He adds a lot of colour to the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. He can be funny, frantic and furious all in one. He is a man of his word — and a man of many words. And in his fourth season with the Cochrane Crunch since bringing junior hockey to the northeastern Ontario town of about 5,000 residents, Ryan Leonard is an NOJHL champion.
As owner, general manager and coach of the Crunch, Leonard is the face of the Cochrane franchise.
While he relies heavily on his wife, Katherine, to oversee the administration of the Crunch and as Jamy Bernier plays a major role as full-time assistant coach and assistant general manager and as Jim Newell helps out as a valued part-time assistant, it is the 38-year old Leonard who is the glove that holds the hockey stick.
A good guy who is a good husband, good father and good son, Leonard is a relentless recruiter who has had contending teams in each of his four seasons in Cochrane. Let’s face it, it can’t be easy to get players from all over Canada and the United States to venture north — way up north — to play junior hockey in Cochrane.
But with help from his friends and contacts, Leonard has managed to oversee a winning hockey program and bring an NOJHL championship to Cochrane.
Known to most in hockey circles as “Lenny”, the son of Dana Leonard has never forgotten his Sault Ste. Marie roots and playing in the Sault Recreation Hockey Association as a wee lad for coach Jimmy Mancuso.
As he speaks so fondly of his mom — who is an absolute sweetheart of a lady — and his youth coach Mancuso, Leonard also credits his former Soo Thunderbirds coach Jim Capy for getting him started in coaching (as a secondary assistant with the Blind River Beavers) when his NOJHL playing days had ended.
“I owe a lot of Jim (Capy),” Leonard told Hockey News North. “He believed in me as a coach and here I am today being successful because of his leadership.”
Leonard also noted how when he was working as a volunteer assistant in Blind River, former Soo Thunderbirds owner Sam Biasucci helped him arrange employment with the Algoma District School Board, a job he held for many years before moving his family north to Cochrane.
As for this 2017-2018 edition of the Crunch, it overcame a lot to wear the NOJHL championship crown.
After disposing of the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and Timmins Rock in rounds one and two of the East Division playoffs, Cochrane went up against the powerhouse West Division champion Rayside Balfour Canadians in the NOJHL title series.
After dropping Games 1 and 2 to Rayside Balfour — and scoring just two goals in the process — it did not look good for the Crunch bunch from Cochrane.
But Cochrane was able to shrug off the deficit to win four straight games — including two in overtime — to upend Rayside Balfour for the NOJHL championship.
The Game 6 clincher went to a second 20-minute overtime session before the hockey gods gave their nods to Lenny and the Crunch.