By Brittany Burke
From the street, to a backyard frozen pond, to New Hampshire and Rhode Island, the two youngest Stanley brothers haven’t known anything but hockey. While Ryan and Conor grew up playing the game with each other, they never played beside one another, that is, until they got to CCSU.
With a two-year gap in age, Ryan and Conor never had the chance to play on the same team at the same time, but that all changed when Conor, the youngest brother, transferred from Salve Regina to CCSU for his sophomore year.
“We’ve been on the same team once in high school and he was a sophomore so he didn’t really play,” said Ryan. “So playing with my brother, it’s new but it’s not like we haven’t been doing it all along. We’ve been playing street hockey together, we do activities together but were not like on a real team, so this year has been kind of cool because I feel like we’re finally putting it together as brothers and it’s really nice to see.”
Conor became a Blue Devil a year and a half after Ryan transferred from St. Anselm’s in New Hampshire to New Britain during his freshman year.
“It’s almost come like full circle now that they’re on the same team, it started with pond hockey when they were three and five to now playing for central,” said their mom Cara Stanley.
The season Ryan joined the CCSU hockey team, the Blue Devils finished second in the national tournament and the following year was named American Collegiate Hockey Association’s player of the year.
Ryan made an impact on the team early and Conor is following suit. With half of the 2011-2012 season over, and the team currently ranked fourth after the last ranking period, the athletes seem to be settling into their roles out on the ice.
For the Stanley brothers, those roles have them situated on the same line, something that’s never happened before.
“When you start playing with someone new it’s always challenging a little bit to feel him out and our first couple times, our first game or so or practices it was definitely still a little rocky,” said Conor. “But we’ve been watching each other ever since I can remember and watching him every game … I know exactly what he’s going to do now when he has the puck now.”
Ryan and Conor help comprise the first line along side teammate, Jon Knobloch. Head Coach Ben Adams prides the team on being able to roll out multiple lines, which all contribute to the 60-minute game, but the first line remains the most productive.
Both brothers crack the top three in points for the team, with only Knobloch as their divider. Currently Ryan leads the team in points while Conor sits at third.
“We have confidence in each other and that’s one of the main things,” said Ryan. “When you’re on a team sometimes it’s hard to feel other people out but we know each other so well it’s easy.”
Having brothers on the same line not only creates a lucrative chemistry, but it also helps them push each other when no one else can.
“I know I could call him out on something and the thing with Ry is, he’s our go-to guys and everyone knows that on our team,” said Conor. “If he makes a mistake or makes a bad play or does something wrong a lot of people aren’t gonna say anything and I think if I say something to him he appreciates it.”
It’s not uncommon to see on the stats sheet a goal scored by number 10 with the assist from 26 or vice versa, Ryan and Conor’s numbers respectively. Nor is it uncommon to see an older gentleman with an UConn knitted hat sitting up in the bleachers writing down every single goal and assist.
That man’s name is Herb O’Connell and he happens to be Ryan and Conor’s grandfather.
“Grandpa is always at every game and he keeps track of the games he always goes to,” said Cara. “ … I think he counted 130 games in one year [that he went to] when they were growing up. It’s very important because they’ve been playing hockey since they were in-house, mites, squirts, pee-wees, bantams and then on they’ve always played hockey.”
On any given game not night not only can you see the two players out on the ice, but you can see their mom Cara in the stands with their grandfather, and their dad and oldest brother Brendan standing behind the glass.
“They’re brothers first so they always have that,” said their father Mark Stanley.
Hockey isn’t just a hobby for the Stanleys, it’s a way of life. From the three sons who grew up playing with and against each other to the parents who are willing to travel to three different states and watch six games in one weekend just to see their kids play.