Ryan Graham, Observer Reporter
The Marsh name in Quesnel is associated with hockey royalty like the Howe, Sutter and Hull family is known throughout the hockey world and Ryan Marsh of the Edmonton Oil Kings is keeping up with family tradition. Marsh, an assistant coach for the Oil Kings is in his second year with the club and recently returned from the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with team red as an assistant coach and said it was a great experience.
“The tournament had teams from all over Europe and the United States and I really enjoyed my opportunity,” Marsh said.
“It also was really good professional development to be part of that.”
Some of his responsibilities with the team included running the power play, assisting on the bench with whatever the head coach needed and also doing 5 on 5 pre-scouting for the teams upcoming games. Marsh said his skill of being a good communicator on the bench was crucial, especially with a younger group.
“You’re dealing with the best athletes in the country at the 16 yearold level, so they’re still finding their way but they also have a lot of confidence, so it’s all about finding a middle ground,” Marsh said.
He says for the most part all the Canadian players were similar because they all play in the Canadian Hockey League, but did say there were a lot of high end skilled players coming out of Ontario.
“The majority of our players that I coached with Team Canada red were from Ontario,” Marsh said.
“That’s a little bit to do with the population of the province but there are some really highly skilled players coming from there and that’s a little bit of the difference you see. I’m not saying there isn’t a lot of skilled players in the west but there is certainly a little bit more emphasis on the skilled players coming out of Ontario right now.”
With this being his first time representing Hockey Canada he was very proud to be named to the coaching staff and believes it was a combination of things that landed him the position.
“I would say it was my work with the Oil Kings and my past success as a coach at the University of Alberta and also the work I had done with Hockey Alberta in the provincial system that gave me an opportunity to be a part of the national program,” Marsh said.
During the tournament he was coaching alongside Mitch Love of the Everett Silvertips and Rocky Thompson of the Windsor Spitfires, who all have roots in Quesnel.
“All three of us at one time or another played or grew up in Quesnel,” Marsh said.
“It was a little crazy that we were all assigned to that team, which would have two that were born and raised in Quesnel and Rocky who lived in Quesnel for a good chunk of his life.”
Marsh said his strong family support and hockey background helped guide him to excel in the sport when he was growing up.
“My dad played at a high level and by the time I was watching him, he was playing for the Quesnel Kangaroos and in those days it was really good hockey with lots of ex-professional players playing,” Marsh said.
“My uncle Jim was playing professionally at the time in the American Hockey League and I idolized him and got to see him play as well. My uncle Tom also played at a high level, so those were two family members that kind of showed me the way along with my dad and my uncle Jack who was around coaching at the time.”
He said growing up in Quesnel was great because there was a good group of kids that had passion for the sport, which allowed his teams to be successful, especially in his bantam years.
“That provided me with a good experience and helped me have confidence to continue and pursue other opportunities at the junior level,” Marsh said.
“It was a combination of really good players coming through the system at the same time as well as good coaching that helped me develop into the player I would become down the road.”
Marsh says some advice he would give to kids who are in the sport is to continue to get better every day and grab the opportunity once you get it.
“Whether you are from a small town or the big city, someone will see you and you will get your opportunities eventually,” Marsh said.
“A lot of times it’s not only how good of a player you are but the kind of teammate or character you have on and off the ice that will help open up more opportunities for you going forward.”
He says transitioning from a player to a coach was quite an adjustment.
“I had to recognize that I wasn’t the one who was making the plays and that I needed to give the players the tools to be successful and allow that process to happen,” Marsh said.
“It’s critical to be a good communicator on the bench and being able to provide good feedback to your players when they need a little direction. Sometimes it’s just a simple confirmation saying you did that great and sometimes it’s next time that situation comes up you have to do this. It’s all about providing them good feedback as much as you can and good positive reinforcement.”
Marsh says there are a number of challenges that come up throughout the season but one of the biggest is finding ways to develop players.
“Sometimes you need to be patient with players, especially young players because they need time to develop,” Marsh said.
“As a coach you want to see them develop a bit quicker than they’re ready too, but you have to stay patient and loyal to those players and continue to feed them knowledge to get them better.”
Before getting behind the bench with the Oil Kings he was with the University of Alberta Golden Bears as an assistant coach for two seasons and won the University Cup in 2013-14. He also spent time with the NAIT Ooks in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference and five years with the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Marsh also played in the WHL with the Tri City Americans from 1992-95 and after that played five seasons with the Golden Bears, where he earned a bachelors degree in physical education.
Moving forward he has a number of goals he would like to accomplish.
“First and foremost we want to be successful with the Oil Kings and win a Memorial Cup,” Marsh said.
“From a personal stand point the next step for me would be to become a head coach at this level in the WHL at some point when the time is right. I am certainly not in a rush but I am trying to develop every day just like a player. Beyond that I would like to coach professionally and coach in the National Hockey League.”
Marsh is part of hockey royalty in Quesnel and is showing the rest of the hockey world what this hockey producing town is all about.