By: Anthony Perez, www.phoenixcoyotes.com
After being away from the NHL since the 2008-09 season, forward Ryan Hollweg is back and looking to make an impact with the Coyotes as they battle for a second consecutive playoff spot.
“It’s exciting to be up right now because everybody wants to be playing at this time of the year,” Hollweg said. “I’m just glad that I was given the opportunity to be up and I’m going to make the best of it and just help this team make a playoff push.”
Hollweg, whom the Coyotes recalled from their American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio on an emergency basis last week, has 227 regular-season games on his NHL resume. In those games, he has notched five goals and nine assists while playing for the New York Rangers, Toronto and now Phoenix.
But Hollweg isn’t on the ice to score or set up goals. He gets his playing time because he brings energy to his teammates - and fans - with a physical style of play. In his first two games with the Coyotes, he delivered five hits in 13:21 of ice time.
“I’m probably not going to get a lot of minutes so I have to make the best of my minutes when I’m out there and make sure that I’m noticed,” Hollweg said. “That’s going to be by finishing my hits and making defensive plays, and just being a spark and an energy on the bench.”
Hollweg, 27, said there is a science to being an energy player.
“I’m old enough and I’m experienced now where you just have to be able to read the play and know when to engage and when to contain more than making a big hit,” Hollweg said. “It just comes down to smart hockey sense and to just playing heads-up hockey and knowing what the consequences can be for a bad hit.”
Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney on Wednesday said he and the coaches have been impressed by Hollweg’s performance and confirmed that Hollweg would remain with the Coyotes for the rest of the season.
“The last time he was in the League a couple of years ago, I thought he was a little out of control in the way that he was playing,” Maloney said. “Now I think he realizes that he has to bring the energy but stay within the rules. He certainly has been a very positive addition for us in the last two games.”
Hollweg grew up in Downey, Calif. It’s not exactly a hockey hotbed, but his mother is from Vancouver and with the help of both parents he started skating at age four.
“I just fell in love with it the second I stepped on the ice,” Hollweg said. “I knew when I first started playing that I just wanted to be a professional hockey player.”
Playing youth hockey in southern California at that time had its challenges. There weren’t many programs in the area, which meant sacrifices had to be made if Hollweg wanted to make playing hockey his profession.
“We had to sacrifice a lot,” Hollweg said. “I had to leave home when I was 13 years old to pursue my hockey career. It’s tough to make a decision that young; you grow up pretty quick. So, I had to get out of California and make my way north to the Vancouver area and that’s mainly where I was scouted.”
The New York Rangers selected Hollweg with the 238th pick of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
While Hollweg has played only two games for the Coyotes, fans already have noted his on-ice energy. They’ve also noted his long hair and thick mustache.
“My style of play is definitely an old-time hockey style of play and I just like to ‘keep it real’ as I say usually, so the mustache is just something I’ve had for a while,” Hollweg said. “It’s just one of those things where I started having it in New York the last year I was there and it just kind of stuck with me.”