CALGARY — Troy Ryan has been rewarded for his patience. He'll be the head coach of Canada's women's hockey team in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The 49-year-old from Spryfield, N.S., was named head coach of Canada's world championship teams in 2020 and 2021.
Both tournaments in his home province were cancelled, however, because of COVID-19.
Hockey Canada still wants to host the 2021 tournament Aug. 20-31 in a city yet to be named.
The pandemic limited Ryan to just three camps with the Canadian women's team this winter, although he's continued to build relationships with players and staff virtually.
"It's definitely not how you would script it," Ryan told The Canadian Press.
"Some of the negative sides we've had right now can end up being positives because it forces you to work a little bit differently.
"Any time you work differently, there's some new things you learn about each other for sure."
Ryan was Canada's assistant coach from 2016 to 2019.
He was a member of the Olympic team staff in 2018 when Canada lost the final to the United States in a shootout under head coach Laura Schuler.
Of the 28 players invited to congregate in Calgary in late July to both try out for the 2022 Olympic team and prepare for Beijing, 14 played for Canada in 2018.
Ryan was also an assistant to Perry Pearn in the 2019 world championship in Finland where Canada took bronze.
Midway through the 2019-20 season, Ryan took over for Pearn and posted a 3-1-1 record in games against the Americans.
So many players Ryan will coach in Beijing have a history with him, albeit one interrupted for several months because of the pandemic.
"He's a very deliberate coach," said Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada's director of national women's teams.
"He's been very aware of what the group needs at all times, even when he was an assistant coach with Perry. He was always on my mind as someone who could take this program on.
"Even if he hasn't had the chance or the opportunity to have a whole lot of camps or events with our group, even how he's managed our group in this pandemic, and the relationships he's built, the trust he's built, these players want to play for him.
"He is the guy to lead us for sure."
The pandemic shutting down international women's hockey hasn't allowed Ryan to build a large body of work as Canada's head coach, but he hopes that will change when the team is together in Calgary.
"I've had maybe 15 practices with this group," Ryan said. "We haven't had that on-ice time, and that's what I'm most excited for."
"When we made the calls to the people that did get selected for centralization, that was one of the messages I wanted to tell most of them was, although I love camp, I'm just very excited to have a centralized group where we can work on things on a daily basis."
The Canadian women usually play a regular slate of games against males in the Alberta Midget Hockey League while they're centralized.
Ryan may also finally get to coach the women in a world championship if the summer tournament happens.
"If you look at it from the positive side, you start centralization, you formulate a team, you win a world championship. What a great way to start a centralization," he said.
"If you have your world championship and you don't win, at least you have a gauge there now. You can work on those things that need to be worked on to obviously prepare you to ultimately win a gold medal at the Olympics.
"Obviously I'd take option A any day."
Ryan coached the Dalhousie University's women's hockey team in Halifax this season. He's also coached university and Junior A men's teams in Atlantic Canada.
Ryan played forward for the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, Saint Mary's Huskies and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Halifax Mooseheads.
Ryan's assistants are Kori Cheverie of New Glasgow, N.S., Jim Midgley of Townsend, Ont., and Doug Derraugh of Arnprior, Ont., as well as goaltending coach Brad Kirkwood of Calgary.
Derraugh, the head coach of Cornell's women, will not relocate to Calgary, but will still support Ryan throughout the season and be in Beijing with the team.
Cheverie is an assistant coach of the Ryerson Rams men's hockey team. She became the first full-time female assistant coach in U Sports men's hockey history in 2016.
Midgley was head coach of the Halifax Mooseheads in 2017-18 and was an assistant coach of the German league's Iserlohn Roosters in 2019-20.
The coaching staff was chosen by Kingsbury, Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney and president Scott Smith in consultation with senior vice-president of national teams Scott Salmond and management consultant Cassie Campbell-Pascall.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press