Ryan Craig, 35, captain and left wing for the Cleveland Monsters, and his wife Jaydee weren’t just looking for the best hockey situation when they moved to Northeast Ohio last year, but also a good community and schools.
“We have been in many cities that we never thought we would be in,” Jaydee says. “We have found something special everywhere we have been. We were welcomed here with open arms and it was a really easy transition.”
Ryan agrees, adding the couple prepared their kids, son Carson, 9, and daughters Kylie, 7, and Camryn, 3, for the move more than a year ago.
It has been a busy year for the family.
Along with his hockey teammates, Ryan celebrated the Monsters winning the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Championship last June.
His family was along with him for the ride.
“I was lucky that my family — parents, brother, wife and children — was there to support me for that special moment,” Ryan says.
Each player has an opportunity to take the Calder Cup home to show family and friends. When asked what the Craig family did with the coveted trophy, Ryan recalls, “We washed it out and ate ice cream out of it.”
They also took it on a road trip to the family’s lake house in Canada and even on a boat ride. Jaydee says it was extra special for Ryan to share the trophy experience with his grandfather, who has since passed away from cancer.
The Cleveland Monsters hockey team, the defending champions, are now well into their 2016-17 season and are working toward a playoff berth.
A History of Hockey
The couple — Ryan, from Abbotsford, British Columbia, and Jaydee, a former figure skater from Brandon, Manitoba — were engaged 12 years ago on Valentine’s Day. Both grew up around the hockey rink.
With their son Carson, days spent at an ice arena won’t be slowing down anytime soon. The 9-year-old plays hockey locally, with dad helping coach when he can.
Ryan says hockey at his house was a family affair, as his dad and brother also played.
“It’s just what we did growing up,” he says. “Family vacations were spent going to hockey tournaments. Some of my friends, the closest guys, are the ones I played hockey with and it’s how I got into it. I fell in love with the (sport).”
Now that he is a parent, Ryan says he realizes the sacrifices his own parents made to ensure he and his brother didn’t miss out on anything.
“I think they just wanted the best for us, not just in hockey and school, but to be raised in a positive environment,” he says. “This is the same thing my wife and I believe, not to raise just good hockey players, but good people.”
It’s not all about hockey; the Craig family also enjoys spending time together exploring the area.
Their daughter Kylie participates in gymnastics and the family has enjoyed traveling to the area parks, pools, and taking a trip to the apple orchard during the fall season.
The family isn’t immune to the other teams around town, either. They sport their Cavs and Cleveland Indians gear and were excited to see both teams’ winning seasons.
Both Ryan and Jaydee have been impressed with the Cleveland Monsters fans.
“The Monsters fans have been great,” Ryan says. “We have heard great things coming here and were able to experience it — from the home opener through the playoffs.”
Ryan says the family also gets support from his teammates, adding, “We are lucky there are a lot of guys with young kids on the team in the same boat. We share (local parenting, activities, babysitters, etc.) information with each other.”
The kids also have some behind-the-scenes fun, which means hanging out in the locker room with the other players and their families.
“They are just normal kids,” Jaydee says. “They love going to the games and trying to get on the jumbotron. They just get a little extra, they all want the Dubble Bubble in the locker room.”
While they can’t visit the locker room after a loss, Ryan says win or lose, he feels good knowing he can come home to his family.
“I am lucky enough to have a great wife who supports what I do,” he says. “I am proud of everything all three kids do. The moment you become a mom or dad, you realize it’s not just about you anymore. Taking care of them, making sure they are healthy and happy and all those other things that come into play is the most important.”
Tidbits About Ryan
Favorite Players Growing Up: Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman
Advice for young hockey players: “Work hard, have a good attitude and respect your coaches.” He adds to set high goals, but a huge part is to have a support system — and some luck along the way.