It might not have felt so good at the time, but getting cut from the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings at age 17 "ended up being one of the best things that ever happened" to Jon Ryan.
That was the word from Ryan in a WHL interview last night, when the veteran Seahawks punter dropped the ceremonial first puck before Game 3 of the best-of-seven league championship series between Brandon and the Seattle Thunderbirds, a matchup held at the ShoWare Center.
The Canadian-born Ryan, a Regina, Saskatchewan native and standout goaltender at a young age, actually had tryouts with three WHL teams prior to life in the NFL, each of which he said "didn't last very long. That's what I remember most, is I was over my head."
"I grew up loving football and loving hockey, too," Ryan explained. "I always didn't know which way to go. When I got cut from Brandon when I was 17 that was what pushed me in one direction or the other. As it turned out, it pushed me in the right direction in football and it's worked out very well for me ever since."
Ryan recalled attending Thunderbirds games played at Seattle's Key Arena, but Tuesday marked his initial experience in Kent, where the team has played since 2009.
"This is my first time here and the atmosphere is electric," Ryan said. "It's unbelievable. It's very loud. It's very much like the 12th Man. The fans here are amazing."
The night provided Ryan with a trip down memory lane, but football is very much in Ryan's future. The Seahawks signed Ryan to a four-year contract this past March.
"It's been amazing," Ryan said of his NFL time in the Pacific Northwest. "I've been here from the [Mike] Holmgren days and then Jim Mora, and luckily Pete [Carroll] and John Schneider kept me around for six years and now extended me for four more. I've been so fortunate, so blessed to be a part of this community and a part of this football program. I just want to play here for as long as I can.
"I'm kind of the old man on the team right now, so you never know how long it's going to last, but I'm going into year number 13 right now and I love it more than I ever have. I just want to keep on going."
The Thunderbirds, meanwhile, are down 0-3 in the series. They'll attempt to salvage their championship hopes tonight when the puck drops for game four at 7:05 PT.