Tyriq Outen honed his hockey skills while living in New Tampa, and is riding high after an MVP performance in a major invitational tournament this summer has him a little closer to his dream of playing goalie in the NHL. (Photo courtesy of the Outen family).

The first time Tyriq Outen skated on ice at the Brandon’s Ice Sports Forum, he was 4 years old and decided immediately he wanted to be a goalie. 

A few weeks later, during his first lesson, his promising ice hockey career began…with his pads on backwards.

“Then, he fell behind the net and got his helmet caught in the net,” recalls his father, Ronnie. “It was a comedy of errors.”

That imperfect start, however, soon gave way to success at nearly every level at which “Ty,” as his family calls him, has played since. He went from being entangled in the nets to starring in them, and from being a junior standout to a legitimate NHL draft prospect with a bright future ahead of him.

“I feel like this is where I belong,” he says. “I fell in love with it right away.”

Tyriq grew up in New Tampa, and attended Turner Bartels Middle School. While his friends played Little League baseball and basketball and soccer at the New Tampa YMCA, Tyriq was part of a small but budding hockey community. 

He played for one of the best youth hockey teams in Florida, comprised of players from all over the state, but that meant lots of travel. He traveled by plane 2-3 times a month for big tournaments in the northeast and Canada, but mostly spent lots of time in the car with Ronnie driving all over the southeast.

Ronnie, the basketball director at the new Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County, understood the lifestyle and demands for a high-caliber youth athlete. A former college basketball player who played professionally overseas, Ronnie understood it was all about exposure and training. When it was time to choose a high school, Ronnie and Tyriq moved to hockey-hotbed Boston and lived in an apartment.

“When we were in Boston, he was literally on the ice 5-6 days a week,” he says. “No knock on Florida, but there was a rink in every neighborhood. Imagine if Hunter’s Green had one, and Arbor Greene and Live Oak had one, if you had 5-6 rinks in this area, think of the pool of talent you’d have to draw from. That’s how it is up there. That is why the competition was so good.”

First Stop – Foxboro

Tyriq hooked up with the South Shore Kings in Foxboro, MA, and began to take off as a player. He had a 3.08 goals-against average (GAA) and a 90% save percentage in his two seasons.

At the age of 17, Tyriq made it onto the coveted NHL Central Scouting list as No. 19 among all North American goalie prospects. His athleticism, Ronnie says, is off the charts — he can roll out of bed and dunk a basketball — and his skating and stick skills are exceptional. Tyriq’s vision and game management continue to improve.

Toronto Maple Leafs development camp, June 30, 2018. Mark Blinch/Toronto Maple Leafs

Once a growth spurt got him to 6-feet, 3-inches, it completed the package, making him an enticing prospect at a position where taller, athletic goaltenders — like the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andre Vasilevskiy, who also is 6’-3” —seem to be the future.

In Boston, NHL scouts were watching every game. “It definitely got the heart pumping,” Tyriq says.

Although Ronnie had spent most of his life playing and coaching basketball, he had married Heather, a native Canadian, who came from a family of goalies.

Tyriq was born in Miramichi, New Brunswick, where his grandfather Hugh Moar — Tyriq called him Grampy — was in the town’s Hall of Fame and his uncles were accomplished junior goaltenders.

Ronnie jokes that basketball never had a chance. Which, he adds, was fine by him.

“It wasn’t a disappointment at all,” he says. “I didn’t want him growing up with anyone comparing him to me or anything like that. I was just happy that every time he came off the ice, whether after practice or a game, he had a smile, and five minutes into the drive home, he wanted to talk about the game.”

Dealing With Adversity

After graduating high school in Boston, Tyriq had to choose between pursuing a Division I college career, or signing with a major junior hockey team, which would end his amateur status.

Tyriq with “Grampy”, Hugh Moar.

With a chance to sign with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), the former team of NHL stars like Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Roberto Luongo, and just an hour north from his birthplace, where his goalkeeping family had built a following, how could he resist?

It turned out to be the first speed bump in Tyriq’s career.

The QMJHL is one of three major junior ice hockey leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League, along with the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and Western Hockey League (WHL). Acadie-Bathurst had loaded up the previous season to win the QMJHL President’s Cup, and they captured the Memorial Cup against the winners from the OHL and WHL.

Tyriq says many of the players acquired to win the title in 2017-18 departed after that season. His new team won just eight games in 2018-19, and he finished with an 0-20 record, a 5.89 goals against average and faced nearly 1,000 shots in only 1,364 minutes. After a coaching change, Tyriq was released.

“The fact that it was (so close to Miramichi) made it even worse,” Ronnie says. “The whole town was hurrah hurrah, the hometown boy is coming, everybody was happy for that to happen. So, it made it double the monkey on his back.”

Ronnie worried about how Tyriq would handle his first-ever adversity. “I would be lying and he wouldn’t be human if I said it didn’t get him down.” 

Ronnie says he reached out to Tampa Bay Lightning goalkeeping coach Frantz Jean for some guidance, concerned his son might retire his pads. Jean, however, reassured Ronnie that Tyriq was still highly regarded, and that NHL scouts will be watching to see how he reacted to his adversity.

“The ones that are successful come out the other side stronger,” Ronnie remembers being told.

Getting Back In The Pads

Tyriq got back to work. Determined to come back even stronger, rather than give up, he doubled down on his efforts. When he was tired, he thought about Bathurst. When he didn’t want to work out, he thought about Bathurst. 

“I’m already up,” Tyriq would say as his dad walked into his room to wake him up early in the morning.

“That showed me just how tough he really is,” Ronnie says.

The Outen family — (l.-r) Tyriq, Kiana, Heather and Ronnie — has lived in Live Oak Preserve in New Tampa since 2006. 

Tyriq’s bounceback started in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, in the Maritime Hockey League, a league below major junior. If playing near his hometown made the Bathurst experience more painful, then his first appearance at the Miramichi Civic Centre, against the hometown Timberwolves, offered some redemption — he stopped 34 of 35 shots in a 6-1 win.

He went on to beat the Timberwolves two more times at the Civic Centre, and stopped 145 of 156 shots the hometown team fired at him over five games.

Covid-19 ended the 2019-20 season early, so Tyriq returned to New Tampa. He worked out with the Lightning before the team entered the bubble en route to the Stanley Cup. Tyriq continued to grind, ready for his next challenge, which came when he was chosen to play at the prestigious invite-only Beantown Summer Classic in August in Exeter, NH, where NHL scouts handle the coaching duties.

“He was so proud of having some of the Lightning players’ phone numbers in his phone,” Ronnie says. “That was pretty cool for him.”

The NextGen MVP!

Tyriq was the only goalie invited to play for an all-minority team — NextGen AAA Foundation, a nonprofit that offers mentoring to hockey programs in underserved communities.

NextGen, which is coached by NHL players Bryce Salvador and Mike Grier, steamrolled the competition at the annual Beantown Classic in Boston, and went undefeated to win the title. Tyriq was 4-0, and even added five assists — a shockingly high number for a goalie but a tribute to his stick skills — and was named the tournament’s MVP.

“That was a big deal for me,” Tyriq says. “I feel like I’m ready to do bigger things. It was  a great experience.”

Tyriq can’t return to Canada right now due to Covid, but was approached by a Calgary Flames scout at the Beantown Classic, who hooked him up the Maine Nordiques of the North American Hockey League. He left New Tampa last month to begin training, and the season began earlier this month.

In three games so far with Maine, Tyriq is 2-1 with a 2.94 goals-against-average and a .924 percent save percentage.

“He was in a bad situation before, but he’s recalibrated now,” Ronnie says. “This is a good situation for him. It’s going to be a good year. He is totally happy — you can hear it in his voice. And, that’s the best thing.”

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