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Bobby Ryan opens up about alcohol addiction and the road to recovery – TSN

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Bobby Ryan knew this day was coming.

The veteran forward was well aware he would be peppered with questions about his extended absence from the Ottawa Senators for the past three months. On Friday morning, he decided to open up about the reasons for his departure from the team.

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“I’ve dreaded this day for the better part of three months. But if you’re going to stand here and take time to heal yourself, you’re going to have to face the music,” Ryan said to a group of reporters gathered at his locker stall inside Canadian Tire Centre. “I spent two weeks agonizing over the fact it was going to be a media thing for me.”

Until now, the only explanation for Ryan’s leave was a purposely vague joint press release from the NHL and NHLPA on Nov. 20, stating he would be away from the team while participating in the league’s player assistance program.

On Friday, Ryan bravely shared that he has been undergoing extensive treatment for alcohol abuse.

Things came to a head during a Senators practice on Nov. 18, when Ryan abruptly left the team. In an emotional conversation with reporters on Friday, Ryan said he had reached a breaking point in his battle with alcohol that day in Detroit.

“I guess you can call it a panic attack, but it was more of a realization that the route that I was going had no good end in sight,” Ryan admitted. “And that’s not just professionally — that’s personally.”

The 32-year-old said he was caught in a vicious cycle, where he was trying to handle the situation on his own — but without any long-term success.

“It’s something I’ve been battling for a while,” he said. “I’ve tried on my own and I was already getting help for it. What I was doing wasn’t enough. I was trying to white-knuckle things and trying to do things the wrong way.”

Ryan said he was able to stay sober for small stretches, but would ultimately relapse into his old, familiar habits.

“It would be 20 days of nothing and then one real bad day,” he explained.

Ryan headed to an in-patient clinic to seek a permanent solution for his problems. He said it was something he contemplated doing last summer, but only mustered up the courage to do in November. 

“The issue for me was stopping. I just had never had a period in my life where people were around me to help me really stop,” Ryan said. “It took me going somewhere to figure that out. And getting a dry period to start out was very beneficial to me.”

Ryan called the support of his fellow NHLers “overwhelming,” saying a number of players who have battled a substance abuse issue reached out to him directly. He said that while some of the players have publicly shared their journeys, he was surprised at the number of fellow NHLers who contacted him that went through the program anonymously.

“Some guys reached out and I had no clue they did it,” Ryan said. 

At the height of his issues, Ryan said he was constantly battling insomnia. When he would wake up from choppy sleeps, he would often be overridden with feelings of guilt and shame. It was certainly not the recipe for success for an average hockey player, let alone a star commanding a $7 million annual salary.

But Ryan, as many fans know, is not your average NHL player. His atypical path to stardom has been widely documented over the years – starting with a dysfunctional childhood that saw his father change their family name and moving across the country to evade law enforcement. Ryan’s father was accused of domestic assault against his wife and, in order to avoid jail time, he moved the family to California in an attempt to build a new life.

Two decades later, Ryan admits that he is still carrying baggage from his abnormal upbringing.

“A lot of what I’ve been through has been very public,” he said, alluding to his childhood. “I had a lot of issues surrounding that. I know now that for a very long time, I just kind of put my head down and never really dealt with it. I checked a lot of the metaphorical boxes from the time I was 15 on. And I got hit with waves of it in the past little while and haven’t handled any of those waves right for a long period of time, and things just continued to escalate for the past three years.”

Ryan acknowledges that he’s made strides in therapy, but coming to terms with his childhood emotions is still a work in progress.

“It’s something I need to let go and put in my past. I’m still continuing to let go of some more of it,” he said. He made a point of saying that while the therapy sessions have been difficult, he will continue to go through them in the months ahead.

The death of his mother, Melody, in the summer of 2016 after a battle with liver cancer did not help matters for Ryan, who admitted on Friday that his problem has been mounting for the better part of three years. He did acknowledge that his wife, Danielle, who he called “a rock star” throughout this whole ordeal, and their two young children were a catalyst in him seeking help a few months ago.

“I got to point where I said is enough is enough with the shame and guilt and not being the person you need to be for your family,” Ryan said. 

While he admits to being apprehensive about having to share his story on such a public platform, Ryan said he hopes it helps other people who are battling addictions to consider seeking help.

“I guess in that sense there’s a silver lining. I would like to be a role model for other reasons. Everything has led me to here. I wish it hadn’t taken so long for me to get here,” Ryan explained. “If there’s anybody that hears it in some sense and recognize something and find a way to ask for help — hopefully less publicly — then I urge them to do it.”

Ryan, who produced just one goal in 16 games this season, said that his return to the lineup is imminent and he anticipates rejoining the team in the next two weeks. Looking trim and lean, Ryan says he’s lost about 10 pounds and has cleared all of the medical and physical testing required to return to the lineup. 

When he does make his return, Ryan knows there will be a degree of cynicism in the marketplace for a player who has largely failed to live up to the massive seven-year, $50 million contract he signed in the fall of 2014.

“People have reservations about where I’m at in my career and my contract and I understand that. I’m not saying that I’m going come out of this and play to the $7 million dollar guy that I want to be as much as everyone else does,” he said. “But this is a chance for me to reset and prove that I can play in this league and that I can contribute.”

Ryan is hopeful that his chance to return is during a home game. While the club has not given Ryan an indication of a potential return date, Thursday’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks could be a realistic target. Ryan emphasized that it would be more meaningful for him for his return to take place at Canadian Tire Centre.

“In a sense, I hope it’s at home because my wife and kids will be here for that,” Ryan said to wrap up his media session, his voice cracking with emotion for the first time. “They’ve earned this as much as I have.”

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The free agent market is sizzling, who’s left for the Blue Jays?

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With MLB’s 2022 Winter Meetings in San Diego this week, the number of free agent signings has reached a frenzied pace. As of this writing, 44 free agents have already signed deals worth a combined $1.9 billion so far this offseason, headlined by monster deals for Yankees OF and AL MVP Aaron Judge (nine years, $360 million), new Phillies SS Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million), and new Texas ace Jacob deGrom (five years, $185 million). That figure doesn’t include the reported five-year, $90 million guaranteed deal that Japanese star OF Masataka Yoshida apparently agreed to on Wednesday. The average free agent contract so far has been for 2.4 years and $44 million total value.

The Toronto Blue Jays have so far been unlucky in their free agent pursuits, highlighted by starter Kyle Gibson passing up the same one-year, $10 million offer made by Toronto to sign instead with the Baltimore Orioles. The Jays have also been mentioned in relation to starters Justin Verlander, Andrew Heaney and Jameson Taillon, as well as reliever Kenley Jansen and CF Cody Bellinger, who have all signed with other teams. All of their other AL East peers have been active this week signing and trading for players.

The need for a power-hitting left-handed bat to balance out the Jays lineup has been clearly defined as necessary to improve this club’s postseason chances following the Teoscar Hernández trade last month. A number of LHH OFs have agreed to deals already, including the above mentioned Masataka Yoshida, Joc Pederson, who accepted the San Francisco Giants $19.65 million qualifying offer (QO), and Cody Bellinger, who signed a one year, $17.5 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

Remaining LHH free agent options in CF include Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Kiermaier. Should the Jays decide to keep George Springer in CF instead of moving him to right to reduce the wear and tear on his body, they could also look at left-handed hitters Joey Gallo or Michael Conforto in RF. Trading Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in a package for starting pitching or a CF like the switch-hitting Bryan Reynolds or Dalton Varsho might make sense if they were were able to sign one of Michael Brantley or Andrew Benintendi for LF, But those trades would both be costly in terms of the likely drain on an already bottom third ranked farm system.

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Further, with the St. Louis Cardinals signing free agent catcher Willson Contreras to a five year, $87.5 million contract, it appears less likely that the Cards might be a trade destination for one of the Blue Jays three catchers. One of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk or Gabriel Moreno in a deal for switch-hitting OF Dylan Carlson or LHH RF Lars Nootbaar looked good on paper, but now seems less likely.

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings

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Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record point streak to 21 games with a second-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

With Toronto in front 3-0, thanks to goals from Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander just 1:06 apart earlier in the second, Marner checked in with a slapshot marker after a Kings turnover inside their blue line.

The Maple Leafs (17-5-6) won for the seventh time in eight outings and handed Los Angeles (14-11-4) its seventh loss in 10 games.

With Canadian pop star Justin Bieber among the 18,567 at Scotiabank Arena, Marner scored his 11th of the season. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in his 21-game point streak.

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Marner’s streak is now tied for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Dave Taylor, Adam Oates and Bobby Hull.

Marner also became the 10th different player in the past 35 years to string together a point streak of 21 or more games and the third active skater, behind Patrick Kane (26 games in 2015-16) and Sidney Crosby (25 games in 2010-11).

Well-rounded team effort leads Maple Leafs to second straight shutout win

Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout in a Maple Leafs sweater and the seventh of his career.

The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 41-29.

Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves, kept his club in the game for the opening 25 minutes.

The Maple Leafs had outshot the visitors 19-7 when Engvall beat Quick with a wrist shot for a power-play goal 5:10 into the second period.

Twenty-six seconds later, Kampf employed linemate Alex Kerfoot as a decoy to score on a two-on-one rush started by Kerfoot to provide the Maple Leafs with a two-goal advantage.

Nylander checked in with his 15th of the season, and fifth in seven games, on a breakaway goal 40 seconds later. He also set up Auston Matthews for his 14th goal midway through the final period.

Maple Leafs tally three goals in 66 seconds to jump ahead vs. Kings

Kerfoot was good for two assists against the Kings.

Engvall’s night ended early in the third period when he was given a match penalty for intent to injure after he high-sticked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi, a former Toronto draft pick, in the back of the head in the neutral zone.

During the ensuing five-minute power-play, Los Angeles winger Adrian Kempe scored but the goal was rescinded after a video review determined the play was offside.

Maple Leafs’ Engvall receives match penalty for slashing Kings’ Durzi up high

BRODIE’S BACK

Maple Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence because of an oblique injury, playing alongside newcomer Conor Timmins. Toronto went 9-0-3 without Brodie.

 

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings

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Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record point streak to 21 games with a second-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

With Toronto in front 3-0, thanks to goals from Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander just 1:06 apart earlier in the second, Marner checked in with a slapshot marker after a Kings turnover inside their blue line.

Gotta See It: Maple Leafs’ Marner scores to extend point streak to 21 games

The Maple Leafs (17-5-6) won for the seventh time in eight outings and handed Los Angeles (14-11-4) its seventh loss in 10 games.

With Canadian pop star Justin Bieber among the 18,567 at Scotiabank Arena, Marner scored his 11th of the season. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in his 21-game point streak.

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Marner’s streak is now tied for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Dave Taylor, Adam Oates and Bobby Hull.

Marner also became the 10th different player in the past 35 years to string together a point streak of 21 or more games and the third active skater, behind Patrick Kane (26 games in 2015-16) and Sidney Crosby (25 games in 2010-11).

Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout in a Maple Leafs sweater and the seventh of his career.

The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 41-29.

Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves, kept his club in the game for the opening 25 minutes.

The Maple Leafs had outshot the visitors 19-7 when Engvall beat Quick with a wrist shot for a power-play goal 5:10 into the second period.

Twenty-six seconds later, Kampf employed linemate Alex Kerfoot as a decoy to score on a two-on-one rush started by Kerfoot to provide the Maple Leafs with a two-goal advantage.

Nylander checked in with his 15th of the season, and fifth in seven games, on a breakaway goal 40 seconds later. He also set up Auston Matthews for his 14th goal midway through the final period.

Kerfoot was good for two assists against the Kings.

Engvall’s night ended early in the third period when he was given a match penalty for intent to injure after he high-sticked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi, a former Toronto draft pick, in the back of the head in the neutral zone.

During the ensuing five-minute power-play, Los Angeles winger Adrian Kempe scored but the goal was rescinded after a video review determined the play was offside.

BRODIE’S BACK

Maple Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence because of an oblique injury, playing alongside newcomer Conor Timmins. Toronto went 9-0-3 without Brodie.

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