Over the years, there’s been a lot of discussion on this blog about Bobby Ryan. These discussions have intensified in the past week in light of Bobby’s comments to a New Jersey newspaper. His statements sparked a flurry of emotions and arguments from fans about why he should stay or go. There are credible, rational arguments about why he should be traded, and I believe there are also compelling arguments about why he should stay.
This post is not about any of those things.
As you probably know, I’m a huge Bobby Ryan fan. I love watching Bobby as a player. I adore him on and off the ice. If you’ve ever met him at a fan event, you know what I mean. When I think of the Ducks, I think of Bobby’s awkward gait and goofy expression. And the lisp. Who could ever forget horithontal?
For many of you, I’m sure that Bobby isn’t the first thing you think of when you talk about the Ducks. It’s probably Teemu Selanne or Paul Kariya. It could be Scott Niedermayer or Jean-Sebastien Giguere. I’m willing to bet that the player or players you most associate with are the stars that captured your interest when you first became a fan. That’s what happened with me and Bobby.
My first ever NHL experience was a game against the Flames in February of 2009. Before that, I had never really paid attention to the sport. I was vaguely aware of the Ducks winning the Cup in ’07, but aside from that, I didn’t know much. After that first game against Calgary, my wife and I fell in love with hockey. We gradually began to watch and attend more games as the Ducks made their push to the playoffs.
It was down that stretch that I first began to notice Bobby. He was playing with The Twins in those days, and was playing very well with them. As I started to discover hockey blogs, I saw article after article proclaiming Anaheim’s RPG line to be one of, if not, the best in hockey. And at that time, Bobby was (and still is) the flashy goal scorer. As someone who came primarily from sports like baseball and football, I didn’t care about assists. I cared about the goals. And Bobby clearly had a penchant for scoring them in memorable ways
Bobby played pretty well against the Sharks in the first round of the playoffs that year before an injury severely limited his effectiveness in the series against Detroit. That off-season, my wife and I decided to become season ticket holders and one of the first things we did was purchase Bobby Ryan jerseys.
Two of my fondest hockey memories involve Bobby. The first is his game-winning penalty shot against Jimmy Howard. I was at Honda Center for that game and the place came unglued when he scored. The second is his infamous playoff goal against Nashville. I was actually watching that game from a sports bar in Century City. I went completely nuts when he scored that goal. After the stomp incident, it seemed so vindicating to watch him pick off the puck, take it across the ice, and just amaze the hockey world. My favorite part about the clip is still the expression on his face after he pounds the glass. It’s almost like even he didn’t believe what he had just pulled off.
It's not just about hockey, though. A few years ago, when my wife and I found out that we were having a son, we knew we wanted to name him Trevor (after legendary Padres closer Trevor Hoffman) but we weren’t sure about the middle name. Rebecca sort of shyly suggested "Ryan" for Bobby and it just felt right. In 2010, we decided to hit the Olympics, and we settled on Team USA’s first game of the tournament against Switzerland. You may or may not remember that as the game Bobby opened the scoring for Team USA. As Ducks fans, our "Ryan 54" jerseys stood out like a sore thumb amongst the Parises, Millers, and Kanes. We even had people behind us asking who the hell "Ryan" was, and when Bobby scored against Jonas Hiller, we gleefully turned around and shouted "THAT GUY!!!!"
This past week has been extremely painful for me. As a rational person, I know that I’ve probably seen Bobby play his last game in a Ducks sweater. I have a burning hope that somehow he and the Ducks can work things out and that he can stay, but I also see the writing on the wall.
I just wanted to take this opportunity, while Bobby is still technically a Duck, to thank him for helping introduce me to this great sport and team. It’s completely possible that I wouldn’t have become a hockey fan had there not been a player that immediately fascinated me. I know he’s not the perfect player. There are things he could do better, but it’s difficult for me to envision watching the Ducks without Bobby, especially since he’ll end up on another team. It’s sort of how it felt when Trevor left to finish his career as a Brewer. It wasn’t technically necessary, but I understood why it happened.
Though I hold out hope that he’ll be a Duck when the season starts, I know that’s unlikely. It will hurt to see him go.