The South Carolina Stingrays announced on June 21 that Ryan Blair has been hired as the club's new assistant coach and manager of hockey operations.
"While going through the process we realized that Ryan is a guy that checks all the boxes with his experience, work ethic and character," said Steve Bergin, Stingrays head coach and director of hockey operations. "He was a perfect fit for us and he’s very driven, self-motivated and someone that’s going to take this very seriously."
“The assistant coach position has always been a very important hire,” said Stingrays president Rob Concannon. “We feel like Ryan has all of the qualities we are looking for. I look forward to watching him work with Steve and our players. We’ve heard nothing but great things about Ryan, his knowledge of the game and his character.”
Blair, 33, spent the 2018-19 season as the director of hockey operations for the UMass-Lowell men’s hockey team in the Hockey East under head coach Norm Bazin. The former defender also had a three-year professional playing career in the ECHL from 2011-14, totaling 117 games with the Cincinnati Cyclones, Toledo Walleye, Reading Royals, Orlando Solar Bears and Wheeling Nailers.
"I’m excited to be a part of the Stingrays culture and community and I’m looking forward to coming down there and getting started," Blair said. "I think the assistant coach role is really important and I’m going to bring some positivity and energy to the rink every day. Rob and Steve are really passionate and have a lot of pride to be part of the Stingrays organization and that’s quickly been passed down to me.”
After the conclusion of his playing career, Blair spent time as both an assistant and head coach with the Boston Jr. Rangers in the Eastern Hockey League for three years from 2015-18. During his time with the club, he helped oversee a combined record of 90-25-11 that included playoff championships in 2016 and 2018, as well as a regular-season championship in 2018. After the 2017-18 season, Blair was honored as the EHL Premier Coach of the Year.
"I knew Ryan a little bit from back from being in the Boston area during the past few summers,” Bergin said. “His work ethic is something I always noticed about him that stood out. When I’d see him in the summer, he was always at the rink all the time, always working. He was very professional and he’s just a great guy to be around. A lot of the responsibilities he had while working at UMass-Lowell fit perfectly into what we were looking for here in an assistant coach."
Originally born in Toronto, Blair also lived in Ashburn, Va. before attending UMass-Lowell from 2007-11. During four seasons of NCAA Hockey with the Riverhawks, Blair scored 36 points (three goals, 33 assists) in 141 career games.
“I’m excited to be part of the development of each player that’s a part of our organization,” Blair said. “I think it’ll help that right off the bat I’m comfortable with some of the travel and familiar with some of the other cities in the league and hopefully I’ll be able to pass down a little of the experience I had in the league to some of the younger guys while connecting with the veterans in the league that maybe I played against or came after my time in the league.”
The 27th season of South Carolina Stingrays hockey begins in Orlando, Fla. against the Solar Bears on Oct. 12. The Stingrays will open their home schedule in North Charleston vs. Orlando the following week on Saturday, Oct. 19.