Bobby Ryan’s performance in a game last February is more than just the highlight of the Ottawa Senators’ weird, abbreviated 2019-20 season. It’ll be remembered as one of the best moments in franchise history. Ryan was named the first star in a 5-2 win over Vancouver, but no one was overly focused on the on-ice battle that night. What made the evening special was seeing Ryan conclude his battle with alcohol abuse. His stint in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program had just ended and, in his first home game in over three months, Ryan scored three goals, loudly signaling a return to a life back on track.
On Monday, Ryan’s marvelous comeback story earned him the NHL’s Masterton Trophy. The honour goes to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Right after winning the well-deserved award, a little more of that Ryan perseverance was required. They had a power outage at his summer getaway in Idaho, so the Sens winger had to drive 40 minutes to a sports pub where he was able to connect and hold court with the media online.
“I know that it’s something that I cherish,” Ryan told reporters. “It’s something that I really have to thank people for recognizing that I came out the other side ahead of a battle that has been plaguing me for a while. It means a lot to me but I hope it means more to my wife because she put so much aside to get me here.”
Ryan spoke highly of his two equally worthy Masterton candidates: Philadelphia Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom and Dallas Stars defenseman Stephen Johns. Lindblom underwent months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with a form of bone cancer last December. Johns missed 22 months because of post-traumatic headaches that may have been concussion-related. Remarkably, each of them was able to battle back and return to briefly see action in these playoffs.
Craig Anderson is the only other Ottawa Senator to ever win the award. Anderson was honoured in 2017 after helping the Sens get to within one goal of the Stanley Cup Final. The veteran goaltender left the club in mid-season that year to be with his wife, Nicholle, who was diagnosed with cancer.
Ryan couldn’t say enough about the support of his wife, Danielle. “I told my wife that five years ago, because of her, I could feel myself and see myself becoming the man I wanted to be,” Ryan told NHL.com. “I took a detour, but I’m back. I’m back and I’m trying to get better every day.”