Van Ryn determined to beat odds again

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

Mike Van Ryn expects to go skating sometime this week.

The Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner says it won't amount to any more than a pleasure skate in the park, but even that will be a major accomplishment considering the traumatic knee surgery he underwent.

But Van Ryn isn't going to be satisfied with just skating. He wants to defy the odds and come back to play in the National Hockey League.

It wouldn't be the first time he's done it. Van Ryn has been blessed with NHL talent. But he's also been given the short end of the stick when it comes to injuries.

Since he broke into the NHL in 2000 with the St. Louis Blues, Van Ryn has accumulated a long list of injuries. He's injured his shoulder and his hand. Then came the injury that almost ended his career the first time.

When he was with the Florida Panthers, he injured a wrist and had multiple surgeries on it.

There were more injuries after he recovered from wrist surgery.

In November 2008, Montreal Canadiens' Tom Kostopoulos ran him into the boards, breaking a finger, knocking out a bunch of teeth and giving Van Ryn a severe concussion. He missed a bunch of games.

Then Boston's Milan Lucic ran him into the glass and he suffered another concussion and missed time.

Then in February, he injured a knee and was done for the season. The knee never fully healed despite arthroscopic surgery on it.

"The hardest part was during training camp," Van Ryn said.

"It wasn't getting better. It was swelling up. When they were drawing fluid out of my knee, it was bloody fluid. It's just not normal.

"The last few years have been tough. It makes it even tougher because I was playing well when I got hurt," Van Ryn said as he prepared to attend the London Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction.

"But the last time, they didn't think I would come back. They didn't think I would play after my last (wrist) surgery.

"I'm in the same spot I was before when people didn't think I could come back and play and I did come back. I think I can do it again. We'll see what happens."

In October, Van Ryn shut it down for the year, opting for osteotomy surgery. Doctors remove a piece of bone from the leg, allowing for realigning of the knee.

Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings had the surgery done late in his career. It's a last-ditch attempt to prolong his career.

The surgery was done in late October by Bob Litchfield at Western's Kennedy-Fowler Clinic.

It's supposed to be a 10-month rehab program.

"When they told me the kind of surgery I needed to have . . . the only guy I know who had it was Steve Yzerman and I'm not exactly Steve Yzerman," he said. "I haven't skated, but having come this far, we're way ahead of schedule. I have a whole summer to train on it.

"There's no doubt in my mind that I can play again. I've proved people wrong before and if I have to do it again, so be it."

It would be easy for Van Ryn to complain about the bad luck he's come across. But the 30-year-old is one of the nice guys in sport and he prefers to look forward rather than back.

"These are the cards you got. You play with them and try and make the best hand you can," he said.

"The worst thing you can do is be negative during the rehab. If you can stay positive, it makes it that much better for a recovery and gets you that much more excited about the work you have to do in a gym.

"They X-rayed it the other day and the bone has done healing, so now I'm at the point I can start ramping stuff up. Get a better idea this week of where I'm supposed to be. Walking doesn't bug me or anything."

When Van Ryn came to the Leafs for Bryan McCabe, it was an opportunity for him to play close to home. Now his wife and daughter are in Toronto and he's in London taking care of his knee on a full-time basis.

"The Leafs wanted me to get a little more involved with trying to help them out a little, not so much coaching, but doing video," he said.

"It was just too hard with me. I needed the attention for rehab and stuff. When our trainers have to pay attention to 25 other guys . . . I kind of felt guilty for that when they had to help me. It's a big deal for our team to be healthy.

"Kind of realized that maybe it's a little selfish, maybe not. I kind of had to worry about what I had to do.

"My wife and baby girl are in Toronto. I go back on weekends and watch the team play. It's not easy, but it's something I have to get through."


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