Even though we love hockey – or maybe because we love it too much – it’s often easy to lose perspective on the situation. Fans, writers and hockey people get so wrapped up in numbers – from salary cap/contract issues to point totals and Corsi numbers – we often forget there are human beings involved.
The story’s a little old, but when I asked for some submissions for stories on Twitter, I couldn’t help but find a few of them captivating. Take, for instance, this sad story about Dan Ryder from Arik Knapp of 4th Line Blog. (Ryder was a former Calgary Flames prospect and is, indeed, the younger brother of Boston Bruins forward Michael Ryder.)
First let me provide a little background. Ryder felt “a little reluctant” about following a hockey career shortly after he finished his junior hockey career with the Peterborough Peters and Plymouth Whalers. He skipped prospect camp and a portion of training camp for personal reasons but eventually made it to the Quad City Flames, according to Knapp. Things were shaky to begin with, but life really started to spiral out of control for Ryder after that.
After six games, Ryder decided he wasn’t looking for a life of playing hockey, and up and left the team- leading him to be suspended by the Flames. Darryl Sutter met with the Ryder family (though I’m assuming older brother Michael, of the Bruins, wasn’t there) and decided that Daniel would remain suspended for the remainder of the season. The following season, Daniel Ryder was allowed to attend training camp, and then played 14 games with the QC Flames putting up 3-6-9, before being reassigned the to Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. There, he seemingly hit rock bottom- managing zero points and 15 PIMS. He did receive a 25 game tryout at the end of the season with the P-Bruins, who declined to keep him around after the 08-09 season ended.
This is where it goes from sad to tragic. On January 6th, 2010, Daniel Ryder turned himself in for holding up a convenience store in Bonavista, Newfoundland. He had entered the store with his face covered by a hood and informed the clerk that he had a gun. Ryder fled the scene, and the police put out a bulletin for him, which turned out to be entirely unnecessary, as Daniel turned himself in.
Daniel Ryder has yet to stand trial. After appearing in court, the judge ordered him to undergo psych evaluation, at which point it was determined he was unfit to stand trial. Ryder is currently staying at Waterford Psychiatric Hospital in St. Johns, Newfoundland, and doctors have stated that he had a severe psychotic break at the age of 19, right when so much of this started. He likely suffered from depression for years before, which would explain a lack of drive at times (medications for depression limit emotional highs and lows, and generally cause apathy) as well as the “personal reasons” for missing various prospect camps and training camps.
Stories like these are hard to stomach, but they really put things in perspective. While we rail on players who seem indifferent to playing defense or going to high-traffic areas, it’s a good reminder that we’re putting a lot of emphasis on what is ultimately a trivial game.
(That being said, I love putting a lot of emphasis on this ultimately trivial game.)