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The McDonagh Model: Ryan Does Minnesota proud

By Aaron Paitich, 02/07/14, 2:15PM CST


Why Ryan McDonagh is one of the new poster boys of Minnesota Hockey

“I was the only one in our close group that made the B-Squirt team, and I remember how heartbroken I was.”


Back when he was a youngster, Ryan McDonagh’s two best buddies made the Mounds View A-Squirt team. Ryan made the B team.

“I was the only one in our close group that made the B-Squirt team, and I remember how heartbroken I was,” says McDonagh.

After the initial sting, he settled in and focused on the season.

“And it turned out to be one of the most fun years that I had,” says McDonagh. “It really jump-started me to stay positive. My dad was real positive about the whole experience. He just wanted me to have fun and not stress out about it. I gradually got better as it went on.”

In the past 14 years or so, he’s gotten quite a bit better. McDonagh is now a star for the New York Rangers’ blue line corps and a 2014 U.S. Olympian. Not bad for a former B-Squirt.

Separating longtime friends on different sports teams can be a difficult experience, especially when athletic ability is the deciding factor. But every player develops at their own pace.

The B-Squirt team was the right choice at the time for McDonagh—and he was better of because of it.

“Every player’s goal is to make the top team, but it’s not always going to work out,” says McDonagh. “That was my first experience of it in my first year of Squirts. I learned from that.”

McDonagh gradually developed and grew through the Mounds View Youth Hockey Association. He took advantage of the Reebok Minnesota Hockey High Performance programs when he was both 15 and 16 and progressed all the way to the national-level USA Hockey Player Development Camp both years.

His high school hockey career opened plenty of eyes. McDonagh actually played forward his freshman and sophomore seasons at Cretin-Derham Hall, proving that versatility and the ability to play different positions is an incredibly valuable skill. He eventually shifted back to the blue line, where his superior skating allowed him to quarterback the Raiders in every aspect of the game.

In his three years at the University of Wisconsin, he became more of a shutdown defenseman. McDonagh is now a staple for the New York Rangers, averaging 24:38 of ice time every game. The organization’s trust in their young star earned him a six-year, $28.2 million contract extension last summer.

And now, USA Hockey has selected him to represent the Red, White and Blue in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

McDonagh is the second Olympian to come out of the Mounds View Youth Hockey Association. Rob McClanahan— who helped lead Team USA to Gold in
1980—was the first.

“We could not be prouder than to have one of our own represent the U.S. in the Olympics,” Mounds View Youth Hockey Association President Tim Herold said in a statement. “We all wish Ryan the best and hope he brings home a gold medal like
Rob McClanahan.”

“Being able to play all three sports helps you become much more athletic while keeping you fresh.”