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Garbutt Finds His Niche After Hockey

Photo by Jeff Miller

Garbutt Finds His Niche After Hockey

After a hard-fought, well-earned seven-year National Hockey League career – plus a couple of seasons in Europe – Ryan Garbutt has returned home to Winnipeg for the next phase of his life.

And as he seldom took time off from his workouts as a player, what better place to face life after hockey than in the gym?

“We started the gym in March and we’ve been officially opened for about a month now,” said Garbutt, during a skate with some of his clients at The RINK on Saturday. “Business has been good because we’ve got the young hockey players from the 2112 Hockey Agency. A lot of lifestyle clients are coming through and a lot of athletes have started to find us.”

Called Metabolik Fitness, Garbutt’s gym is located at 2281 Portage Ave. He not only takes walk-in customers but he’s also affiliated with Darryl Wolski and Scott Glennie at 2112 Hockey Agency so a lot of future NHLers are part of the scenery every day.

“Hockey was done, I always had a love for fitness and it was perfect transition for me to jump back in,” Garbutt said. “It allows me to return to Winnipeg and try to give something back to kids who really want to get better and improve their game. I want to encourage kids to work just as hard off the ice and that’s what I did.”

Ryan Garbutt is 34 and no one worked harder to play at the NHL level than he did. He was never drafted. At any level. Period. He wasn’t drafted as a bantam into the Western Hockey League and he was never drafted by an NHL team out of the WHL. Then again, he never played in the Western Hockey League.

It’s safe to say Ryan Garbutt was a late bloomer.

It’s also safe to say he was never a quitter. There was a time in Garbutt’s career when opening that gym appeared to be right around the corner. There were no calls, no emails. He was looking at a season in the Central League and the NHL was nothing more than something he read about on-line every morning. But Garbutt persevered.

“I’d just graduated from Brown University and hadn’t been drafted and was looking to break into pro hockey,” Garbutt recalled.

“I had a great coach with the Winnipeg (South) Blues, Ken Pearson, and I had a lot of college teams watch me when I played there. Then I spent four years at Brown and met a lot of great people. I had fun playing (college) hockey and from there, a guy named Jeff Pyle picked me up in the Central League, (Pyle went on to become the head coach of the Texas Stars of the AHL), and he gave me my first shot as a pro.”

Garbutt was never expected to be a successful pro. This was a kid who played three seasons of high school hockey at Vincent Massey Collegiate. Then he jumped right up to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Winnipeg Blues.

He played two seasons with the Blues, and in his second season in 2004-05, he scored 47 goals, dished 34 assists and had 303 penalty minutes in 63 games. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the MJHL and Brown University took a liking to him. For the next four years, he played Ivy League hockey and got himself a degree.

“When I graduated from Brown, I had no place to go and ended up playing with the Corpus Christi (Texas) Icerays of the Central League in 2009-10,” he said. “Then I moved up to the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL in 2010-11 and then to the Chicago Wolves. In 2011-12, Coach Pyle gave me a shot in Texas and that’s when I kind of got my chance and I was able to take advantage of it.”

After little more than a half a season in Texas, he got the call from the Dallas Stars and he never went back to minor pro.

For a guy who was essentially written off at 24, it was quite a ride. However, there were two things that git him to the NHL – a passion and desire to play professional hockey and good old-fashioned hard work.

“Yeah, just plain old hard work,” he said. “And I’ve been fortunate that I also had lots of great guys to train with in Winnipeg in the summer and I had a great trainer in Richard Burr. Richard was really great for me.”

Learning the gym business from a friend like Richard Burr is probably as important as his Ivy League degree. It means that Metabolik Fitness will be as professional as it gets.

“Having the gym has been rewarding despite COVID,” said Garbutt. “It’s going to be fun to watch the kids develop and get better every day and I’m excited.”

Covered his first junior hockey game for the Sarnia Observer in 1968. Covered his first Jets game for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1980. Still thinks hockey is the bees knees.

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