When freshman forward Ryan Savage dresses for a hockey game, it’s left skate, right skate. Left knee pad, right knee pad.
On the bench, his helmet, jersey, shorts and socks form a wave of red. Curly, dark brown hair pokes out under his helmet, his green eyes trained on the rink. When his skates touch the ice, Ryan joins a hockey family legacy that stretches back for generations.
His father, Brian Savage, played at Miami from 1990-1993 and went on to play for Team Canada, winning a silver medal in the 1994 Olympics. Brian also spent 12 years in the NHL, and his uncle, Larry Hillman, won six Stanley Cup Championships.
During the 2005-2006 season, the last year of Brian’s career, his wife, Debbie, brought Ryan and his younger brother, Red, to every home game, “so they could try to remember dad playing in the NHL.”
Brian retired from hockey when Ryan was six years old.
Born in Montreal, Ryan has always been around hockey. It’s taken his family everywhere — from Arizona to Pennsylvania to Austria to Michigan — and he says his favorite hockey players and teams have shifted depending on where he’s living.
For instance, during the summers, he works out with one of his favorite players, Nicholas Foligno, the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Having moved so many places, Ryan calls “home” wherever his family is. Having a dad who played in the NHL instilled in him a sense of drive and determination.
“He’s taught me a lot,” Ryan said. “He’s always told me to push hard, nothing’s gonna be given to me, and I have to work for everything just like he did.”
Ryan has played for several different teams, including the U.S. Youth Olympic Team when he was 15. He ended up winning the gold medal in Lillehammer, Norway — coincidentally, the same city where his dad won an Olympic medal for Canada.
“He’s had quite the experience, and he has a gold medal. I have a silver medal, so he one-upped me,” Brian said.
Ryan started thinking about college when he was 14 or 15, and after he visited Miami a few times, he realized pretty quickly that he wanted to come here.
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Given their history with Miami hockey, Ryan and his dad saw Family Weekend as a special time — a moment to look back at old times and to greet the next stage of this hockey legacy. (Brian’s middle son, Red, has committed to play for Miami in two years and his youngest son, Rory, plays pee-wee hockey).
“I’ve seen so many pictures of him [Brian] in the Miami jersey, and I’ve seen so many videos of him playing,” Ryan said. “To finally see me in a jersey, after waiting so long to actually put one on, and see my dad out there with me and my mom, it was a great feeling.”
Years ago, when Brian came to Miami, current head coach Chris Bergeron was a sophomore on the team and eventually team captain. The pair were roommates and played on the same line for a while.
“First of all, he [Brian] is a much, much better player than I was,” Bergeron said, laughing. “The things that come to mind are, ‘get Brian the puck, and then get out of the way.’ He was just an exceptional talent.”
Brian says that Bergeron is a big reason for his own hockey career, and he sees him as a strong role model for his son.
“If Ryan can mentor his characteristics, he’ll turn out a great man,” Brian said. “He’s [Bergeron] one of the most loyal friends that I have. Just his morals, his hard work, his intensity — and I know he wears Miami on his sleeve — and he’s gonna turn the program around.”
During practice, Bergeron moves across the ice in a fluid motion, a whistle around his neck as he shouts directions at the players, pushing them to their best.
Outside of practice, he talks with a palpable energy and contagious enthusiasm. When he speaks about Ryan, he smiles, explaining that the similarities between father and son have already unveiled themselves.
“The way he shoots the puck, and that’s strong praise because Brian shot it so well,” Bergeron said. “Ryan has a sneaky good shot, and he’s able to use it quite a bit, and he gets himself in position to use it quite a bit.”
Bergeron mentioned that Ryan’s beginning to show his dad’s competitive streak when pushed, and he says the similarities aren’t limited to the ice.
“Nevermind that he looks just like his dad,” Bergeron added. “It’s uncanny. He’s his father, for sure.”
During summer orientation, Brian showed Ryan around campus, took him to meet some Farmer School of Business professors that were here when he attended Miami and took him to lunch at Bagel & Deli, one of his favorite places Uptown.
The start of freshman year has been a busy one for Ryan. An undecided business major, he juggles the first-year-integrated-core classes and life as a Division I hockey player. His goal is to eventually play professional hockey for as long as he can.
He and the other first-years live together in the dorms and like to hang out, watch television and take trips to Chipotle.
Joining the Miami hockey team has given him a set of leaders, including senior captain Gordie Green, who’ve helped him and the other freshmen navigate their first semester.
“I just want to learn as much as I can, take it in,” Ryan said. “Obviously team success is the number one goal, but if personal success is there too, then I’m happy.”