In praise of Bobby Ryan

In praise of Bobby Ryan
"The biggest thing is just his poise and his hands are unbelievable. I played with [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby, and those guys are probably the two best in the league. Bobby's hands are right with those guys... He's a superstar in the making, it seems."
---Ryan Whitney, former Ducks defenseman

Friday, April 30, 2010

Interview with Bobby Ryan (Part 2)

Welcome to Part Two of an exclusive interview with Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan. Click here for Part One of the interview, in case you missed it.

Ducks54: Do you and the guys enjoy the signs that fans bring to warmups?

Bobby: We love the signs people bring, especially the creative ones. We’ll acknowledge those and hassle teammates about them. It’s nice to know you have an effect on someone’s day, in whatever way.

Ducks54: Who is typically your roommate on the road? Do you have any crazy road roommate stories you can tell us?

Bobby: Last year it was George Parros. This year, it’s been a rotating system for me. I started off with Loops [Joffrey Lupul], but when he went down, I was with [Kyle] Chipchura, then [Matt] Beleskey, and then back to being with George. We’ve got the best room in the NHL! We have an ongoing wrestling match with Brooky [Sheldon Brookbank] and [Ryan] Getzlaf (they’re roommies) and that’s been in the process for over a year. I think we have the upperhand cuz George is always nice to have on your side during a fight!

Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan speak at the inauguration of the Corona Inline Rink February 16, 2009

Ducks54: I understand you play the guitar. Which songs/artists do you like to play, or do you write your own stuff?

Bobby: I picked up guitar in juniors and taught myself through books and online programs. I’ve only recently developed an “ear” for picking up tempos and chords in songs. I don’t write a whole bunch, I usually just try to stick with what’s catching my ear on the radio, and some classics. My favorites to play are Bob Seger, Pearl Jam, and a bit of Nickelback. I also like to play country if I’m hanging out alone or playing in front of people.

Ducks54: If you got stuck having to drive to a game in Phoenix with two of your teammates (that’s six hours of straight driving in the same car), who would your roadtrip buddies be and why?

Bobby: My two choices would probably be George [Parros], and either [Brett] Festerling or Boynts [Nick Boynton]. George has that upbeat style so he would provide the jokes. And I think Boynts and I would balance him out with our humble sarcasm. We’d be bringing him back into the car as he had his head out the window screaming the lyrics to John Michael Montgomery’s “I Swear” to passing cars. Fest would be my bubble choice because we’ve spent a lot of time together doubled up on the bus in the minors and had fun. But then again, he’s also a loud breather… and you remember how I feel about loud breathers!

Ducks54: Do you have a favorite charity that you would like to represent or be a spokesperson for?

Bobby: I did Points for Cancer years ago in juniors but haven’t picked it back up yet. Companies in Owen Sound donated money for every point I accumulated during the season and it all went to research in the area. I think if I did anything, it would be something along those lines.

Bobby Ryan generously donating his time to meet with fans for the 2nd Annual Joe DiPenta Lasagna Fundraiser on June 4, 2009

Ducks54: You recently bought a house in Newport. How is it being a homeowner in Southern California?

Bobby: I love Newport Beach, and being a homeowner is a lot of fun. The house was very bare all summer long, but it’s getting there. Luca [Sbisa] and I really did a good job of making it a bachelor pad, but Danielle moved in and put some touches on it to make it a “home.” We’ve really enjoyed the weather and the view. It’s been nice to sit on the patio and eat dinner. Big difference from Owen Sound or Maine, where you had to eat inside with a jacket on to keep warm.

Ducks54: If you weren’t a pro hockey player, what would you be doing for a living?

Bobby: I was always very interested in architecture. I loved designing how I’d wanted my home to be when I was 17, 18 years old. If hockey hadn’t panned out, I think I would have gone to school for a degree in that field.

Ducks54: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?

Bobby: I don’t anymore. I had a Siberian Husky named “Blades” but I moved out West and Mom ended up babysitting for three weeks. Now it’s turned into three years and he’s become a spoiled brat and Momma’s boy. So I let him stay home with my mom and enjoy the cold weather in New Jersey. I’m an animal person all around and love cats. We have looked into rescuing two recently. I think I will probably have them by months’ end if all goes well!

Ducks54: Who is your favorite current NHL player?

Bobby: Without a doubt, my favorite to watch play is [Pavel] Datsyuk. To me, his skill level is far ahead of anyone’s in the league. What he can do with the puck is incredible! If you haven’t seen his [breakaway] goal against Chicago, you should take a look...

Ducks54: What would you say are the advantages of playing hockey in a small hockey market like Southern California? How about the disadvantages?

Bobby: Like I said earlier, I think the advantages are that certain level of anonymity. You can do things without being in the media spotlight all the time. That being said, we draw great crowds anyway, so the games are always loud and the crowd is with you. I think a disadvantage might be that California has so many things to offer, it’s a bit easy to get sidetracked into the lifestyle. But we also have a coach who doesn’t take many days off, so he keeps us in check!

Bobby Ryan is, so far, the only American-born Duck to win an Olympic medal

Interview with Bobby Ryan (Part 1)

Earlier in the season, yours truly was blessed with the tremendous opportunity to ask Anaheim Ducks winger (and personal favorite) Bobby Ryan a few questions. Thanks to various Duck friends, fans, and Twitter pals who also submitted questions for me to ask Bobby. And, of course, very special thanks to Bobby for generously donating his time and patience.

This is Part One of a two-part interview in which Bobby shares all things hockey and non-hockey. Enjoy!

Ducks54: Do you have any pet peeves? And if so, give us a few examples.

Bobby: I have a million pet peeves, but the biggest one is loud chewing and breathing! There are minor ones like traffic and slow drivers in a passing lane. Those really set me off too!

Ducks54: Where do you see yourself five years from now? Would you still want to be with the Ducks?

Bobby: I still see myself in the NHL and hopefully competing for a Stanley Cup. I’d prefer to still be in Anaheim, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.

Focused on the game, Bobby Ryan listens to the coaching staff during a television time-out

Ducks54: Who in the NHL have you, or do you, measure yourself up against?

Bobby: I’ve always tried to compare myself to Todd Bertuzzi growing up, but I kind of like the Rick Nash comparison better. I think we’re both big guys who use our bodies to create room, and help stickhandle through traffic areas.

Ducks54: Who’s your favorite goalie to shoot against? Who’s your least favorite?

Bobby: I think my favorite is [Evgeni] Nabokov. He’s a great goalie, but I’ve had some success shooting on him in the past. Hopefully that stays true, because it’s always nice to score on the Sharks! My least favorite is Manny Legace. He’s impossible for me to score on.

Ducks54: How do you get so much elevation on your backhand?

Bobby: Backhands are really only mastered through practice and routine. I can give you one hint, it’s easiest to start with the puck in the middle of the blade, and roll it towards the front to get it up. Be careful not to roll your wrist too much. People tend to think it’s a very fragile shot, but the more power you put into the flicking motion, the more height you will get.

Bobby Ryan is named the 1st star of the game versus the St. Louis Blues, January 7, 2010

Ducks54: Have you seen any good movies lately?

Bobby: I don’t see many movies in theaters anymore, but I do love spending a night in to watch a movie. I was given Blind Side on DVD; that was a great story with good acting. I also really enjoyed Invictus with Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman.

Ducks54: What kind of music do you listen to?

Bobby: If you were to ask the guys, they would laugh because my music taste is considered off the wall. I try to throw a little bit of everything in there. Country, rock, and anything acoustic. I can’t stand rap music unless it’s right before a game. My favorite artists are Matt Nathanson and Ray Lamontagne, and I’m really liking the new Dashboard Confessionals CD.

Ducks54: What’s the hardest thing about being a pro hockey player?

Bobby: The travel and, for lack of a better word, the fame. The travel is tough on your body and can be mentally exhausting at times. And you’re away from the people you want to spend a lot of time with. The fame, if you can call it that, isn’t always fun. I’m a quiet and private person so I like to keep to myself. I don’t always enjoy hockey conversation once I leave the rink. But in California, you do get a certain level of anonymity that’s nice to have.

Matt Beleskey, John Ahlers, and Bobby Ryan answer questions from the audience during their Rinks appearance December 14, 2009

Ducks54: Who is your favorite team to play against, as far as getting a good, challenging game going?

Bobby: I think I’d have to say San Jose, because you know it’s always going to be a tough, tight checking game. The rivalry between us is so intense, it’s nice to have some bragging rights if you’re the team in the lead!

Ducks54: You changed your number from 54 to 9. Did you know about the franchise history with #9 (Paul Kariya) and was it a consideration when you made your number change?

Bobby: I think it was always assumed that I wanted number 9. I knew about Paul and what he did in Anaheim. I wasn’t really concerned with it. Before a game last year, Bob Murray came in and said, “You’re wearing nine tonight.” I just kind of said, “ok.” It’s nice to wear a number you’ve always worn, but at the same time, I was fine with 54 and would have kept that one if needed be.

Please stay tuned for Part Two of this interview, coming shortly!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Phoenix Coyotes season end

I'm sure I wasn't the only one feeling the heartache last night, as the Phoenix Coyotes fell in crushing defeat to the Detroit Red Wings. After their stunning win in Game 6, it seemed all the more likely that the desert dogs might just have a chance at beating the Wings in this series.

But inevitably, the Yotes were no match against a playoff-perennial like Detroit, who brought everything including the kitchen sink to Phoenix for a landslide 6-1 win. Key Red Wingers like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Niklas Lidstrom showed just why they are considered the best in the league.

Aside from Yotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who started the game off with some awesome saves, yours truly noted that the playoff-green Yotes looked tired and disjointed. Bryz couldn't keep up the acrobatics for a full 60 minutes without a team in front of him. Sitting out his fourth game since a shoulder dislocation, captain Shane Doan also had to watch his team crumble before him.

It was indeed a disappointing end to a fabulous Coyote season, but yours truly would like to remind the Phoenix Coyotes and their fans that they have every reason to be proud of what they managed to accomplish over the past seven months. Amidst ownership turmoil, coach resignations, and every hockey analyst pegging them for last place in 2009-10 season predictions, the Yotes were the Cinderella team.

I remember road-tripping to the opening season game, only to see the team get shutout by the Columbus Blue Jackets (who didn't make the playoffs). I couldn't even buy a Matthew Lombardi t-shirt at the team store because doubts about the team's residence in Phoenix kept merchandise orders on hold.

The small, diehard fanbase grew over a season which saw the Yotes take the Hockey Nation by storm. Suddenly, under new coach Dave Tippett (officially nominated this morning for the Jack Adams award), this team of no-name NHLers was winning games and breaking franchise records.

They burst into the playoffs, clinching a seed behind perennial Pacific Division clinchers, the San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately, the first round would pit them against a Red Wing team fueled by a last-minute push for post-season contention. Again, the naysayers would vote the Yotes out by the fifth or sixth game, claiming Detroit would annihilate them.

But the gritty series would bring out the best in both teams, and arguably the best playoff hockey in Round One. The Yotes forced the Wings all the way to a Game 7, and in so doing, earned respect by fans and players all over the league. As I watched the final handshake (one of my favorite things about hockey), heard the remaining Phoenix fans chant "Let's go, Co-yotes!" (they didn't empty the seats like Detroit had in Game 6), and watched the team salute the crowd in return, I wanted to tell them how proud I was... and how much I appreciated the ride.

Yours truly believes the effects of the 2009-2010 season will ring positive for small-market hockey for years to come. Hopefully, the ownership squabbles will end, the Coyotes will stay in Phoenix, and I'll have many more roadtrip games to look forward to!

Hats off to you, Coyotes!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Phoenix Coyotes at Detroit, vs Red Wings (Round 1, Game 6)

Big game for the Phoenix Coyotes, if they expect to extend their post-season another night.

Early on, it doesn't look good. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski takes a penalty and puts the highly effective Detroit Red Wings on a power play. The Yotes keep their forecheck hard however, and create a turnover in neutral ice that allows Lauri Korpovkoski to send a short-hander past Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard five-hole.

Yotes take the lead five minutes into the first, 1-0.

The Yotes capitalize on the momentum and put up a tremendous fight to kill a 5-on-3 penalty. The game is not unlike the other games in this series: fast-paced, aggressive, hard-hitting... everything playoff hockey should be! captain Shane Doan is still out, having sustained an upper-body injury during Game 3.

But the Yotes have played remarkably despite the loss. The boys have said that Doan is active in the locker room before the game and between periods, rallying his team and boosting the morale. What a captain!

The Wings are playing an intensely physical game, landing hit after hit. The Yotes are making use of their offensive defensemen, guys like Jovo and Keith Yandle often jumping into plays below the circles. And the Yotes are landing plenty of hits of their own.

Phoenix takes the only goal into the first intermission.

Not to sell anyone short, I should mention that both netminders are standing tall in this game, but Ilya Bryzgalov comes up huge against those Red Wings shots.

Yotes continue their pressure and, on a rare Wings penalty, Matthew Schneider receives the puck from Adrian Accoin (who blocks a Wings attempt to clear) and slaps it home from the point. Unfortunately, less than a minute later, the Wings answer and get on the board.

The Wings go on to take a pair of penalties, very rare for them, but probably a sign of frustration. The first is killed off but the second sees Verdim Vrbata snapping a wrister into the net.

Before the end of the period, Petr Prucha puts another into the net. Unlike my beloved Ducks, the Yotes continue to put offensive pressure on their opponent. Yotes take a 4-1 lead into the second intermission...

... and increase that lead to four goals with a bid by Yandle in the third. Bryz continues to be phenomenal despite the Wings getting a goal that was initially waved off. Fights break out in the third as the Wings attempt to turn their impending loss at home into a message for the hungry Coyotes. Yours truly enjoyed watching the frustration... and the plethora of empty seats at the Joe.

With that, the Yotes force a game 7 on Tuesday back at home in Phoenix. You won't want to miss that one!

Edited: This just in, the Vancouver Canucks clinched tonight, knocking the Los Angeles Kings out of the playoffs! It's a good day in hockeyland, ladies and gents.

Monday, April 19, 2010

2010 Playoffs, round 1 (Western)

Even though our hometown heroes are well on their way to various golf courses around the globe, yours truly is hoping Duck fans are still enjoying playoff hockey. If anything, it's kind of fun to cheer against long-time Duck rivals.

And this post-season, the games have been very entertaining so far. The Phoenix Coyotes are my self-proclaimed mistress team, so I've been quite entertained watching them take on the Detroit Red Wings. Ex-Duck goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has been stellar, capping off a Vezina-nominated season with what could be a legitimate run for the cup. Personally, yours truly would love to see this. The Coyotes have had their troubles this season, complete with ownership and bankruptcy squabbles that had most of the hockey purists denouncing the desert underdogs at the beginning of the season.

Under new coach Dave Tippett, the Yotes have fought their way into the post-season, breaking a number of franchise records in stride. They've risen dramatically in the playoffs, keeping pace with the Wings for a furiously entertaining series. Hockey enthusiasts can at least agree that both of these clubs have brought their best to the first round.

As a sidenote, I'm also enjoying seeing newly acquired ex-Duck Petteri Nokelainen bring his energy and enthusiasm to the Yotes. At least I get to see one of my boys in the playoffs.

I'm hoping to see the Yotes end the Wings' run early, and avenge my Ducks for last post-season's lame series-winning goal. It would be hockey justice, you know?

Also very intriguing is the San Jose Sharks contest against the eighth-seeded Colorado Avalanche. In keeping with the Sharks' post-season choking tradition, yours truly tuned in to last night's game just in time to watch Sharks veteran defenseman Dan Boyle fire a shot that was deflected behind his own goaltender within the first minute of overtime. I feel incredibly bad for Boyle, but I can't help but snicker at the Chokes' Sharks' misfortune.

I'm also keeping tabs on the Los Angeles Kings/Vancouver Canucks matchup. However, this is primarily to keep me aware of which nights to steer clear of the Staples Center. I've already mentioned how fond I am of Kings fans, and the hecklings I receive every time I step foot near Staples with my Bobby Ryan jersey. So here's hoping the Kings are quickly pushed out of their first playoffs since 2002.

I haven't been watching too many games in the Eastern Conference, highlights aside. But that will change as the rounds advance and there are less games to watch. Ducks fan or not, playoff hockey is playoff hockey.

Go Yotes/Avs/Canucks!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Officially eliminated

Tonight's game between our hometown heroes and their Freeway Faceoff rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, could have had a lot more at stake. It could have been uglier, it could have been nastier... especially considering these two teams had just competed at the Los Angeles Staples Center, the Ducks barely eeking out a win in the shootout.

Had the Vancouver Canucks been successful at winning their contest against the Colorado Avalanche, a win for the Ducks tonight could have kept their postseason hopes alive. But the Canucks lost about half an hour before the Ducks did.

I suppose in the end, it's probably better this way. The Canuck loss signalled the official elimination of the Ducks from the 2010 playoffs. We fans couldn't blame our boys when they let yet another three-goal lead slip away in the second half of tonight's game.

Although, that doesn't keep yours truly from being upset at the coaching staff for instructing (or allowing) our boys to simply attempt to protect a lead once they'd established one early on. Why do we always do this? Why come up so big, just to let it all frustratingly slip away with ineffectual puck-dumping maneuvers, lack of forechecking, and no pressure on the puck? We let the other team come back, we encourage them to take shot after shot on our poor goaltenders, we challenge them to get past our defensemen... and more times than not, they do.

Before the Kings won in the shootout, we fans were treated to goals from Jason Blake, my boy Bobby Ryan (who finally beat his goal tally for last season), and two from Teemu Selanne.

It was actually an awesome game up through the first half.

Having suspected our hometown heroes would be ending their season early this month, yours truly followed the subplots that had developed during the season. I would cheer for two-point wins, of course, but I also rallied behind the Finnish Flash's endeavor to break the big 600 club. Of course, he made this happen before the end of the season.

We would also see him tie and eventually break his childhood hero's 601-goal record. I will back-post pictures from those games, as the touching tribute is definitely something worth documenting. Ducks fans held their heads high as one of their most notable Ducks was honored for creating hockey history.

Speaking of Selanne, another subplot that yours truly found remarkable to watch unfold was the development of a wonderfully productive scoring line consisting of Selanne, Saku Koivu, and Jason Blake. Towards the end of the season, these boys could not be beat. Every shift held a possible goal-scoring opportunity. We fans had waited all season for that magical Saku-Teemu chemistry, it's a shame we won't see it continue in the postseason.

Perhaps next season? Murray, that's your cue to MAKE SURE Saku gets re-signed and Blake stays on this line.

There are three games left on the Ducks schedule, two away and one at home next Sunday. I will follow up Sunday's fan appreciation game with my exclusive interview with Bobby Ryan, and perhaps track the playoff games.

After all, playoff hockey is an entirely different animal.

My Zimbio
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