During the rigours of an NHL season, many stories are told. We’re witness to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We also witness triumphs of the human spirit. One such story touched tugged at our heartstrings.
Senators’ forward Bobby Ryan started the campaign on the right foot, potting a goal in the league-opener in Toronto October 2. However, throughout the next 19 games, Ryan was inconsistent to the point, freshman head coach D.J. Smith designated the 13-year veteran a healthy scratch in four of them.
It wasn’t until November 20 when the hockey community found out Ryan may have been suffering an invisible pain. The 32-year old left the team suddenly to take part in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.
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Not only did Ryan return to the ice three months after tackling his alcohol issue head on, he notched a hat trick in his first game on home ice February 27 versus the Canucks. This amazing achievement brought out a roller coaster of emotions to the assembled crowd at the Canadian Tire Centre, and tears to the eyes of Ryan himself.
— NHL (@NHL) February 28, 2020
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The trophy honours the late Bill Masterton, the only NHL player to die from injuries sustained in a game.
In consideration of all the factors above, Bobby Ryan is the Ottawa Senators’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as voted by the Ottawa chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The following is an edited excerpt written on behalf of the PHWA by Ottawa chapter chair Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia:
Anybody who has met Ryan likes him immediately. He’s smart, he’s honest, he’s personable and he’s deserving of consideration for the Masterton Trophy as the Ottawa Senators’ nominee in voting by the local chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
After hitting rock-bottom, Ryan decided it was time to get help for his alcohol addiction and after he came back to the team he told his story publicly because he thought it may help others who were struggling in life. He spoke from the heart and he told his story about how his life had spiralled downhill He didn’t just do this for himself, he took this step for his wife Danielle and the couple’s two young children.
“It’s been tough. It’s gotten a little easier every day as you get a little more integrated, just being around the guys,” Ryan said on February 21. “The first month was very tough, and then you come back and you’re very isolated with what you’re doing and trying to make the baby steps to come back. You’re going through the protocol, but you’re not around the guys.”
“Thankfully for me, I got the other affairs in order and I was able to come to the rink and get a little bit better and a little bit stronger every day. The guys have been great. Away from the rink, my wife (Danielle) has been an absolute rock star, allowing me to do this. She’s taken on more than she’s probably had to, but she’s been absolutely incredible.”
Ryan was at the point where his life was out of control and he had to make this step if he was going to have any chance at recovery.”
“It’s something I’ve been battling for a while. I’ve tried on my own and I was already getting help for it,” Ryan said. “What I was doing wasn’t enough, I was trying white knuckle things and do things the wrong way and I’d have 20 days of nothing and one really bad one and you just can’t get better without it.”
“There’s such a stigma around asking for help, and just trying to do it. I’ve done that for a long time and finally, I guess you could call it a panic attack, but it was more of a realization that the route I was going had no good end in sight. That’s not just professionally, but personally.
“I didn’t want to continue to do that. I had a lot of times when I woke up in the morning just over-ridden with guilt and shame and saying I would do something. I’d do it for 12 days then I’d be messing up again. It wasn’t going to lead … it had no good end.”
Less than a week later, Ryan made a triumphant return with a hat-trick and cried tears of joy in a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at home as the crowd at the Canadian Tire Centre chanted “Bobbee, Bobbee, Bobbee.” It was a moment no one will soon forget.
“I knew Ottawa, being the community that it is, that the reception would be good,” said Ryan. “It just got harder to keep the emotions down throughout the game. It was incredible how they supported me. And I guess to contribute. I mean, you can’t write that, the way that went. It was just an incredible evening. So thank you to all of them.”
The story of his upbringing has been well documented. Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks No. 2 overall in 2005, Bobby Ryan was born with the name Bobby Stevenson. In 1997, the family left its Cherry Hill, N.J., home after his father, Shane Ryan skipped bail and moved to El Segundo, Calif..
Ryan and his late mother Melody followed. The family started a new life with a new identity until Shane Ryan was arrested in 2000. After losing Melody to cancer in July, 2016, Ryan wrote a heartfelt letter to his mother in The Players’ Tribune.
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