OTTAWA - The Ottawa chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) has announced the selection of Senators forward Bobby Ryan as the team's nominee for the 2019-20 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
A native of Cherry Hill, N.J., Ryan played 24 games in 2019-20, which saw him record the 250th goal of his NHL career in the team's season-opener in Toronto on Oct. 2. On Nov. 20, he took a leave from the team to take part in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, returning to the team on Feb. 25.
From the Ottawa chapter of PHWA's biography of Bobby Ryan's 2019-20 season:
Bobby Ryan's road to the National Hockey League wasn't easy and there were hurdles along the way.
This season, presented one of the biggest challenges of his career.
On Nov. 20, just before a game against the Montreal Canadiens, the NHL and the NHL Players' Association announced the 33-year-old Ryan would be away from the team while taking part in the "NHL/NHLPA player assistance program."
Anybody who has met Ryan likes him immediately. He's smart, he's honest, he's personable and he's deserving of consideration for the Masterton Trophy as the Ottawa Senators' nominee in voting by the local chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.
After hitting rock-bottom, Ryan decided it was time to get help for his alcohol addiction and after he came back to the team he told his story publicly because he thought it may help others who were struggling in life. He spoke from the heart and he told his story about how his life had spiralled downhill He didn't just do this for himself, he took this step for his wife Danielle and the couple's two young children.
"It's been tough. It's gotten a little easier every day as you get a little more integrated, just being around the guys," Ryan said on Feb. 21. "The first month was very tough, and then you come back and you're very isolated with what you're doing and trying to make the baby steps to come back. You're going through the protocol, but you're not around the guys.
"Thankfully for me, I got the other affairs in order and I was able to come to the rink and get a little bit better and a little bit stronger every day. The guys have been great. Away from the rink, my wife (Danielle) has been an absolute rock star, allowing me to do this. She's taken on more than she's probably had to, but she's been absolutely incredible."
Ryan was at the point where his life was out of control and he had to make this step if he was going to have any chance at recovery."
"It's something I've been battling for a while. I've tried on my own and I was already getting help for it," Ryan said. "What I was doing wasn't enough, I was trying white knuckle things and do things the wrong way and I'd have 20 days of nothing and one really bad one and you just can't get better without it.
"There's such a stigma around asking for help, and just trying to do it. I've done that for a long time and finally, I guess you could call it a panic attack, but it was more of a realization that the route I was going had no good end in sight. That's not just professionally, but personally.
"I didn't want to continue to do that. I had a lot of times when I woke up in the morning just over-ridden with guilt and shame and saying I would do something. I'd do it for 12 days then I'd be messing up again. It wasn't going to lead … it had no good end."
Less than a week later, Ryan made a triumphant return with a hat-trick and cried tears of joy in a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at home as the crowd at the Canadian Tire Centre chanted "Bobbee, Bobbee, Bobbee." It was a moment no one will soon forget.
"I knew Ottawa, being the community that it is, that the reception would be good," said Ryan. "It just got harder to keep the emotions down throughout the game. It was incredible how they supported me. And I guess to contribute. I mean, you can't write that, the way that went. It was just an incredible evening. So thank you to all of them."
The story of his upbringing has been well documented. Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks No. 2 overall in 2005, Bobby Ryan was born with the name Bobby Stevenson. In 1997, the family left its Cherry Hill, N.J., home after his father Shane Ryan skipped bail and moved to El Segundo, Calif.
Ryan and his late mother Melody followed. The family started a new life with a new identity until Shane Ryan was arrested in 2000. After losing Melody to cancer in July, 2016, Ryan wrote a heartfelt letter to his mother in The Players' Tribune.
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the PHWA and is given to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Goaltender Craig Anderson was the first recipient of the award in Senators history following the 2016-17 NHL season.
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