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Former Guelph Storm player follows another dream with the Guelph Police Service

After wrapping up his hockey career, Ryan Horvat knew Guelph was where he wanted to carry on a family tradition

In his three years playing for the Guelph Storm, Ryan Horvat built a reputation as a reliable, hard-working player and solid teammate. 

All characteristics that should go a long way in helping him succeed in his new career.

The former Guelph Storm forward joined the Guelph Police Service earlier this month, following in the footsteps of his father Zvonko, who has been a police officer for over 30 years.

“I knew I wanted to get into policing at a young age,” said Horvat, 27, earlier this week, just five shifts into his new career.

Zvonko’s career was mostly with the OPP until becoming police chief in Aylmer in 2018.

In a classy touch, Zvonko was given the honour of presenting Ryan with his police badge at the recent swearing-in ceremony.

“It’s always something I’ve really wanted to do. I remember all those ‘take your kid to work’ days when I’d go up to the headquarters in London where my dad was working and see all the different things they offered. Picking his brain for stories, it’s always something I’ve really wanted to do.”

While playing for the Storm, the Simcoe native attended the University of Guelph, taking courses directed at a career in policing.

Horvat played three full seasons with the Storm, from 2011 to 2014, and was an assistant captain of the 2014 team that lost in the Memorial Cup final, a team most longtime fans consider to be the greatest Storm team of all time.

Undrafted by the NHL, he spent five seasons in the American Hockey League before wrapping up his pro career last season with the Nottingham Panthers in England.

“I had been getting all the paperwork together and then once I got back to Canada I started the process and next thing you know I’m working on the roads here,” Horvat says.

“I wanted to go overseas and play, that was one of my goals, and I got to do that,” Horvat said. “But then you get to the point in your career where the injuries start taking over and you start to transition into the next stage of my life. At some point you have to change the chapter and go onto something else.”

It’s not easy to give up the hockey dream, especially when it’s been the focal point of your life for so many years. But Horvat said it was time.

“I’ve missed so many family gatherings, weddings, Christmases and things like that, it’s the point it’s the time to come back to your family, that was one of the things that helped me make that choice.”

There were six stages of the hiring process, each with its own interview. His dad mentored him throughout the process and was the first person Horvat called after he got offered the job.

“He was pretty ecstatic.”

Guelph was his first choice.

“Playing hockey here and going to university here, I liked the city and it’s always where I wanted to end up.”

Police forces often hire high-level athletes. They’re disciplined, used to making sacrifices, used to thinking on their feet and, generally, in good physical condition. They face adversity and they know how to work as a team.

“That team aspect, that’s a big thing,” Horvat said. “Being in the culture with a group of people that want to succeed and work hard. Everybody’s got your back. We all want to help our communities and give back.”

Horvat said he still keeps in touch with a lot of his former Storm teammates. It was a tight group and being as successful as that team was helped form a tight bond.

“Everyone’s spread all over the place now, but we try and get together once or twice a year,” he said. “It was a great group of guys, and winning helps of course.”

Horvat will spend 50 shifts working with a coach officer, then be on regular patrol.

“I’m thrilled. I’m excited for the new challenges and new adventures.”