Ryan's deep bond with Special Olympics

posted Mar 20, 2015, 7:28 AM by Stacey McKeown   [ updated May 12, 2015, 10:04 AM ]

FIRST POSTED: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 2015 07:09 PM EDT | UPDATED: THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2015 08:14 AM EDT

For 513 regular-season games, which have included 187 goals and 199 assists, Bobby Ryan has been enjoying the ride.

The Senators winger loves what he does -- having professional hockey player on his resume is a dream come true.

But through his on-ice successes, it's hard to imagine him cracking any bigger smiles than the wide grins that, one day after his 28th birthday, filled his face on Wednesday afternoon in a gym at Ottawa Police headquarters on Elgin St.

Ryan was captaining two teams of Special Olympians against a team of police services competitors.

For Ryan, it was two mini games, two wins. For a guy who makes a living playing among the best hockey players in the world, this day meant a lot to him.

It wasn't the Stanley Cup he hopes to one day clutch, but it's these kind of things that keep Bobby Ryan's world going around.

"There are no words to describe the feeling," said Ryan, who a few moments earlier had been named the honourary ambassador for the Ontario Special Olympics provincial floor hockey championships May 7-10 in Ottawa.

"It's thrilling. I can relate, I know what it's like to score goals. To these guys, there are no bigger goals than the ones they're scoring today. You saw the way they celebrated. To be part of it and to watch them share in that joy is incredible."

Ryan is a natural spokesman for Special Olympics which is all about heart.

Said Ryan: "We scored a big goal out there today and one of the kids said, 'I had a lot to do with that.' He was standing with me 50 feet away. It was fun to see him react like that and enjoy himself. For me to come out and take time away from the two-points-on-the-line-every-night kind of feeling, it's incredibly rewarding.

"It's no different than finding a pond and you're the only one on it with a net and a bucket of pucks. It's just one of those feelings; playing hockey with these guys feels that way. It takes you back when hockey didn't mean anything, when you were just out there to have fun."

Ryan isn't just blowing smoke. He's had an attachment to Special Olympians since he was a kid playing junior hockey in Owen Sound.

"When you're playing junior hockey, a certain number of public appearances are expected of you," said Ryan.

"You're 16 and you kind of take it for granted. I started to volunteer a little more. It was always ball hockey or floor hockey in a gym like this.

"You don't know the impact it has until you see it and you're part of it. Now, I'm in the NHL, but even then, when I was playing junior hockey, they were happy playing with a guy who played for the Owen Sound Attack. For me to give an hour of my day, to witness the impact of that is one of those feelings you can't describe."

His involvement with Special Olympics continued in the NHL when he was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks and he's happy to get another opportunity.

"I was hesitant last year, we weren't sure how the circumstances were going to play out," said Ryan, who in October agreed to a seven-year, 50.75-million contract to remain in Ottawa.

"Ottawa's home for us for the next seven years. I certainly wanted to be involved. I got to know Chief (Charles) Bordeleau at the Sens Soiree, we sat together. When he asked, it was a very easy event to put my name on and be part of. It's exciting that of all the people he could have asked to get involved that he asked me."

"When you're an athlete and in a sense somebody that people look up to, you have an obligation in the community to be a leader."

Twitter: @timcbaine
s

Comments