One of the feel-good stories of the Ottawa Senators recent campaign, Bobby Ryan is recognized for his perseverance
“The National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey”, the definition of the award truly encapsulates Bobby Ryan and his fight with alcoholism.
On November 20th, Ryan took a leave of absence to start with the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, while outsiders didn’t know what Ryan was struggling with, it was severe enough for him to warrant entrance into the program. When the well-liked forward came close to a return near the end of February, he opened up about his troubles to the media.
Like many who struggle with mental health issues, whether addiction based or not, they try to fix themselves alone and that’s never the answer:
“It’s something I’ve been battling for a while,” he said. “I’ve tried on my own and I was already getting help for it. What I was doing wasn’t enough. I was trying to white-knuckle things and trying to do things the wrong way.”
Ryan didn’t have an easy upbringing as his father (Bob Stevenson) was a fugitive who was on the run while Bobby was just a young kid. Stevenson was charged with three major crimes including the attempted murder of Bobby’s mother Melody. The full story can be found here, in “The Secret Life of Bobby Ryan”. There aren’t many kids who would make it out of that situation with a good head on their shoulders, Ryan was a resounding outlier as he became a 2nd Overall Pick in the NHL and became a star. It never got easier for Ryan as his mother passed away from cancer in the summer of 2016, he’s had plenty of bumps along the road. The accumulation of all those events would eventually catch up with Ryan and who could blame him.
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There’s no telling how long Ryan has been battling alcoholism but it had been prudent in his life for what seems to be a while and at one point he came to a realization that he needed to branch out for help.
Ryan left Senators practice on November 18th when he had a self-proclaimed “panic attack” that was a wakeup call for him to seek help. Just two days later Ryan would enter the assistance program set up by the league. Then began a near three month hiatus where the Senators forward received valuable help.
After finally coming out about his problem, Ryan must have felt a load come off his shoulders as he dreaded the inevitable day that he would have to open up, but it was a necessary step for his recovery. An emotional and well stated Ryan was one of the better press conferences you will watch.
Then absolute pandamonium hit when he returned for his first game at the Canadian Tire Centre, Ryan recorded a hat trick in a Senators 5-2 win and one of the more emotional games the whole NHL season.
With his family in the stands, Ryan couldn’t have drawn up a better return to Ottawa if he had tried. The emotion was felt throughout the whole arena as chants of “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby …” rang throughout the Canadian Tire Centre. Watching Ryan tear up on the bench while the fans chanted his name was the bright spot of the Senators season.
A truly amazing example of courage and perseverance by the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy recipient and a person we should all be proud in calling an Ottawa Senator.