GLENS FALLS -- When Ryan Huska took the job as Adirondack Flames head coach, his memories of Glens Falls consisted of a restaurant and a lot of snow.
That was it from his two seasons in the AHL, 1998-2000. More started coming back when he got into town this weekend, but Huska is about to get very familiar with the Glens Falls area. He is moving his family here in mid-August.
Many coaches just move themselves for the season in a more temporary manner. Some, including the Phantoms’ former assistant coach Kjell Samuelsson, try to go home every week, which can mean missing some practices.
Huska and his wife Denise made the decision that he would never move alone; the family would always go with him.
After a tough game or bad practice, it helps to see the smiling faces of his three children (a sixth-grader, a fourth-grader and a 4-year-old), he said.
“I think you need to have balance in your life and your family needs to be part of that,” Huska said. “You work hard every day at the rink and you bring the right attitude, but you need to get away. I think having your family around allows you to be refreshed when you get back to the rink in the morning.”
Huska will have an adjustment on the ice in addition to his family’s off it. He spent the past seven years as head coach of the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. That’s major juniors, but it’s still not the professional level.
At this level, it’s many players’ first time on their own, something Huska said will play into his role.
“It’s not just coaching, it’s mentoring off the ice as well — it’s teach them how to mature, how to be on their own for the first time.”
That being said, Huska’s experience at the junior level may help him with some of the younger players. He’s used to working with 16- to 20-year-olds and what it takes to develop them. It also helps that at 39, he’s on the younger end of the coaches. But he doesn’t just want to be labled a young coach; he puts himself between the older and younger generations and says it shows in his approach.
“I feel like I have a good understanding of what makes them tick,” Huska said. “It’s not about just telling them what to do; that doesn’t work anymore. You have to make them a part of their process; they have to be decision-makers in their own careers.
“It’s all part of it, making them feel like you care about them and want to know about them.”
Calgary assistant general manager Brad Pascal, who will be serving the role of Adirondack general manager without the title, echoed some of what Huska said: the coach’s age and experience combination will be to his advantage.
“He has a wealth of experience — seven years as a head coach — and I think that experience will help him working with young players,” Pascal said. “Ryan, as a former player, knows these players and these personalities and knows how to deal with athletes. Working with Hockey Canada, he’s dealt with the elite players as well.”
It’s not just Huska’s age, but his status as an up-and-coming coach that can help him. He, like much of the Calgary front office, is starting a new stage in his career, taking a step up. That brings with it a desire to prove himself. If he can build this team and develop players, it only means good things for his personal future as well.