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Wilson Made The Right Choice

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
One of the Avalanche’s big hitters nearly became a big hitter in a completely different sport.

Ryan Wilson, whose crushing open-ice hits have become a staple on Colorado’s blue line, nearly ended up wielding a baseball bat instead of a hockey stick.

“Growing up my favorite sport was definitely baseball,” said Wilson. “I think I was a good player and I loved the sport.”

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Like many professional athletes, Wilson excelled in more than one sport during his adolescent years. Now a rookie defenseman with the Avalanche, he split his time between the ice rink and the baseball diamond while growing up in Ontario.

A middle infielder, Wilson was just as solid on the field as he was on the ice, but was eventually forced to make a decision between the two sports he loved. When that time came, he ultimately chose to play junior hockey for the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors of the Ontario Hockey League.

“The baseball team was kind of pushing me to give up hockey and start focusing on baseball,” said Wilson. “It was the same with hockey. They were trying to get me to start skating a little bit more in the summer. Ultimately, I chose hockey, which probably ended up being the right choice.”

Avalanche fans are probably thankful that Wilson – then at the tender age of 16 – made the decision to stick to the ice. Acquired by the Avalanche at the 2009 trade deadline from Calgary, he has been a revelation during his rookie campaign.

Colorado entered the 2009-10 season with impressive depth along its blue line, but the club was hit by the injury bug early in the season. As it runs out, all Wilson needed to prove he belonged in the NHL was one opportunity. After beginning the season with the American Hockey League’s Lake Erie Monsters, Wilson was recalled on Oct. 12 to fill the injury void and has been with the big club ever since.

Now a fixture in the Avalanche’s lineup, the Windsor native is tied for first among rookie defensemen with a +11 plus/minus rating and ranks sixth among first-year blueliners with 17 points (3g/14a) in 53 contests – all while bringing an element of physicality to Colorado’s defensive corps.

Never afraid to play the body, the 23-year-old is currently third among Avalanche defensemen with 77 hits while averaging over 16 minutes of ice time per game.

Not bad for a kid who almost ended up wearing a baseball mitt instead of hockey gloves.

For Wilson, choosing between his two passions essentially boiled down to the pace of the game. While he says he still enjoys baseball, he’d much rather be preparing for his next shift on the bench than sitting in the dugout for half the game.

“I like how you’re always involved in hockey and it’s really fast-paced,” said Wilson. “In hockey you always have to be moving your feet and getting into different positions. It’s always something different and that's why I love it.”
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