Though Brown alums enter many diverse fields after graduation, professional hockey may not be the first to come to mind. But for Ryan Garbutt ’09, the dream of playing in the NHL has become a reality after a few years in the making.
Garbutt started down the road to the NHL on the 2009-10 roster of the Corpus Christi Icerays in the Central Hockey League, where he racked up 22 goals and 28 assists in 64 games. From there, he spent most of the 2010-2011 season playing for the Chicago Wolves in the AHL but also played for the Gwinnett Gladiators in the East Coast Hockey League for 10 games, where he tallied 17 points.
Before the 2011-2012 season, Garbutt signed a two-way contract with the Dallas Stars and played 50 games with the franchise’s AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars. After three seasons making his way through the minors, the former Bear got called up to the Dallas Stars last month.
Garbutt joins Aaron Volpatti ’10 of the Vancouver Canucks, Harry Zolnierczyk ’11 of the Philadelphia Flyers and Jack Maclellan ’12 of the Nashville Predators as the fourth Brown player in four years to make it to the league.
“Sometimes you get the chance to look around and just enjoy the fact that you’re playing in the NHL,” Garbutt said. “You don’t want to leave once you’re there. Once you get a taste of it, you want to make sure you stay up there.”
Garbutt’s debut for the Stars came Feb. 18 against the Phoenix Coyotes, and he scored his first career goal just three days later, netting the game-winner against the Montreal Canadiens.
“(The NHL) is quite a bit different from college,” Garbutt said. “Everyone is better skaters, better goalies, better with the puck. Everything moves faster. And you’re not just playing two games on the weekends, but every second day at some points, so you have to be able to manage the grind.”
But the former Bears forward and All-Ivy honoree credits the Brown hockey program for his success at the next level.
“I had really great teammates – not just in my 2009 class, but everyone I played with at Brown,” Garbutt said. “It was just a step up from where I was coming from. Every time you move up a level, you have to adapt to the players around you, and Brown allowed me to do that.”
Having already played 13 games for the Stars, Garbutt is well on his way to establishing an NHL career. But as he looks to make an impact in stadiums around the country, some of his best hockey memories will remain in the confines of Meehan Auditorium.
“For myself, my first collegiate goal was a big highlight,” Garbutt said. “But as a team, it was our playoff victory against Harvard. We had a big goal from Harry Zolnierczyk, and Michael Clemente (’12) stood on his head. We upset Harvard, and it was pretty exciting for everyone.”