By Gabriela Carroll
East Moriches native Ryan Fine started playing travel hockey at 6 years old. After committing to play Division 1 hockey at Boston University last year, the rising sophomore is looking toward even bigger goals.
Fine started taking skating lessons at the Rinx in Hauppauge at 3 years old. At 11, he stopped playing hockey on Long Island and started commuting over 90 miles each way to play for the Mid-Fairfield Junior Rangers in Connecticut.
“Mid-Fairfield is widely considered one of the best programs in the country, so it was an easy decision, even though the distance was prohibitive on our level,” said Ryan’s father, Adam Fine. “The coach is Marty St. Louis, who is a retired National Hockey League Hall of Famer for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Rangers so we felt bringing him there was the best thing for his development.”
Taking Fine to play in Connecticut was a major step up in his hockey career, and one his father said they felt they should take due to the lack of options on Long Island. Only three high-level hockey programs exist on the Island, and many players in all sports choose to experiment with many travel teams to find a coach and program they feel is a good fit.
“You’re in a constant quest for better coaching,” Adam Fine said. “I don’t think if I had what I wanted for him here on Long Island, we would have left. But I felt for his development, having him with a coach of the quality of Marty St. Louis was vital. I think Marty brings a different level of coaching to the table. He’s been through it. He’s lived through it. I felt that if I have an opportunity to have my child with him, I would make that move.”
One of the biggest challenges of playing hockey so far away was keeping up with academic commitments while spending so much time traveling, according to Fine.
“When I was living on Long Island and playing in Connecticut, the most difficult part was definitely homework and that type of stuff, doing that all in the car,” Fine said. “I just had to dedicate myself and just focus more on all those things and it definitely paid off.”
In April 2019, Fine, who was in eighth-grade at the time, became the first 2005-born male prospect to commit to a college hockey program, with his verbal commitment to Boston University.
“We got in right before the NCAA changed their requirements,” said Adam Fine, referencing the recent restrictions that block players from being recruited before the start of their junior year. “For us it was the decision to, as a family, do we let him verbally commit to a university at this age, or do we wait? Ryan always wanted to go to Boston University, so I think it was a no-brainer for him to make that decision.”
Fine said he was especially interested in BU because he’d connected with one of the coaches at a young age and was drawn to the idea of playing for him, in addition to the school’s strong academic reputation.
Going into high school, he moved to New Jersey to live with a teammate at Mid-Fairfield and transferred to Don Boscoe Prep. According to Fine, living in New Jersey gave him more time on the ice to practice and play, as opposed to the large travel times he’d been used to on Long Island, which also helped him dedicate more time to his academics.
“It was a different experience for me, but I think it helped me develop as a person more, to experience what a different family is like,” Fine said. “The school was also a lot different than what I have here on Long Island. It was more strict and had more rules, but I think it all helped me a lot this year.”
The hardest thing about the transition was the social aspect of transferring to another school, Fine said, but being at a school with more athletic drive than his old school on Long Island helped him relate more with the other athletes.
Despite having achieved so much at a young age, Fine has his sights set even higher.
Tryouts for the US U17 and U18 National Team will take place next year and the year following for Fine’s age group, and he hopes to qualify for the team and start competing on an international level. Beyond that, Fine said his biggest goal is to one day play in the NHL.
Playing at that high a level attracts both external and internal pressure, but Fine says that over time he’s adjusted to it and uses it to motivate himself to bring his best self to the ice every time he plays.
“Every time that I step on the ice I need to know I have a target on my back. Everybody’s gunning for me. I need to be the best I can be every single time I touch the ice, and I know that I have an extra set of eyes on me every time.”