Just over a week ago Bobby Ryan returned to the Ottawa Senators' facilities and faced media questions over his extended absence. Ryan entered the NHL/NHL Players Association assistance program on November 20th for alcohol addiction. One of the questions Ryan was asked was what he thought the feeling would be when he scored his next goal. His response was it would act as a reset button to prove he can still play and contribute to a team. I don't think Ryan had any idea what was in store for him in just a few days.
For those who don't know Ryan had a challenging childhood, to put it mildly. His father was arrested for attempted murder after beating his mother in a drunken rage and then jumped bail fleeing to Canada. The family reconciled and soon reunited in Canada where they lived on the run using false identities. Eventually, the family moved to California where they changed their last name from Stevenson to Ryan after watching the movie Saving Private Ryan. Ryan’s father was later caught by US marshals and was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated assault.
Bobby was the number two overall pick back in 2005 and it did not take long for him to blossom into one of the leagues brightest stars. He first got to the NHL in the 2007-08 season playing in 23 games and scored 10 points. The following season was when he really announced his presence to the league. In the 2008-09 season Ryan would play 64 games, scoring 57 points and 31 goals. This was the first of four consecutive 30 goal seasons for Ryan, and it looked like the sky was the limit. On July 5th, 2013 Ryan was traded to the Ottawa Senators and since then has not scored more than 23 goals in a season.
During the media session, Ryan admits his alcohol abuse has been a problem for years. Ryan also doesn't blame his past for his problems, but does acknowledge that he never properly moved passed it. For a long time he tried to get through everything on his own. Bobby sited the stigma around asking for help and the unwanted media attention it would bring to him and his family as some reasons it took so long. Ryan talked about doing good for two or three weeks, then having as he put it a really bad day. Eventually, Ryan just didn't see a way that this would end positively with him just doing it on his own and asking for help was his only option.
After not seeing game action for over three months Ryan was back in the lineup for the Senators, playing in his first home game and second game back since he entered treatment. The Thursday night game will be one that Ryan remembers for the rest of his life. The Senators were playing the Vancouver Canucks, and it would not take long for Ryan to start feeling some magic. With just under eight minutes gone in the first Ryan tipped home a point shot from Zaitsev for his first of the game and only his second on the year. With the Senators leading just 3-2 in the final two minutes Ryan would strike again. A pass from behind the net would hit Ryan as he skated into the right dot, and flashing some vintage sniping ability he picked the top corner over the goalie's shoulder. Just 20 seconds later with Vancouver's goalie pulled Ryan would pot an empt-net goal completing his first hat trick since December 29th, 2014. Quite the homecoming after such a difficult season so far.
Ryan still has two years left on his contract with a cap hit of $7.25 Million. Now finally free from his demons and feeling better than he has in years he might just be able to play up to that lofty value. I'm not saying Ryan will put the league on notice scoring a crazy amount of goals to end the season, but he does have an immense amount of ability. Over the last few years Ryan has struggled with some injuries, and maybe this new lease on life helps him recapture some of his old magic and he can be a 30 goal scorer again. Even if he isn't the same player he once was, Ryan is just happy to be back playing the game he loves, and will continue to serve as an inspiration to anyone going through something in their lives. Instead of the usual ending line let me just say if anyone reading this is going through something, please take some inspiration from this story. No matter what you fear will happen, ask for help. You don't have to go through things on your own and asking for help is the first step in truly beginning to make it out the other side.
Featured image courtesy of Marc Desrosiers USA Today Sports