When Brendan Ryan puts down his modern equipment and brings out his wooden goalie stick, he can really make some noise. Literally.
The 13-year-old netminder from Smithfield, R.I., is also an aspiring musician and woodworker. And to merge his worlds, Ryan and his coach Ron Cote recently transformed a 2 by 6-foot piece of ash into a goalie-stick guitar.
“We saw John Fogarty playing the baseball-bat guitar on a music DVD,” recalls Ryan. “I like to watch how all the good guitar players play, so I was watching that and he was playing [the song] ‘Center Field’. I figured ‘What the heck, why don’t I try a hockey stick?’ ”
Ryan, who had built a few guitars from kits sold in stores, shared his idea with Cote, who had built acoustic guitars in his basement’s wood shop.
“The key was we just made it to look like a goalie stick,” says Cote. “It was a teaching experience for me, and a learning experience for him. We got together one or two times a week. It took awhile.”
Ryan proved himself a good student, spending between 80 and 100 hours in Cote’s shop until the idea became reality.
“When he was telling me about it, I thought it was kind of like crazy because I’ve never seen anything like that before,” says Ben Long, Ryan’s long-time friend and jamming partner on the drums.
"When I heard it, it sounded amazing. I didn’t think it would sound that good."
“It was kind of near the end when he started to put all the internals in it. I saw him putting the strings on it. When I heard it, I thought it sounded amazing. I didn’t think it would sound that good.”
Ryan took his first guitar lesson from his uncle Wayne Lisi, who had attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and introduced Ryan to guitar when he was 6 years old. For the last five years, Ryan has been attending The Grand Piano music school in nearby Greenville, R.I. Now he’s got his father Ed, a Providence policeman, picking up the guitar, all the while keeping his mother Leslie, a nurse, driving about to his games and lessons.
“His parents are real supportive,” says Cote, who guided Ryan through a process that included getting his nickname “Buddha” engraved on the maple neck of the guitar.
“They were originally chrome [letters]; we had to sandblast them and paint them,” says Ryan, who had to follow a particular method of construction in order to prevent breakage.
The guitar’s hockey detail is stunning, with paddle and handle areas that were airbrushed to portray strands of friction tape, and locking strap buttons that look like little hockey pucks.
Three-year teammate Matt Terry was the first on the team to see the finished product, and he recalls Ryan’s enthusiasm in the early stages.
“He was talking about it before he got started. I thought that was pretty crazy,” says Terry, a slick-moving defenseman who got the nickname “Hollywood” when NRI Vikings coach Dave Cook went on a nicknaming spree.
Ryan was tabbed “Buddha” because, at 5-foot-8 and 142 pounds, he filled out his goalie gear to a point he reminded Cook of the god of enlightenment.
“He’s big for his age. His first year with me was Peewees, and he was actually a Squirt,” says Rhode Island regional Bantam coach Chris Gouin, who promoted Ryan to his Peewee select team and started him in the championship game of the summer season on Aug. 19 against host Franklin, Mass.
Twice during the first period against the Franklin squad, Gouin shouted for the aggressive Ryan to relax. Along with two good goals against, Ryan survived a few close calls, including a puck that dribbled behind him along the goal line but trickled wide of the post.
“When he relaxes, he gets focused, he’s settled in,” says Gouin. “When he’s nervous, he starts breaking out of his form so [I try to] get him to relax, [and] he settles in and does well.”
Ryan gave up two goals in a 5-4 loss, playing the first period and half of the third. His teammates cut the Franklin lead to a goal and made a game of it but fell short. When the game and the summer season were over, Ryan’s mind was back on music.
“I like to play, like, classic rock, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC,” he said. “I just want to get better.”
Ryan has approximately 10 guitars and mainly brings out the goalie-stick guitar for occasional play and to show.
“We’re in the process right now at Coach Ron’s house of working on a bass, and I’m working on another Fender [Stratocaster],” says Ryan.
The bass, he said, is a 40-year-old restoration project. Another hockey stick guitar? Perhaps he’ll make one for a goal scorer next time.
Photos By Robert Klein