On April 20 -- a day before he would attend the first Stanley Cup Playoff game in Columbus Blue Jackets history -- Salmons allowed me into his home to conduct a one-on-one interview. He shared with me some of his most treasured possessions, including an autographed photo with Wayne Gretzky and another that depicts his exhilaration after signing a one-day NHL contract offered to him by Columbus General Manager Scott Howson on March 25.
"Ryan was a very special and courageous young man and our deepest sympathies go out to his father, Brad, stepmother Susan, and all his family and friends," Howson said on bluejackets.com. "Ryan made a significant impact on the lives of many people in his 19 years and he will be missed by all of us at the Blue Jackets. Not only have we lost a fan, but we've lost a friend."
Salmons had a chance to live out a dream when he watched the Blue Jackets play their first home playoff game in franchise history from Section 103.
The one thing Brad Salmons was most proud of during his son's ordeal was the fact he is now regarded as "Ryan's dad" when, six months ago, Ryan was referred to as "Brad's son."
Brad Salmons posted a statement on www.TeamSalmons.com that reads:
"Over the past year, Ryan has fought with perseverance and grace. Many times when he could have been bitter and angry, Ryan carried himself with class and dignity. Ryan was the epitome of courage and strength.
"People live a various number of years. Some live to be a hundred, some in their 50s and 60s. I truly believe that only the good die young. My son Ryan was GREAT! Over the past year he has touch thousands of lives, many people he never met or knew. We would talk about making a difference and it is not the quantity of time but what you do with the time you have. Ryan could not understand why people's lives changed because of him. He just continued to fight his battle. I tried to help him understand it is not the fight, but how you are fighting the fight. He just told me that he may never understand why people admire him.
"Throughout the journey, Ryan continued to want to do for others. He became friends with younger patients and treated them like family. Even when the Blue Jackets signed him to a contract, he turned it into how he could help push the team to the playoffs. It was not about him. That was Ryan's spirit. That is who he was.
"I am proud to be his father, friend, and have been blessed by having him in my life. Ryan, I love you with all my heart and look forward to seeing you again one day in heaven."
The most touching part of the interview with Ryan was his response to my question regarding his relationship with his father despite being bedridden for one whole year. Don't forget, even before being diagnosed with the terminal cancer, Salmons was quite the hockey player at Hilliard Davidson High School.
"This last year has been amazing and phenomenal for me and my dad," Salmons told me with a bright smile. "It's brought us together; we're inseparable. Granted, we're not doing the things that a father and son would normally do, like play a round of golf or go on vacation, but this last year has been one of the better years of our lives just because how close we are together."
There's no question the loss of Ryan Salmons will be felt not only by fans and friends of the Columbus Jackets, but throughout the NHL.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.