Hockey coaches in Edina are a common occurrence. However, it takes someone special to make a greater impact on players beyond learning the game. Connecting with Kids honoree Ryan Elbing is one of those coaches. He goes above and beyond his players needs and puts time into caring for the community.
Currently the coach of Edina’s AA Bantam team, Elbing has committed himself to shaping the lives of young players beyond the ice. A lifelong hockey player, Elbing has always had a passion for the game and the camaraderie of a team. He’s turned that passion into a tool to develop relationships with his players, dedicating his time to make them not only great athletes, but good people as well.
Bob Peck nominated him for a Connecting with Kids award for this reason. “He understands the responsibility of being a coach. He recognizes that his players are at an impressionable age and he works with them one-on-one not just as hockey players, but as kids as well,” says Peck.
Peck noted Elbing’s dedication in a personal report he wrote for his son, something that he completes for his players every season. Each year, Elbing meets with his players individually, checking in on their personal lives and learning what he can to help each one thrive.
Former player Robbie Hatch explains how it helped him grow. “It wasn’t about the Xs and Os of hockey; he was coaching us to be responsible men and teaching us life lessons beyond playing hockey,” says Hatch.
Furthermore, Elbing has expanded his care for players to other teams as well. One year, at a state tournament game, he extended his compassion to an opposing player while his team celebrated their win.
As he turned to go back to his team, he noticed them lifting the player up as well. “It reminds you how good kids are coming through these days and how important it is to be that example for them because they’re watching, whether we think they are or not,” Elbing says.
However, Elbing’s influence can be seen most clearly through the eyes of his former players. One example is Joe Dronen, who was coached by Elbing almost eight years ago. Elbing visited Dronen at the University of North Dakota, where he is a student, to take him out to dinner and check in.
“Since we’ve played for him, he’s gone to everyone’s graduation parties, checked in with old teammates and even let them come and skate with his current team,” says Dronen.
A clear difference seen by many in Elbing is also his commitment to the community as a whole. He regularly volunteers with his team at various nonprofits and organizations and is even working to set up a player committee to organize individual service projects throughout the season.
“To see [players] understand that they can make a difference, even if it’s just for a few hours, that’s one of the biggest lessons we can give as coaches,” says Elbing.