by Blain Potvin, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

David Gagnon (Photo by HMCS Montreal)

HMCS MONTRÉAL, at sea—-This series will focus on hockey’s ability to bring Canadians everywhere together. Especially those who serve in our Armed Forces while overseas. To demonstrate this, sailors on Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Montreal have generously volunteered to be profiled so that they can provide their unique perspectives on the game.

The subject of this profile is the ships’ most senior non-commissioned sailor, the Coxswain (COXN), Chief Petty Officer First Class Stan Ryan. His job is to ensure the morale and professional standards of all sailors aboard. Stan is a faithful fan of La Sainte Flannelle and is always open to having a discussion about hockey and his beloved Canadiens.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

How long have you been in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN)?

I have been in the RCN for 24 years.

Why did you choose to join the RCN?

I wanted a higher education out of high school, but didn’t have the money to get there myself. I thought that the military would be the best option to obtain that. When I went to the local recruiting center they showed me a new technician training program in St John’s, Newfoundland. The chance to receive a technical diploma and a guaranteed job on completion was hard to pass up.

What is the highlight of your career thus far?

This may sound cliché, but my current job as COXN of HMCS Montreal has been the pinnacle of my career thus far. It is definitely the most rewarding privilege to help guide the leadership on the best ship in the Royal Canadian Navy.

How long have you been a Habs fan?

I have cheered for the Canadiens for as long as I can remember. If I had to pinpoint the timeframe, I would say 1985. I would have been 11 years old.

What made you choose the greatest franchise ever as your team?

Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, there were two options for your favourite hockey team: the Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs. At the time when hockey piqued my interest as a kid, Patrick Roy was breaking onto the scene. The way he entered the playoffs and backstopped Montreal to the 1986 Stanley Cup in his first year was incredible. I think every kid wanted to be Patrick Roy. That summer, I bought my first Montreal Canadiens hockey jersey with Roy’s name and number on the back, and I never looked back.

While aboard HMCS Montreal are you able to watch your team?

I must say, of any ship I have sailed on, HMCS Montreal by far shows the most Montreal Canadiens games.

What lengths do you go to see them while deployed?

On one of my major deployments, I was actually the technician responsible for the satellite TV. When the signal became too degraded for automatic tracking, I would make my way to the controller and manually point the dish for hours to regain the Canadiens hockey games.

How do you keep up to date on the team?

Nowadays, the satellite connections ashore are better, so sports updates and stats are as readily available at sea as alongside.

Do you feel more of an attachment to the ship as the namesake of your team?

Yes, certainly. The back of my cabin door is decorated in the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. Having pride in the Ship is very important to us in the Navy, so having that connection to my favourite sports team solidifies it that much more.

What is your favorite Habs memory?

Sporting my Patrick Roy Habs jersey for pick-up street hockey games as a kid on Saturday afternoon, before returning inside to watch my heroes on Hockey Night in Canada.

Why is hockey an important part of your life on the ship?

The military has always valued team sports as a means to solidify bonds and esprit de corps within the organization, and hockey has reigned supreme due to its status in our Canadian society. Hockey is not only Canada’s sport, it’s the Canadian Armed Forces’ sport.

Does hockey help you to feel more connected to family, friends, country while on missions/out to sea?

Most of my immediate family are not hockey fans, but I definitely correspond with my in-laws who are huge fans and live in the Montreal area. I always get the scoop on the upcoming season from my brother in-law.

Do you ever engage in some friendly video game hockey tournaments or other such activities on board?

Yes, although not lately. Years ago, I would play daily during my off watch while deployed at sea. At any given pause in operations or the regular work day, you would see gathered a group of devout hockey fans trying to gain video game hockey supremacy in the Mess. (Author’s note—a Mess is what the lounge where sailors eat and relax is called)

Why do you believe hockey is the greatest sport?

Hockey is the only major sport that combines the best off all sporting attributes. It has speed, team dynamics, individual skill, a good pace of play, and grit. It basically takes the best of every other sport, throws it on ice and wraps some boards around it. Where’s my popcorn?

For anyone making a trek to Montréal to experience the city during the NHL playoffs and wishing to visit a Canadian Warship, the HMCS Montréal will be visiting the old port of Montréal in May 2017 as part of the city’s 375th Anniversary Celebrations

If you missed any parts of our series on the HMCS Montreal, you can link to them here:
FEATURE | The HMCS Montréal Canadiens
FAN FOCUS | Sailors Aboard HMCS Montréal: David Gagnon