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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

So... now what?

Been a long time since writing here.  I'm sure I don't have to explain why, but just in case you're new, let me put it in a nutshell for you:

July 1, 2013: lost Matthew Lombardi to free agency.  This one wasn't a surprise to me.  He told me himself that he wouldn't be staying and, with a less than stellar record in his mere 7 games with the Ducks, I'm pretty sure they didn't want him back either.  His skill set as a player would never work in this system.  Just a bad fit.

July 5, 2013: the Ducks trade Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators.  Despite years of trade rumors concerning Bobby, you're never really quite prepared for when it actually happens.  At least, I wasn't.  DEVASTATING is putting it mildly.

And now, it's January 2014 and I've noticed a few things since the dust and tears have settled. 

Bobby Ryan was the reason I became a huge Anaheim Ducks fan.  I'd watched games before and I'd cheered for the team before.  But it wasn't until Bobby that I felt I had a real emotional connection to the game.  This is just how it works for me.  People point out that stupid cliche: "The name on the front [of the jersey] is more important than the name on the back."  Well, that's all very good and fine for YOU as a fan, but for me, my fandom isn't rooted in teams.  It's the struggle of the individual that generates my investment.

My interest in his team and their success follows.

It isn't new, I realize this is how it's always been for me.  Why follow Matthew Lombardi from the Flames, to the Coyotes, to the Predators, to the Leafs, back to the Coyotes, and then to the Ducks?  Not because I'm a fan of any of those teams, but because I'm a fan of the player first.  I admire his game, I feel for the struggles he's had to go through to realize his dreams, I recognize the appreciation he has for his fans... these are the things that speak to me and make me want to see the guy succeed.

That's all it is, and I don't know why other fans of these teams get so upset about it.  Why do you care about my reasons for being a fan??  I'm buying the tickets and the merchandise, I'm supporting the team, who cares WHY?  I don't care why you're a fan, you shouldn't care why I'm one either.  In fact, I'll bet you that I'm spending more money on the team than you are, what with season tickets and charity events, so how about putting your money where your mouth is?

Anyway, I digress...

With Bobby, it was like a situation of perfect timing.  I'd just began to notice the way he played.  Lots of passion, drive, maybe a little sloppy, but with flashes of pure brilliance and talent that made me believe he would be a legend someday.  I started to go out of my way to watch the Anaheim Ducks, especially once he started to break into the regular lineup.  Then I read about his story, the one people seem to be just now finding out about now that he's in Ottawa and being exposed to a much larger hockey market.

And then I actually met him in person.  You couldn't meet a more humble, down-to-earth, fan-friendly athlete.  Yeah, you can cheer for the name on the front of the jersey, but it's the name on the back that gives you a hug when he sees you.  The name on the back asks how you are, how your family is, and is genuinely appreciative when you tell him you've become a huge hockey fan because of him.  The name on the front is a team, but the name on the back is a FRIEND.

Bobby's in Ottawa now, and as much as I try to watch Senators games and keep track of how he's doing, it's not easy to do from the opposite coast.  Time differences land every Senators home game while I'm at work.  Not to mention, there's very little local hockey news out here anyway, more or less a team in a different country.  I haven't been able to really speak to him since he left, but I've been to a few of his games and he has let me know he appreciates it.  He's having the season of his career out there and I'm so happy to see that he's being warmly embraced by the fans there.

Matthew Lombardi left the NHL entirely, and has been spending this season playing on the other side of the world in the Swiss league.  And I thought it was hard keeping track of him in Phoenix!  He's the point-scoring leader for his team which, I hope, is restoring his confidence.  No doubt spending the last season on three different NHL teams was hard for him.

So this season has felt really different for me.  Still watching Ducks games, and Coyotes games (one of Lombo's teams did rub off on me), but it's definitely a different feeling not having that extra investment.  Maybe it's that I'm used to being more emotionally involved, and now it's just "normal."  Whatever the reason, doesn't lead me any closer to knowing what I should do with this blog!


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