By: Kelcee Kent- Monday, October 23, 2017
Former players and first year assistant coaches Ryan Petersen and Grant Arnold have come full circle with the Green Bay Gamblers organization. With extensive and impressive hockey careers between them, the duo will now approach hockey from the other side of the bench as assistant coaches.
Petersen’s hockey career began when his dad and brother strapped skates on him when he was just three years old in his hometown of North St. Paul, Minnesota. With a family-love of hockey and Minnesota blood, Petersen’s hockey career was destined to be great.
Growing up continuing to play hockey, Petersen’s two best friends signed tenders with the Gamblers in 2002. In 2003, Petersen got the opportunity to come to Green Bay with his friends for a tryout. He would make the team and embark on a two-year career with the Gamblers (2003-2005). In his second season, he was named team captain and his hockey career would continue to advance.
“It was crazy to be a part of the Gamblers organization and to be able to experience that with my best friends” Petersen, 33, said about his time spent playing with the Gamblers. “The opportunity to play in the USHL and be a captain was a profound experience.”
In the fall of 2005, Petersen started his collegiate hockey career at St. Norbert College (De Pere, WI). During his four seasons as a Green Knight, he skated in 119 career games, tallying 34 goals and 39 assists. His 119 career games played, is tied for sixth all-time at St. Norbert College. During his junior and senior campaigns, he served as team captain (2007-08 and 2008-09). In his first season as captain, Petersen led the Green Knights’ first national championship team to the 2008 NCAA Division III title. Overall, he led the Green Knights to three NCHA regular season titles and two Peters Cups.
After his collegiate career and graduation in 2009, Petersen entered the role of assistant hockey coach at Lawrence University (Appleton, WI), for the 2009-2010 season.
“I always wanted the opportunity to coach, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen that quickly” Petersen said. “It was everything I wanted to do, but it just happened a lot quicker than I ever expected.”
After his initial season in the coaching field, Petersen took the opportunity to play overseas in Europe for the Turnhout (Belgium) White Caps. In his lone season, he scored 11 goals and 21 assists in 26 total games. Petersen returned as an assistant coach with Lawrence University in 2011. The following year, he returned to his alma mater, as an assistant coach with St. Norbert and remained there for three seasons. In the fall of 2015, the USHL’s Madison Capitols named Petersen the club’s newest assistant coach.
Making his way back to Green Bay, Petersen plans to implement coaching influences from his past including Mike Szkodzinski (current Lawrence University head hockey coach) and several others. With his time spent in Madison, Petersen also attributes some of his coaching influence to Troy Ward (former Madison Capitols head coach).
“He (Ward) really smoothed me out to get me to be the type of coach that is a good leader, which reminded me to be the type of leader my father was” said Petersen. “My Grandfather also coached high school basketball. Despite being a completely different sport, I learned a lot from his coaching style.”
While focused on the Gamblers and the season ahead, Petersen’s long-term coaching goal is to climb as high as hockey will allow him.
For Petersen, its nostalgic being back on the Gamblers bench. Comparing who he was then to who he is now, and all of the hockey and life experiences in-between, being able to play hockey and now coach hockey is a huge aspect of his life.
“At the end of the day it is important to stay true to yourself, and by helping, supporting, and bettering each other, you will get the most out of your players on and off the ice, and that’s what I’m looking to implement this season” Petersen said.
For Arnold, 26, hockey first peaked his interest while playing street hockey with the older neighborhood kids in the streets of his hometown of Centennial, Colorado. Being a kid that wanted to play any and every sport, his parents signed him up for a learn-to-skate camp around the age of five, and from there his passion for the game took shape.
“I grew up playing hockey, but by no means was I the greatest player on the team” said Arnold. “When I was younger I was cut from a few teams and that only fueled my drive to work harder.”
At age 17, it was evident that Arnold’s hard work was paying off as he was drafted by the Gamblers in 2009. Surprised by the intensity of the USHL, Arnold’s rookie season would prove to be triumphant. In 2009-2010, the Gamblers brought home the Anderson Cup. The team advanced to the Clark Cup final and under the guidance of head coach Jon Cooper, current head coach for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, the Gamblers went on to win game five in front of a sold out crowd at the Resch Center. Arnold served as an assistant captain during his second season (2010-2011) and as captain in his third season (2011-2012), where yet again the Gamblers raised the Clark Cup.
Toward the end of his junior hockey career, Arnold was not yet committed to a collegiate team. He eventually signed with the University of Denver, and had a notable four-year career (2012-2016) with the Pioneers. While back home in Denver, he and the Pioneers qualified for the NCAA tournament in each of his four seasons. Arnold served as team captain consecutively for his junior and senior seasons at Denver. He was just the third player in DU history to wear the “C” for consecutive seasons, an accomplishment that was last achieved over 60 years prior. Towards the end of his collegiate career, Arnold started to contemplate the next steps of his hockey career.
“I never thought it (hockey) would go as far as it did for me, but I knew that I loved being a leader from a young age, and by my junior year of college I knew that I didn’t want a desk job and that I wanted to be a hockey coach” said Arnold.
Arnold spent the 2016-2017 season playing with the Quad City Mallards of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The season was successful as they reached their first 40-win season in Mallards franchise history. After one-year of professional hockey, Arnold decided to hang up the skates from the player perspective and used the summer to search for coaching positions. Arnold found and was offered several other assistant coaching positions, including an assistant coaching position with the Quad City Mallards, but turned it down when offered a position with the Gamblers.
“I loved the Gamblers organization and how they take care of everyone involved with their organization” said Arnold. “It was a part of my hockey past and I’m blessed for the opportunity to be back.”
The difference in roles was an adjustment, “At first it was a hard adjustment to go from playing to coaching, but I know that it is the best role for me, and have no regrets regarding that,” Arnold said.
It was also an emotional homecoming for Arnold, “Walking back into the Resch and the locker room brought back a lot of memories – the last time I was there we had just won the Clark Cup”.
Arnold hopes to implement coaching influences that he picked up over the course of his career. Moving forward as an assistant for the Gamblers, Arnold plans to focus on the culture, identity, and attitude of the team both on and off the ice. He also plans to use the lessons taught by his former coaches including Jon Cooper, Jim Montgomery (head coach at the University of Denver), Derek Lalonde (former Gamblers head coach currently serving as head coach of the AHL’s Iowa Wild), Brad Larsen (current assistant coach for the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets) and Andrew Sherman (AAA Hockey coach in Colorado who served as a mentor both on and off the ice).
Looking towards the future, Arnold states he would love to go as far as his coaching career will allow him, and hopes one day to return to his home in Colorado. However, he strongly believes in living in the moment.
“Being a young coach is challenging, but I think it is important to live in the now. I cannot express how truly blessed I am to be back and how hungry we are as a team to bring back some banners.”
Likewise, the Gamblers are equally as blessed to have both Petersen and Arnold back in Green Bay.
The Green Bay Gamblers host the Sioux Falls Stampede Saturday, October 28th for the 6th annual Military Appreciation Night, presented by Animal Referral Center. Puck drop is 7:05pm at the Resch Center