Drafted No. 2 by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2005 NHL Draft, Bobby Ryan played five seasons for the Anaheim Ducks before being traded this past summer to the Ottawa Senators. Ryan, 26, has endeared himself to his new teammates this season, totaling 22 goals and 45 points while playing solid defensively with a plus-9 rating. The New Jersey native talks about how he learned to play the game, his involvement in helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy and why proposing at the top of the Eiffel Tower was a necessity.
Kathryn Tappen: I heard you were quite busy during the Olympic break. Congratulations on your proposal to longtime girlfriend Danielle Rhodes.
Bobby Ryan: We did; we got engaged in Paris. It was pretty cool, so thank you.
KT: You do realize you’ve set the bar incredibly high for men everywhere by proposing atop the Eiffel Tower?
BR: I waited so long to propose I had to go all in, so that was my only choice.
KT: Did you coordinate your proposal with [former teammate] Cory Conacher?
BR: Yeah, we planned to do it the same day. We knew we were both trying to get it done over the break. They went to Turks and Caicos, and while we were on vacation we didn't want one of the girls to post the engagement pictures two days before the other one. We didn't want one girl to be upset while on vacation that the other one got engaged. We planned to propose on the same day and it actually worked out to be only a few hours apart so it was perfect.
KT: You grew up in southern New Jersey, in Cherry Hill. How did you get started playing hockey?
BR: It's odd. I got started after seeing the movie "The Mighty Ducks." It wasn't until I saw that movie that I really got interested in it. On top of that my mom took a job at a local ice rink so I was able to skate every day and had an opportunity that other kids just weren't able to do. That helped fuel my passion because I was there all day, every day. I fell in love with being at the rink.
KT: When did it become apparent that you had a real talent and could make something of yourself in this sport?
BR: It wasn't until years later when we moved to California. My last year living there when I was about 13, 14 years old, when I was getting ready for the [Ontario Hockey League] draft, we began to realize this could be something good. We weren't sure. I was a pretty good player in New Jersey and California, but until you get into a program like in Canada or Michigan, which we moved into for a year, is when you really get a feel for where this could lead. You're among many more players your age who are just as good, if not better, than you. Unfortunately it happened late for me, but still early enough for me to evolve into the type of player I've become.
KT: You've moved around quite a bit. Who was your idol growing up?
BR: It's funny; I was all over the map but I'm still to this day a diehard Flyers fan. It was always for me Pelle Eklund when I was really young. As I got older and started to understand the game a bit more it became Mike Modano and Brett Hull. Once I knew I wanted to become an NHL player and an American Olympian, those are the players I really watched. Mike Modano is the reason why I picked No. 9, and before that I was 16 for Brett Hull.
KT: Modano was my "Tapped In" column last week. Did you get to watch his jersey retirement ceremony at all?
BR: It's a small world. That's funny. I didn't see the ceremony live but I watched the highlights of it. My first game wearing No. 9 in the NHL was against him. They kept the number from me in Anaheim for a while, but then about 45 minutes before our game with Dallas they told me I was wearing it. I got to wear No. 9 playing against Mike Modano, which was a pretty surreal moment for me.
KT: Have you had the chance to get to know Mike through the years or pick his brain on hockey-related questions?
BR: We go back and forth on Twitter a bit. We talk mostly about golf and I got a chance to hang out with him a little bit at the Olympic evaluation camp back in 2009. I just wanted to get to know him. For me to put a person to this figure who was my hockey idol forever was very cool for me.
KT: You mentioned golf. I know that's one of your offseason hobbies at your home in Idaho, on the Wyoming border. How did you end up there for your offseason home?
BR: We are just across the border from Jackson Hole, Wyo. We got up there a few years ago and I had never had the opportunity to see a place like that before. It's a place where you can really disconnect and turn our minds off hockey for a while. That's what I love to do in the offseason. Nobody up there cares what you do or where you play as long as you can drop a line in the water on the river and do some fly fishing. That's all anybody wants to do there. It's a different experience and different place for me to live, which is what I love about the summers.
KT: After Hurricane Sandy devastated the region close to where you grew up you participated in "Operation Hat Trick," a charity hockey game in Atlantic City to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims. Why was that so important for you to do?
BR: I still have a lot of personal ties in New Jersey with my family all still back there. JVR [James van Riemsdyk] reached out to me right away. I had talked to a couple of people about trying to put something together, whether it be a concert or something else. We were going through the lockout, which in that sense, was a blessing in disguise because we were able to get that many guys of that caliber of hockey together to try and put these people's minds at ease and take them away from something terrible for about four hours. We got the ball rolling but the local residents took control of it. It was about giving back and understanding what these people were going through. Growing up 40 minutes from Atlantic City and going to the Jersey Shore as a kid, it was a devastating and emotional time seeing what happened there. For us, we knew friends who lost houses. Anybody can write a check; but to put something together of that magnitude and have all those players show up from all around the country meant more and showed that we cared more than just donating money and putting our names on something.
KT: What has been the biggest transition for you from Anaheim to Ottawa, and not the easy answer of the weather.
BR: [laughs] I was going to say, as I'm in my car and it is 10 degrees outside. I think the accountability is higher. If you're having a tough stretch in Anaheim people get distracted by the L.A. Lakers or whatever it might be, USC. I think for me, here in Ottawa, seeing yourself on TV every single day or going to a restaurant and TSN or Sportsnet is playing behind you, the anonymity factor of playing in a place like Anaheim is essentially lost. You have to take it in stride. I pick and choose where I want to eat dinner or be seen. That's been an adjustment for me.
KT: How do you spend your free time in Ottawa?
BR: We are still getting used to the area. For us, taking a walk around the city, discovering places to eat. This is my fiance's first winter so we've been to the touristy areas. We love having a hot chocolate, seeing the sites; it's something we really enjoy. We both fell in love with the downtown of Ottawa.
KT: It's her first winter?
KT: No wonder you proposed in Paris.
BR: [laughs] Yeah, I know.
KT: Who is the toughest person to play against in the NHL?
BR: Brooks Orpik. He can skate well but he moves around and is always in position. He always has a position on you. He doesn't get beat 1-on-1 too often. Tough guy to play against, that's for sure.
KT: Who is the best player to play with?
BR: I think [Ryan] Getzlaf. He makes the game easy on everyone around him. He will get a big head reading this but he's obviously one of the best passers in the League and I benefitted greatly from playing with him.
KT: Don't worry, we won't tell him you said that.
BR: [laughs] Sounds good.