Colville trying to make Swords a success
October 23, 2014
By Steve Watkins, Cincinnati Business Courier
Just more than two years ago, Ryan Colville was standing on the ice at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head to celebrate the Los Angeles Kings' title.
Now, the former video coach of the Kings has bought a junior hockey team in Cincinnati for 16- to 20-year-olds and is trying to build a successful franchise with a strong fan base. The Cincinnati Swords would complement the professional minor-league Cincinnati Cyclones, who play at downtown's U.S. Bank Arena.
"We are the second-best level of hockey in Cincinnati," he said. "This is an alternative to the Cyclones. In a lot of ways, this is a youth version of the Cyclones."
Colville and his dad, Jim, bought the team in August. He wouldn't disclose the cost. The Swords began playing regular-season games in early September, so time was short to get ready for competition in the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL). That's the third tier of junior hockey, all of which comprises kids 16 to 20 years old. Some kids from the top level get drafted into the NHL. At the Swords' level, the goal is to move up to a higher level of junior hockey or to get into a U.S. college program.
Colville grew up in Toronto and played college hockey at Division III Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc. But he's got plenty of connections to Cincinnati. His mom, the former Jackie O'Bryant, grew up in Mason. He has spent plenty of time here visiting relatives. And his dad played hockey at Ohio State, where his parents met. He was video coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets for three years before joining the Kings in 2008. They won the Stanley Cup in the 2011-12 season, getting him a championship ring and a chance to hold the Cup on the ice.
"That was definitely the most exciting and rewarding part of my experience," he said. But following the 2012-13 season, a year after he won a Stanley Cup ring, he wanted something else. So he went back to Toronto and coached youth hockey for a year. "Video is great for learning the game," he said. "But a lot of times you're stuck in a room staring at a computer. I played, so I like the player development side and teaching young players."
After coaching in Toronto for a year, he learned during the summer of the opportunity to buy the Swords. The Swords had existed for a season, and the franchise played locally for three years before that as the Queen City Steam. But the prior owner wanted to focus on younger kids and decided to sell the junior league team. Colville closed the deal in August, moved to Newport and took over as president and general manager, getting the Swords ready for the season.
The Swords play 47 games, 22 of which are home games at Sports Plus in Evendale. They play on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons, minimizing the amount of travel and hotel nights. The Swords' home games typically draw 100 to 150 fans paying five bucks a pop, but Colville expects the crowds to grow.
"There are teams in the league that average 1,000 or 1,500 fans," he told me on Saturday while the Swords battled the Pittsburgh Vengeance. "We won't fit that in here, but that's the goal."
That would mean finding another home. Cincinnati Gardens is a possibility in the future, he said. It has hosted minor league hockey over the years and is in need of a full-time winter sports tenant. "Our plan is to make this the best team in the league," he said. "To me, the goal is getting these guys into college. We want to develop players and provide coaching."
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