Bobby Ryan is an inspiring human being. With respect to Bill Masterton, if the National Hockey League and it’s Hall of Fame were ever to rename that trophy – it would become the Bobby Ryan. While the award represents “perseverance and dedication to hockey,” Ryan has lived the spirit for longer than understood.
Not taking a shot at any of the other nominees, but Bobby Ryan deserves this trophy. We are experiencing a social movement, and even hockey culture is along for the ride. Ryan’s perseverance through the worst of abuse and toxic parenting, and his willingness to be a positive example, are one of the greatest stories we don’t understand.
If you’re not familiar, long before becoming a hockey player Ryan grew up in an environment nobody should experience. His father was charged with attempted murder against Ryan’s mother and then fled to Canada. (The full story was wonderfully covered by Gary Joyce for Sportsnet) That was when Bobby was 10 years old. That he and his family were able to move past that is itself a huge thing, but not Ryan’s full story.
Perseverance and Dedication To Hockey
Becoming Bobby Ryan
Many fans are aware of Ryan’s story after the point of his name change, from Stephenson to Ryan. He overcame his family tragedy and developed into a top hockey prospect. He was eventually drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, second overall in 2005, and traded to the Ottawa Senators soon after. It was a major addition for the Senators who were in the midst of a rebuild. In return, they dealt Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first-round pick (Nick Ritchie) to Anaheim.
While his days as a surefire 30-goal-scorer ended earlier than preferable, he has been a staple in Ottawa since the trade. The 15 points in 19 games he put up in the magical 2016-17 surprise playoff run was essential for that team. That entire run seemingly came out of nowhere. Watching Ryan and the rest of the team was one of the few highlights for Sens fans this past era. Yet, fans still didn’t know what was going on.
Being the Leader
To fans, it seemed to come out of nowhere. Suddenly, Bobby Ryan was publicly discussing his battle with alcohol abuse, and mental health. Many discuss wanting to end stigma. Bobby Ryan has been doing it, leading the way. (Ian Mendes has a great article in which Ryan discusses addictions and his road to recovery.) Very publicly, he explained what was happening and how it felt. He discussed a panic attack like feeling and being caught in a cycle. He left the rink, and the way he did so will hopefully make it easier for others in the future to get healthy.
Fans weren’t certain what to expect when he came back, particularly this year when the team was simply awful. It was wonderful to see him back, but having watched Sens hockey this year fans weren’t primed for something wonderful: Bobby Ryan coming back and scoring a hat-trick in his first game back, on February 27th (right before the world stopped for Covid).
Ryan’s hat-trick game was probably the greatest Senators moment this year. A dramatic comeback perhaps he didn’t even inspect. He truly deserved the moment, and him fighting back tears after his third is am image embedded in many sens fans names. Still, that was just one game and one nice moment.
The 2020 Bill Masterton Winner
Having not nominated anyone who was arrested for this award, the winner won’t be controversial. Still, Bobby Ryan is the only right answer. He has lived as the embodiment of “perseverance and dedication to hockey”. Many have not been able to overcome the obstacles he has. That he has done so with such class has been a benefit to more than just the hockey community. He has been a tremendous leader in the sport where people tend to be shy. NHLers aren’t often great personalities. (Jonathan Toews could talk paint dry in the rain). They also don’t tend to be leaders in the social or political areas of fans’ lives. Bobby Ryan, however, has used his own struggles to help others. He also happens to be a terrific hockey player.
Bobby Ryan: give him the Masterton.