Armstrongs make sports a family affair

Every athlete is driven to succeed by something from within. For Cleveland Barons right wing Riley Armstrong, the inner drive to succeed comes from the competitive spirit of his family.

The youngest of three professional athletes, Riley has some large shoes to fill. His older sister, Tiffany, is a professional soccer player in Australia and his older brother, Colby, is a forward for the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

“Everything is competitive (at home),” Riley Armstrong said. “Anything we are doing, from video games to seeing who can do this or that the quickest.”

With a professional figure skater and a former hockey player as parents, it’s easy to imagine that sports and competition would be a major part of life for the three children.

All three started in soccer and figure skating, but Colby quickly decided to turn his attention to hockey. Once Colby decided to focus on hockey, Riley was quick to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

“We always soccer played growing up together, and we played one year of baseball, but once hockey became more important and we started working out more in the summer, so we got away from the other sports,” Riley said. “Once my brother was drafted by the [Western Hockey League’s] Red Deer Rebels, I thought I should follow in his footsteps.”

Riley’s hockey career started to take shape after he was cut from Triple-A Midget hockey in grade 11. He moved to Yorkton, Sask., to play hockey there and was listed by the WHL’s Kootenay Ice, although he planned to go to school instead.

However, Riley stopped in to skate and made the team in Kootenay. The next year, he was picked up by the Everett Silvertips in the expansion draft and played with the team through its record-breaking first season. He finished the season tied for first on the team in scoring with 44 points (18g, 26a). He was first on the squad in assists and second in goals and penalty minutes.

Following that season, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound right wing went to San Jose’s rookie camp and signed with the Sharks. Scoring 19 points (8g, 11a) in 70 games in his rookie season with the Barons, Riley was just able to surpass his brother’s rookie total of 18 points.

Currently in his second professional season, the Saskatoon, Sask., native has earned one goal and three assists for four points in 25 games with the Barons.

“I usually try to match what he does,” explained Riley. “His second season he scored 27 points, so hopefully I can to get to 28.”

While Colby and Riley may engage in playful banter about stats, having his brother one step ahead gives him someone to go to for advice. With more experience under his belt, Colby, who played in the 2004 Calder Cup Finals with Wilkes-Barre, can help Riley out when he has questions, or needs a little direction.

Although even just getting a little advice is a family affair.

“I go to him for advice all the time. He’s been in this league for four years and been to four NHL camps,” said Riley. “But, I also go to my dad a lot. My dad is kinda the guy with advice for hockey, and then after my dad rips on me, my mom calms me down. She’s like the assistant coach and dad is the coach.”