By Shawn Rine
Ohio Sports Editor
The Intelligencer & Wheeling News Register
WHEELING, W.Va. – If we’re all lucky enough to live that long, maybe we’ll have the opportunity to see our lives come full circle. For Wheeling native Bryan Ewing, that quest took all of 23 years.
Ewing, who was born and lived in Wheeling until the time he was 12 years old, is the newest member of the Wheeling Nailers organization. ”Boomer” signed an American Hockey League deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins in late August after the annual draft came and went without his name being called.
In a bit of an ironic twist, he was one of the last rounds of cuts from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton team, but he landed on his feet back in his old stomping grounds.
”I don’t remember much from my time here, but I remember a few times playing here in this same arena,” Ewing said after a team scrimmage Tuesday night at WesBanco Arena. ”It’s really cool to come back here like (11) years later and play in the same place.
”Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine coming back here, but I’m glad to be back, and I look forward to playing for the Nailers.”
To know how he got here, you must first realize why he left. And then you have to assume that, judging by his enormous set of skills, he in all probability won’t be here long.
Boomer’s parents, Benton and the former Jewell Deacon, who both graduated from Wheeling Central, saw at a very young age their son had a gift when it came to the game of hockey. And no disrespect intended, but even those highly involved in the Wheeling Amateur Hockey Association have to admit it’s grown leaps and bounds in the last 11 years.
So the Ewing’s took their family, which includes older sister, Maggie, and younger brother, Ben, to hockey-rich New England, settling in Plymouth, Mass.
The move also made sense from a financial standpoint for Benton Ewing, who by trade is a contractor that makes his living purchasing old buildings and restoring them to their original, pristine state. He also owns the Bridgewater Ice Arena, which was founded in 1997 and offers everything from youth and adult hockey leagues, to figure skating and even pickup games.
”There’s good hockey around here, too, but my parents always liked to move around,” Bryan said. ”They wanted a change so we moved up there, and fortunately I was able to pursue my hockey career and now I am back here in a great organization.
”(My parents) love it”
His grandparents likely do, as well. Boomer’s grandfather, Bob Ewing served as the driving force behind Tire America’s growth and status as the nation’s largest independent retail tire distributor. Following the sale of Tire America in 1988, Ewing began devoting the major portion of his business efforts to the development of Stratford Springs.
People in the Ohio Valley should know how big of a deal it is to have one of our own in this position. To put things in perspective, 161 Massachusetts-born players have competed in the National Hockey League.
Care to take a guess how many native West Virginians can make that claim? Don’t bother looking it up, because according to hockey-reference.com, which is also where the Massachusetts information was obtained, nobody from the Mountain State has ever donned an NHL sweater.
Boomer spent his first two years of high school at Duxbury High before transferring to Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass. During his two years at Cushing, he combined for 116 points with 58 points (27-31) per season, earning second-team New England All-Star honors as a senior.
He also was a member of the Greater Boston Junior Bruins that won the 2004 USA Hockey Youth Tier I 17 & Under National Championship.
Boomer then accepted a scholarship to Boston University, where in four seasons he scored 108 points (48g, 60a) on his way to being selected to the Hockey East first team, and finishing runner-up to New Hampshire goaltender Kevin Regan for the CCM/RBK Hockey East Player of the Year Award. Regan, incidentally, played one game for the Providence Bruins (AHL) last season, earning a shutout.
”It’s really a dream come true for us – probably for the whole community – because when we came here that was always a question we had for people: what’s the youth hockey program like?” Nailers co-President Jim Brooks said. ”We knew it’s been strong since like 1991-92 when the team came here. It grew from 300-600 kids.
”To have one on our team and in our community is just a great feeling. I’m sure it’s not just us that hold that feeling, because we love hockey and want to see it grow, but also the people that have played in WAHA before have to look at this and say ‘wow, I’ve made a difference.’
”No matter if it’s a coach, a parent or a player, you’ve helped grow it.”
Nailers coach Greg Puhalski says Ewing has all the necessary skills but one, which is likely the reason Boomer will be working on his trade inside WesBanco, at least for the immediate future.
”His goals are the play in the NHL and play in the American League this year,” Puhalski said. ”We talked briefly about some areas that he needs to improve on to get him to where he wants to be.
”The thing he has to work on in order to get back there is his play away from the puck and working away from the puck when he doesn’t have (it).
”That’s something that a lot of times with youth comes with time. I need to educate him on how to be a well-rounded hockey player.”
And of all places, he’ll be taking that instruction right here at home.