Mike Van Ryn stepped into a hallway at IncredibleIce, looked down at his hands, and slowly twisted his wrists back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…
“It’s really nice to have two wrists back in working order,” he said.
For the past two seasons, Van Ryn has played 158 games for the Panthers despite pain in one or both of his wrists. First right. Then left. One operation. Two operation. It wasn’t unusual to see Van Ryn sitting in the locker room after games with ice bags on both wrists.
“It was a mental battle,” said Van Ryn after participating in an on-ice practice with a dozen other Panthers. “It was a physical battle.”
But as the Panthers prepare to gather Sept. 12 for the official start of training camp, Van Ryn is looking forward to a season without pain after having surgeries over the off-season on both wrists.
The result of the surgeries: “My left wrist feels great,” Van Ryn said. And even though there’s some stiffness in his right wrist, “it’s 30 times better than what it was.”
Van Ryn, acquired from St. Louis in 2003 for Val Bure, had a career-high 13 goals (six on the power play) in his first season for the Panthers. But it was no secret the past two years Van Ryn was hurting. He had surgery on his right wrist after the 2005-06 season, but more work needed to be done.
“I think it’s something that happens over time, things just kind of wore down,” said the Byron, Ontario native. “It’s tendon and ligament repair. It’s fairly common. They try to tighten everything out and even everything up.
“The right (wrist) I had redone and kind of corrected. The first surgery didn’t seem to work out. My left (wrist) I had problems with last year. That was the new one.”
Van Ryn doesn’t know the extent the injuries were a detriment to his game. “I mean, definitely, I couldn’t shoot the puck nearly like I used to,” he said. “It’s been two years since I’ve really had any kind of shot. When it’s your lower hand, it takes a beating.”
“It might have been more of a mental thing, too,” he added. “But I don’t think I was as good in my own end because I couldn’t seem to contain guys and push on guys as hard as I wanted to. It had also been a whole year since I’d lifted any (for the) upper body, too. It wasn’t like I was getting strength training.”
After having surgery after the season, Van Ryn mended while spending time on his small horse farm west of Fort Lauderdale. With casts on both hands, Van Ryn took care of the seven horses on the property, including one he and his wife rescued.
“That was something we really enjoyed, giving a horse a better home and letting it live the kind of life it should,” Van Ryn said. “My wife (Amber) and I really enjoy being around the horses and it was great being around them this summer.”
While looking after the horses, Van Ryn was spending every day working out in attempt to get stronger.
“This summer we would tape (the wrists) up every day and we did as much as we could,” he said. “I gained a lot of strength. I’m sure it’s something (strength and conditioning coach) Andy O’Brien and I will be working on throughout the year. It’s something I struggled with last year.
“But I know just from when we started putting the skates on (in late August) to now, my shot has already improved. It’s not where it used to be, but I think by the time training camp is done it will be fine.”
GM and coach Jacques Martin is happy with Van Ryn’s progress.
“Mike and I spoke over the weekend and he feels good, actually better than before,” Martin said. “He’s ready to compete hard and have a good season. The fact he had surgery, and he’s healthy, means we’re looking for big things from him.”
And Van Ryn is ready to deliver.
“I’m excited, not just personally but how the team has gotten better,” he said. “We think we can do a lot of damage this year and we’re all looking forward to it.”CLICK HERE
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