PHILADELPHIA -- Cross-country road trips generally aren't the most fun things a hockey player has to do, but this trip east for the Anaheim Ducks
is one right wing Bobby Ryan
has been looking forward to for a long time.
Ryan was born and spent most of his childhood in suburban Cherry Hill, N.J., about 20 minutes east of the South Philadelphia sports complex where the Wachovia Center is located. His family still resides in the area, as do a number of friends.
"I'm up over 150 (ticket requests) right now," Ryan told NHL.com following Saturday's morning skate. "Mom, dad, extended family, lots of friends are coming up. It's a nice Saturday night."
It's been a bit of an extended homecoming for Ryan, his first trip to the area as an NHL player. The club got in Thursday night from Boston, so Ryan has had some time to visit all his old favorite places.
"Got to make some of the old stops," he said. "Met my family for dinner. We went to the house. It's nice to come back and pet my dog and do all that kind of stuff, eat at some of the same old stops. I've been looking forward to this trip."
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
isn't worried about having to keep the 22-year-old focused.
"I think it's always special when you're able to play in your hometown, in front of your friends and members of family," said Carlyle. "I don't think you ever really lose that. I think at times in younger players if they've never been here before, or if they haven't experienced their first time around the NHL, it might have some effect. We try to talk to the players, say you have to put everything aside, you go in and just play. Is it any different then him playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year? No, it's not. It shouldn't have any significance other than hopefully it's a motivation that he wants to play well in front of his family and friends."
Ryan had a breakout season in 2008-09, his first extended NHL action. Playing on Ducks' top line with Ryan Getzlaf
and Corey Perry
, he had 31 goals in just 64 games and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy. The second pick of the 2005 Entry Draft, the 6-foot-2, 208-pounder looks to be just getting warmed up this season. He was scoreless and a minus-3 in his first two games, but notched his first goal and was a plus-2 in Thursday's 6-1 win in Boston.
"It wasn't the best start for me or the team, but it's coming around," Ryan told the Courier-Post. "I was holding the stick a little too tight, so I just needed to go back to the basics of forechecking, backchecking and let the goals come."
Ryan grew up a Flyers fan and his early hockey heroes were former Flyers stars Pelle Eklund, Rick Tocchet
and Eric Lindros
. Now, though, he's hoping to beat the team he grew up loving, in a building he used to sit in the stands and watch as a fan.
"Part of becoming a professional is being able to put all that kind of stuff behind you and just going out there and playing 60 minutes," Ryan told NHL.com. "I've gotten it out of my system once, they were in Anaheim (Jan. 2, 2009). Playing against the crest was a little weird the first time. This time I'll go out and treat it like any other game."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.