Van Ryn calls for change

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:59 PM ET

His marbles were scrambled.

He lost two teeth, busted his beak and fractured the palm of his left hand.

No wonder Mike Van Ryn is peeved.

Not at his assailant. Truth be told, he has come to terms with Montreal Canadiens forward Tom Kostopoulos, the man who smeared him from behind into the unforgiving Air Canada Centre boards.

He has far less understanding with those critics who claim he, in part, was responsible for getting his own face turned into mush.

The same people who accuse him of putting himself in a dangerous spot, one conducive to getting hurt.

Hearing such junk ticks him off.

"It really bugs me how people say you put yourself in a vulnerable position when they have never been in that position themselves," Van Ryn, a native of London, Ont., said last night, publicly commenting for the first time since the incident 13 days ago.

"It's amazing how these people can watch the replay five million times and comment on how I put myself in that situation. That's easy to say for someone watching a replay. But when it's actually happening, you only have a split second to make a decision. I didn't hear anyone saying: 'Look, he's about to put himself in a vulnerable position' when I was going down chasing after the puck.

"I'm a puck-moving defenceman. That's what I was attempting to do when I got hit. I don't like just firing the puck blindly around the boards."

One second he was looking at the puck; the next, he was seeing stars.

Upon impact, he suffered a concussion. His nose was broken. He had facial lacerations. He was minus a couple of chicklets. He knew his hand was broken when he saw how it was bent. It wasn't pretty. Trust us, he knows. He has seen the replay himself.

Van Ryn would love to offer a solution for such hits from behind. But he can't. This, he admits, is no black-and-white issue.

He does, however, have suggestions that might deter similar incidents from happening so frequently.

First, he feels defencemen should be able to marginally slow down charging forecheckers, a regular tactic prior to the lockout.

"I guess these forwards want to get their licks in," Van Ryn said. "I liked it when we could hold them up a bit. The way it is now, there is nothing to hold up their momentum."

Secondly, Van Ryn would like to see goalies be able to handle the puck anywhere instead of being banned from handling it in the trapezoid.

"If goalies could play the puck in those situations, defencemen wouldn't be those positions nearly as much," he said.

"They took out obstruction and limited where goalies could handle the puck in order to increase goals. Now guys are getting hurt ... Do they want to help save careers or do we just want more goals?

"I don't know if the instigator rule leads to this stuff, but there are bad habits out there. Guys are taking liberties all over."

Having said that, Van Ryn insisted Kostopoulos, who was suspended three games for the hit, is not a cheap-shot artist.

"He's not really someone who runs people from behind," Van Ryn said. "Maybe it was the rivalry, maybe he was trying to make the big hit, I don't know.

"He called me. He had been trying to get a hold of me. I never talked to him but I texted him back."

The headaches are now gone. His visit with neurologist Dr. Karen Johnston went fine, he said.

Claiming he did not aggravate his surgically repaired wrist during the collision, Van Ryn has started working out, riding the stationary bike and doing leg drills. By next week, he hopes to resume skating.

As for a return, he does not want to make promises although "three more weeks might be a reachable goal."

Mike Van Ryn is just thankful for the chance to come back at all.


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