To say he loves the game of hockey is the very definition of an understatement. It’s not love, but an infatuation with a game that has defined his life.
Ryan Brandt grew up playing in Roseau, Minnesota, a farming community that sits just 10 minutes from the Canadian border. It was there that he played his grade school hockey (similar to youth hockey in New Hampshire). Interestingly enough, as strong a defenseman as Ryan was, he only played two years for the Roseau High School team from 1967-69. Ryan noted his limited playing time was due to the significant amount of strong players that were on the team during his time.
Roseau has grown several NHL players, including Neal Broten, Aaron Broten, Luke Erickson and Dustin Byfuglien. It also produced Rube Bjorkman, who was coaching the University of New Hampshire at the time and played a significant part in bringing Ryan to the Granite State.
“He always kept an eye on the Minnesota boys,” Ryan said.
College rules back then state that you couldn’t play varsity hockey as a freshman, so Ryan honed his skills on the freshman team, waiting for his shot to play for the Wildcats. He would play only one year for Bjorkman, who was replaced by the legendary Charlie Holt in 1968. Ryan acknowledged that while he and his teammates probably didn’t appreciate Holt’s knowledge at the time, he knows today that he made him a more complete and versatile hockey player.
Because of a robust defensive corps, Ryan played forward in his first two years with the Wildcats before switching back to defense for his senior season. It was during his senior season that he was named captain and earned all-tournament team recognition. In three seasons at UNH, Ryan finished with 33 goals and 55 assists.
Ryan continued his career playing for the Concord Eastern Olympics for four seasons in the New England Hockey League before it folded in the mid-70s.
“Ryan was an outstanding teammate, highly competitive and a silky-smooth talent,” said Steve Arndt, who played with Ryan on the Eastern Olympics from 1972-74. “You were never disappointed when you found out you were playing with Ryan. He was deceptively fast, had very soft hands and was one of those guys who never shied away from contact. He has certainly left his mark on this great game.”
During this time he also dabbed in officiating from 1976-80, reffing high school, prep school and Division III college games, while playing for the Tri-City Coachmen in the Can-Am League. But in 1980 he packed up and moved to Culver, Indiana, for a coaching and teaching position at Culver Military Academy. While he enjoyed his experience at Culver, Ryan missed home that being Concord, New Hampshire and moved back with his family in 1986.
Ryan returned to the ice, playing for the Budmen and skating in the Capital City League until 1999. During this time he also coached teams in Concord Youth Hockey from 1986-94 and sat on the organization’s board from 1988-91.
Ryan continues to play hockey today, skating in the weekly senior league in Concord and has played on a 60-and-over team that has won three straight USA National Championships. The team is made up of former Division I and Olympic players from Ryan’s hometown of Roseau and the tournament is played annually during the month of April in Tampa, Florida.
Ryan also plays in other 60-and-over tournaments, and has plans to play in various pond hockey tournaments across New England, including the Black Ice Tournament in Concord.