He’s played a team-high 160 games in the BC. Hockey League, he’s been listed by NHL Central Scouting and he’d be the first guy to lend his shower gel to a goaltender.
Ryan Renz is the ideal teammate, and the captain of the 2014 Royal Bank Cup-hosting Vernon Vipers.
The 20-year-old Castlegar product received a text from head coach/GM Jason Williamson Wednesday morning.
“He asked me to come to the office when I got to the rink,” said Renz, an athletic 6-foot-3, 205-pound defenceman.
“Willy and (associate coach Mallette) Kris were there to let me know me that I was chosen by the players to be the captain so I was pretty excited. It was a special moment. Then, a couple of hours later, they let the guys know I was chosen, and named the assistants.”
Renz, touted as an NHL prospect at age 17, follows Viper captains Brett Corkey, Patrick McGillis and Dave Robinson, now an assistant coach.
“I’ve played for three and met (Kevin) Kraus and I was around the league the same year they won it so I’ve seen what kind of standard they uphold here and what it’s all about.”
Renz started his BCHL career with the Alberni Bulldogs and came to Vernon in a deal which saw Todd Skirving leave the Snakes three years ago. He’s got the captaincy mind-set in sync.
“I try to lead by example. In the dressing room, I try to keep everything in order, and on the ice, I just go out and play my game and support my teammates, but also try and understand the time when guys need to be pushed a little bit too. I’m not overly rah, rah, by any stretch, but I think I know the right time to talk and be quiet as well.”
The Vipers have 13 returnees from a non-playoff season, but the newbies are ultra-talented and committed to winning.
“This team is totally different in the aspect that it’s business-like everyday at the rink,” said Renz, who cheers for Shea Weber of the Predators and the Vancouver Canucks. “I think guys know what’s at stake here and the opportunity that will be presented to us at the end of the season. We’re really excited about that and guys are jumping day in and day out.”
He feels thoughts about the RBC will only enhance the Vipers’ eight-month odyssey.
“We’re the only team that can actually say we’re going to be in it so we’re preparing for those games in May, where other teams are preparing to make playoffs. That’s their main focus right now, and ours is to build a team that’s gonna do well in the playoffs and the season, and is also gonna have that jam at the end of the season to bring home another Cup.”
The alternate captains are d-men Jason Bird and Josh Bryan (159 BCHL games), who will take turns wearing a letter for home and road games, Brendan Persley and Mason Blacklock.
“I was obviously very excited to be named one of the assistant captains,” said Persley. “We have a lot of big leaders in that room so I’m sure it was a tough decision by the coaches and team. Ryan’s a really good leader and I think he’s gonna lead the team very well. He’s got a lot of good supporting guys too. Even the guys who weren’t named captains bring lots to the table. I’m sure it’ll be a great season with a really strong leadership.”
Persley, a 20-year-old, spent the summer resting a broken ankle, eating clean, catching up on sleep and sweating-till-he-dropped with Crash Conditioning in Kelowna. He trained alongside NHLers Cody Franson, James Reimer and Justin Schultz. He, too, has witnessed a different atmosphere in the den.
“The guys are really gelling this year. Off the ice, we’re all coming together. We’re going to play baseball and last night, the whole team was at a movie. It’s just awesome. Everyone’s getting along; there’s no cliques or anything. There was a little bit of selfishness last year and this year, it looks great so far and I’m very excited to see what happens.”