Those who are familiar with Bobby Ryan’s childhood story are aware of the incredible challenges he overcame in order to make it to the NHL.
Bobby Ryan had enormous shoes to fill here in Ottawa, being acquired the same day the Senators saw Daniel Alfredson sign with the Red Wings. While no player could ever fill the void that Alfredsson left in this city, Bobby Ryan began to carve out his own legacy, as the team slowly began to embody the same resilience and determination to overcome the odds that a young Bobby Ryan showed as a child growing up.
No one expected the Senators to make the playoffs in 2014-2015 but they did so, beating the odds by going on the most magical regular season run in team history.
No one expected the Senators to have any success in the 2017 playoffs. They did, they beat the odds came within a goal of the Stanley Cup Final.
Later in his career, Bobby faced perhaps his most difficult opponent in his struggles with addiction. But like he’d done so many times before, Bobby faced this challenge with the same commitment and determination he’d shown on the ice.
The result? One of the most memorable moments in franchise history; the night Bobby Ryan heroically returned to the Senators lineup to thunderous applause from a fanbase so very proud of him.
Bobby Ryan’s career as an Ottawa Senator was a very good one, but the impact that he had on this community, both on and off the ice leaves a legacy that will never be forgotten.
We caught up with Bobby to talk about his career, life after hockey, and his memories playing in the Nation’s Capital.
If you could go back in time to the day you were drafted, with the benefit of hindsight, what would you tell your younger self to prepare him for the journey ahead?
I think I’d have stressed to myself that slowing down your expectations is ok. Being a high pick means you expect to go right in and play. That wasn’t the case for me and I had to learn how to get there in my own time when I was ready for it all physically and mentally.
When you look back at your career, what accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
Looking back I’m most proud of representing the US in the Olympics. I remember as a kid watching Brett Hull and Mike Modano always wearing the jersey and hoped I was able to do it on an international level as well. It was a dream come true.
Tell us the greatest thing about being a dad and how has being a father changed you?
The best thing about being a dad is watching both Riley and Chase do something or learn something new. The light goes on and it’s just amazing to see that. I’ve learned mostly patience, I’m still getting better with it but I struggled a lot early on. Always a work in progress!
We’re doing an article on the 5 year anniversary of your 2017 run to the ECF – we’ve asked several of your teammates these questions:
Looking back, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of that 2017 playoff run?
The first thing that comes to mind is pride. We were not always the best team on paper, but we played for one another. We had a lot of pride in our system that was designed to wear teams down.
Can you describe to fans what it’s like playing in playoff OT, with so much on the line, what is that experience like as a player?
The playoff OT experience is something that’s hard to describe. You want to be aggressive but you have to pick your spots a little better and maybe edge to the D side of things. Things tighten up even more and it’s trying to find ways to push it north but being D minded. No one wants to make a big mistake.
How did that run bring you guys together as a team, do you feel closer to that group because of the experience? Is there any moment away from the ice with those guys that you’ll always cherish from those playoffs? What was it like playing in Ottawa during that run, being able to bring the city to life like that?
I think I cherish most the time away from the rink during the run. We had so much fun whether it was traveling or playing cards till 1am every night when we couldn’t sleep post game. The city itself I’ll never forget, it was electric and you could feel it walking around town, the building was buzzing, the people around the team had some excitement about it, all of that showed on the ice and we carried it.
What is one song, sound or place that always reminds you of those playoffs?
A couple songs bring me back immediately. Stole the show by Kygo is a big one. It came on last night while I was driving and I was right back in the locker room.
Tell us the first thing that comes to mind when we say these names:
Zack Smith: grit.
Erik Karlsson: dominant.
Marc Methot: steady.
JG Pageau: determined.
Chris Wideman: entertaining.
Mark Stone: consistent.
Clarke MacArthur: Battler.
Dion Phaneuf: passionate
You’re back active on social media and fans really enjoying interacting with you. What advice would you give to pro athletes today on social media?
I think the only thing I would tell guys is to take everything on there lightly. Maybe skip mentions from time-to-time. As good as it can be to interact with fans, trolls exist and they’re only there to boost themselves up by getting on athletes and celebrities. It’s not worth it to get upset over those people. Try to engage with the ones you know support you and your team.
If you could recommend a place to go or places to eat in Ottawa to a new player what would they be? What do you miss about living here?
So many great restaurants in Ottawa to pick from. Out in Kanata we loved Pocopazzo. Elsewhere Mati, EVOO, and Restaurant e18hteen were great as well.
During your time away from the team, you’ve described how the support of your teammates was overwhelming. How important was that support and the support of your family during your road to recovery?
The guys were great, I had plenty of them reaching out daily or every couple days checking in. It meant a lot they had my back, as well as the city of Ottawa. The outpouring from fans really made my transition back into hockey much easier. I’ll never forget it.
Tell us about your first game back at the CTC – what does that mean to you today when you look back on that?
My first game back the nerves were fried going in. I just wanted to have a good showing. Obviously, a hat trick wasn’t on my mind but I’m glad I got to share that as a stepping stone to the rest of my life with the city, and fans who supported me at my lowest.
What do you hope fans in Ottawa think when they think of Bobby Ryan the player and Bobby Ryan the person?
I hope fans think of the player as someone who was accountable. I tried to be upfront with my struggles on the ice at times, and tried to come to work every day and get better. As a person, I just have fond memories of our work with CHEO, and good memories of meeting my family and I in town.
What would you say is the key to happiness in life?
The key to happiness, when I let you know I’ll tell you. I think it’s sitting at home with my kids and watching them play knowing I’m doing things right by them and they’re being brought up the way I would like to think is correct. Outside of that, it’s probably an eagle putt on a par 5!