Ryan rises above adversity

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:19 PM ET

Bobby Ryan has broad shoulders, physically and literally.

He also has an incredible ability to forgive, which is not found in many of us.

Ryan, the outstanding young right-winger with the OHL's Owen Sound Attack and a can't-miss NHLer, has already lived a lifetime -- and he's only 18.

Ryan stood outside the visitors' dressing room at the John Labatt Centre last night and spoke about an incident that happened eight years ago that rocked his world.

"What I've come through and overcome is a thing not a lot of people have to go through. I'm fortunate that I did," Ryan said.

His father, Bob Stevenson, returned late one night to their Collingswood, N.J., home. Stevenson had long suspected his wife was buying drugs and he went on a drunken rampage.

Bobby, 10 at the time, slept through the attack.

The family moved to California, where Stevenson changed his name to Ryan.

But in February 2000, U.S. marshals stormed their home at 4 a.m. -- Bobby was asleep on the couch -- and charged Bob Stevenson with attempted murder, although his wife did not want to press charges.

A reduced charge of second-degree aggravated assault brought a four-year prison sentence.

Bob Stevenson/Ryan is now back in suburban Cherry Hill, N.J., where he works in a gym owned by Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bob Clarke.

Ryan's former wife lives in Florida, where she's putting her life back together.

Bobby spent this summer with his father working out daily in the gym, while staying in touch with his mother.

"I kept in contact with my dad over the years while he was away and when he was out it was like old times pretty much right away," Bobby said.

Some might question how Ryan could forgive his father for such an act.

"I think it's something, whether you like what he did or not -- and it wasn't a minimal thing, it was pretty bad -- but I don't think I can hold a grudge for something that I wasn't too much a part of," he said.

"He explained to me the way he saw things and I took it upon myself to understand."

Ryan's life experiences have prepared him to lead his hockey team this season.

"When you go through what he did as a young kid off the ice, it prepares you for any adversity on the ice, and Bobby's going to be the flagship of our franchise," said Attack GM Mike Futa.

Ryan scored 37 goals in his sophomore season and was selected second overall by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in this year's NHL draft.

"We're looking forward to where he takes us," Futa said. "He's still not done growing (he's six-foot-two, 221 pounds) and with the new standards on obstruction, he'll be difficult to deal with in the corners."

The Attack should see a 50-goal season and possibly league MVP honours for Ryan.

"If he ever learns to score 20 ugly goals to go with his 30 highlight reel goals," Futa said with a laugh.

Futa's friendly chiding has helped Ryan realize what he must still do to achieve success in the NHL.

It's the horror he went through as a youngster that will help him get over the rough spots.

"I'm up front with people when they ask me about it," he said. "I'm not ashamed and I'm fortunate that most things that come my way, I can take with a grain of salt after that incident. I try to bring a positive outlook to everything."

There's never a moment Ryan is not flashing a smile and, in his case, a smile is worth a thousand words.

"There were times when it was a little tougher to come by the smiles, but I'm just kind of living life right now and enjoying every minute of it and enjoying it with my parents. So that's been good.

"Maybe some day we can all live together again."


Videos

Photos