Hometown hockey hopes: Callahan hopes to build in Rochester something he wished he had

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Ryan Callahan knew he wanted to spend retirement in Rochester.

But, beyond that…

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, to be honest with you,” he said.

Old friend Chris Collins was named the Director of Hockey for the new Bishop Kearney Boys Select Program over the winter. Callahan texted congrats in March.

It was Collins who had a suggestion.

“Maybe you should get involved with us,” Collins said he told Callahan. “Kinda joking at first and then he’s like, ‘Actually, I’d love to talk to you about that’.”

“I didn’t know what to expect from it. I was kinda taken aback from it, not sure if I wanted to do it,” Callahan said. “As he explained the program and what they’re trying to build in Rochester, I was so excited to be a part of it.”

There will be three teams for the 2020-21 season: 14U, 15U and 16U. An 18U team will be added the next year.

Players will come from all over North America and as far away as California. The opponents will be from all over the northeast and Canada.

Collins expects them to be among the best Tier 1 Midget teams in the country. Graduates will have an excellent chance to end up on Division I college programs or with top junior teams.

“I didn’t have that when I was 16 years old,” Callahan said. “I had to move away to Guelph, Ontario to play in the Ontario Hockey League. For these top level Rochester kids to have a place to play now and be able to stay home, I think is awesome.”

Callahan’s title is Director of Player Development. Each team will have 20 players. That means 80 invites who may be playing and schooling away from home for the first time in their lives.

“His main job is to build relationships with each kid. Make sure everyone is doing well on and off the ice.” Collins said.

Callahan will get a taste of every job with the Selects program. There will be a little scouting, a little recruing and a little coaching–he’ll run skills practices twice a week.

However, Callahan’s main function will be focusing on the person over the player.

“I have some talent on the ice I can teach them with little things, little skills,” he said. “More importantly, it’s how to be a pro and how to be a good person.”

“These kids are extremely lucky and us coaches are lucky, too,” Collins said. “You can’t compare his experience in hockey. Two-time Olympian, playing in the Stanley Cup Finals, captain of the New York Rangers. He’s played for some of the best coaches in the world.”

Collins thinks that Rochester’s centralized location to larger hockey towns like Chicago, Boston and Toronto could make Kearney a popular destination. The team will have championships to win, but that is not the priority.

“The big goal for all of us in the program is to move these players on,” Collins said. “You’ll be sitting at home watching a Bishop Kearney player drafted top ten in the NHL draft. That’s gonna be what completes our program.”

Callahan is still feeling his way into his post hockey life. He’s going to also continue a broadcasting career he started very slowly last season with NHL Network.

“I told them day one I don’t know if I’m going to hate this, love this, be good at it, be terrible. I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes,” he said. “I ended up enjoying it.”

The broadcast work won’t detract one bit from what he hopes to give the kids at Bishop Kearney.

“Knowing Cal,” Collins said. “Everything he’s done has been full throttle.”

One of the reasons Callahan is excited about the Selects program is because it still allows him to explore broadcasting and other options for the next phase of his life.

Callahan makes it clear that next phase is going to include hockey and Rochester, one way or the other.

“It’s keeping me involved in the game of hockey in Rochester,” he said. “Hopefully, we can grow this thing into something pretty cool.”

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