed, it is a bonus to have a person of Ryan’s character and experience that he can share with aspiring players, just like he was 10 years ago or so. It’s a great inspiration for our kids,” said Bestwick.O’Byrne is already a member of the Grizzlies’ advisory board and will not recieve pay for his coaching work with the Grizzlies. Instead, the Grizzlies will make a donation the Ryan O’Byrne Youth Sports Society - which raised $25,123 for KidsSport Victoria, an organization that pays the sports registration and equipment fees for low-income, earlier this summer.O’Byrne’s first game behind the bench will be Sept. 29 when the Grizzlies host Coquitlam. The team is on the road for three games on the Mainland this weekend.“I’m very passionate about hockey. And it’s a chance for me to see what coaching is like. Who knows, maybe it’s something I’d like to do when I’m done my career in the NHL,” O’Byrne said after his first session.“I just want to help this team win. Today was a great first practice. It’s a great room, they have a lot of energy with a lot of character and I’m happy to be a part of it,” added O’Bryne.“It’s a great opportunity. I played for Bill in Nanaimo and I have the utmost respect for Bill. He’s a great coach, he’s a passionate guy and he has experience. Us working together makes sense. I think it’s a winning situation,” added O’Byrne.Unlike the current NHL lockout scenario, which will keep O’Byrne from his usual work.“You hear about guys who are back in their hometown, getting bored already and I didn’t want to be in that position. I thought I would use my extra time constructively,” he said.IN THE DEN: Grizzlies defenceman Nolan De Jong and forward Dante Hahn are included in the NHL Central Scouting preliminary player rankings list, De Jong in B class and Hahn in C class. mannicchiarico@timescolonist.com

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