Mike Van Ryn has lived a career chock full of ups and downs. A London native, Van Ryn has played beside Chris Pronger, endured the humiliation of Canada’s 8th place finish in the 1998 World Juniors and married a Miami Dolphins cheerleader.
Mapleleafs.com’s Mike Ulmer caught up with the 29-year-old who was traded on Tuesday for veteran defenceman Bryan McCabe.Ulmer:
You grew up in London. Does that mean you are a Leafs’ fan?Van Ryn:
Our house was kind of split. London is right in between Toronto and Detroit. I was a Wayne Gretzky fan. Obviously, we didn’t miss a game on television.
I never had any bad blood with the Leafs; I always wanted the team to do well.Ulmer:
You were involved in one of the lowest points in Canadian hockey when we finished eighth in Helsinki in 1998.Van Ryn:
Oh, I don’t even want to talk about that. It was bad. It was a hard thing to handle especially when we were so highly-touted. I didn’t play very much. I don’t even like to think about it any more. I remember getting home and getting a call from the local radio station at a ridiculous hour and they basically were laughing at us. It actually fuelled us for the next year and we won.Ulmer:
What was your welcome to the NHL moment?Van Ryn:
My first game, it was against Phoenix. The first period, I played really well and I was happy. The second period, there was a breakout play and we got scored against and I was minus one. Then we got scored against and I was minus two. I didn’t see too much of the ice anymore until the next time I got called up.Ulmer:
How do you explain to your wife Amber, who is from South Florida, how different it is to play hockey in Toronto?Van Ryn:
You’ve got to remember that half my family is Canadian. Every time they see her they’re telling her it’s different. Not to knock my old team but when they come to Florida, we only have three or four guys covering the team and people come to the game because it’s something to do. They have die-hard fans but definitely not like all of Canada. She is well aware of it. She knows how it is. To tell you the truth, she always wanted to see me play in a big market. It’s kind of ironic.Ulmer:
Tell me about judging Miami Dolphin cheerleaders.Van Ryn:
I actually got to help judge the team. My wife was a co-captain for a few years and she is god-parents with the director of the Dolphin’s cheerleaders. It’s neat getting to judge them but at the end I don’t like having that many girls mad at me. It’s kind of intimidating. I try to sneak out right after I hand in my score card.Ulmer:
What did playing with Chris Pronger in St. Louis teach you?Van Ryn:
A lot of patience. Honestly, it’s so simple but communication was what I learned from Chris. It goes a long way, especially when I was a young guy. The game is so fast and coming out of the AHL and juniors and to have someone like that helping you and being an extra set of eyes really helped me. It’s kind of something I’ve tried to carry on with my teammates. He worked really hard on getting better and he was really a student of the game. When he got scored against, he always wanted to analyze what went wrong.Ulmer:
Tell me about your wrists.Van Ryn:
I have had one surgery on one and three on the other one. My left one was really minor. My right one, the last guy did a phenomenal job and I finally took the proper recovery time. I really feel great on the ice right now. I’m looking to build and improve on where I was.