- Bobby Ryan returned to home ice with the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night for the first time in 104 days.
- Ryan had left the team in November, taking a leave of absence to enter the NHL’s player assistance program to seek treatment for problems he had had with alcohol.
- In his first game back in front of the home crowd in Ottawa, Ryan netted himself a hat trick and was left emotional on the bench as fans welcomed him back and chanted his name.
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Bobby Ryan returned to home ice with the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night for the first time since November and marked his comeback with a hat trick that brought the crowd to its feet and a tear to his eye.
Ryan had taken a leave of absence from the team late last year to enter the NHL’s player assistance program. Last week, Ryan spoke with media for the first time since taking his leave, opening up about his issues with alcohol abuse that had been a part of his life for some time.
“I was trying to white knuckle things and try to do things the wrong way. I’d have 20 days of nothing and one real bad one. You just can’t get better without (help),” he said. “I guess you could 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. And that’s not just professionally, that’s personally, and I didn’t want to continue to do that.”
—Ottawa Senators (@Senators) February 21, 2020
At the end of the scrum, Ryan was asked what he thought his next goal would feel like.
“Kind of like a reset button,” Ryan said. “In a sense, I hope it’s at home, because my wife and kids will be here for that, and they’ve earned this as much as I have.”
On Thursday, Ryan’s words proved prophetic. Just minutes into his return to home ice, Ryan found a puck from Senators defenceman Nikita Zaitsev and snuck it into the back of the net.
—NHL (@NHL) February 28, 2020
Fans chanted for Ryan, and the arena played a song to welcome him home.
—Hailey Salvian (@hailey_salvian) February 28, 2020
That and a win probably would have been plenty to send the home crowd home happy, but Ryan was far from done. Ryan scored a second goal with just two minutes remaining in the third period, giving the Senators a 4-2, and then less than a minute later, netted an empty-netter to complete his hat trick.
Fans stood and cheered, and Ryan on the bench was visibly moved by the scene.
—Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 28, 2020
“I knew Ottawa being the community that it is that the reception would be good,” Ryan said after the game. “It just got harder to keep the emotions down throughout the game. It was incredible. They supported me and I got to contribute. You can’t write that, the way that went. It was just an incredible evening, so thank you to all of them.”
Ryan also credited his wife after being named the first star of the game.
“To have her support and not just have her support as a hockey player, but as a husband and everything it just means a ton.”
Most of all, Ryan couldn’t believe that the evening had played out as it had.
“I mean you can’t write that… the way (tonight) went,” Ryan told reporters after the game, per The Athletic. “It’s just an incredible evening.”
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