A pair of broken ribs and a punctured lung might be keeping Terry Ryan out of this year’s Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series, but the veteran has a better appreciation for a Herder title than he did in 2004, the only other year he found himself in a provincial senior hockey championship final as a member of the Corner Brook Royals.
“No disrespect to Corner Brook (Royals), but it certainly didn’t mean as much to me then,” says Ryan who was 40-pounds overweight at the time, not doing any off-ice training and, by his own admission, not taking hockey seriously a year after finishing a professional career that began with him being a first-round draft pick of Montreal Canadiens.
“I wanted to win the Herder, but I was a little upset, tripping over my bottom lip because I couldn’t go back and play pro hockey,” admits Ryan, who played eight games with Montreal, but spent most of his time in the American Hockey League.
In 2004, the Royals, whose roster included two other former pros — Todd Gillingham and Darren Colbourne — lost to the Southern Shore Breakers in a six-game series Ryan contends Corner Brook “could have won.”
Now, Ryan is back in the Herder fight — albeit in a different role — with the Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars, who lead 2-0 in the best-of-seven series that continues at S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace this weekend.
“As the years went by, I said to myself, “I don’t know if I’ll get back,’” he says, looking back at the eight seasons between that 2004-05 campaign and this one.
They included a year the with the Bentley, Alta., Generals and an appearance in the Allan Cup final, two more with the Royals and five with the Mount Pearl Blades, including the last two seasons.
“I’m from Mount Pearl,” says Ryan. “I love the people involved right down to rink attendant Phonse Fowler, but for whatever reason it was miserable to play senior hockey there the last couple of seasons because we were not getting fans and we were losing a lot of games.”
With the CeeBees, Ryan says win or lose, he’s given himself another chance.
And even if he doesn’t see a minute of ice time in the series and the CeeBees win the Herder, he’ll consider himself “as worthy of it as anybody else.”
“I just want to be part of a win,” says Ryan, who jokes that in most of the big championships he’s competed for or won— the Allan Cup with Bentley, a 2003 world ball hockey title, and a St. John’s senior baseball crown with Mount Pearl in 2011 — he’s “been absent on the scoresheet.”
During the series opening games last weekend in Clarenville, Ryan stood along the glass near the far end of the rink recording hits and scoring opportunities. The always-affable Ryan also has a well-established reputation for being his teammates’ biggest cheerleader on and off the ice.
“I know how to get the guys going in the room,” he admits. “Things like that ... are very important.”
If the series requires a Games 6 and 7 in Clarenville, Ryan isn’t ruling out a return to the C.B.N. lineup. But having suffered a punctured and collapsed lung along with his rib injury, the father of two is understandably cautious.
“I was on my way to the hospital and couldn’t breathe,” Ryan recounts of the Game 4 semifinal hit from the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts’ Greg Hoffe as he left the ice on a line change. “So there’s bigger things and I realize that if I don’t get in to the Herder it won’t be the worst thing.
Still, Ryan says his desire to get back in the game when injured can be “blinding.”
“I have a lot character as a player and I’m going to give it every shot.
“I’ll be part of it even if I don’t put my gear on, but I’m going to try skating this week and see where I’m at.”
The series resumes with Game 3 Friday at 8 p.m., followed by Game 4 Saturday at 7:30 p.m.. A Game 5, if necessary, would go Sunday at 2 p.m.
This is a corrected version