Mount Pearl Mark’s Work Wearhouse Junior Blades forward John Ryan doesn’t remember precisely how his rookie season in the Kent St. John’s Junior Hockey League came to a end last January.
But he knows it came to a painful conclusion.
During the Blades’ 19th game of the season — not long after he netted his team’s fourth goal — Ryan was skating along the boards near the Mount Pearl bench, trying to beat a Trinity-Placentia I.J. Smith & Son Flyers player to the puck.
Knowing he was outpaced by the speedy Ryan, the Flyers’ player checked Ryan as the Blade was skating past the bench gate.
Unfortunately, the gate wasn’t completely closed.
Ryan, low in his stride at this point, was stopped dead in his tracks when his head and right shoulder slammed into the arae where the boards meet the gate.
“John had really good speed going up the boards, trying to beat that guy to the puck and get it in deep when the gate opened and he went almost face-first into the frame,” recounts Blades’ coach Brian Cranford.
“He tried to get up, but you could see he was really hurt.”
The team’s unofficial physician, local general practitioner Dr. Randy Smith, was on hand that night and attended to Ryan immediately. It wasn’t long before a decision was made to call an ambulance.
Ryan never lost consciousness following the accident, but admits he doesn’t remember much — including who it was who hit him.
“I didn’t understand what was going on at the time,” says Ryan, who ended up with a broken collarbone, popped right eardrum and a mild concussion.
“I remember coming around in the dressing room when they were cutting the jersey off me.
“It was a pretty scary moment.”
The Antigonish, N.S., native, who was in his first year at Memorial University, spent the night in hospital and was released the next day. But unlike many of his teammates, he had didn’t have parents nearby to help him along in the road to recovery.
“I was living in residence, so it was tough to manoeuvre around,” recounts the 19-year-old, now in his second year of studies at MUN.
“It was hard to be away from home.”
Ryan was enjoying an impressive rookie campaign with 12 goals and 10 assists when he was injured, and those turned out to be his final stats for 2009-10. He missed the rest of the season and the team’s playoff run.
In fact, it wasn’t until mid-May before he was fully recovered.
But during a summer spent working in Fort McMurray, Alta., Ryan found a pickup game at a year-round rink and started to, “get a feel for it again and get back in the rhythm.”
He also turned into something of a gym junkie.
“There’s not much to do in Fort Mac, so I ended up going to the gym and getting a bit addicted to it. I’ve really stuck with it this year.”
Early on in the 2010-11 season, Ryan is showing no ill-effects from the hit. Through 17 games, he is fourth in team scoring with 17 points.
Cranford says the “tough little guy” hasn’t missed a step this season.
“He’s a gamer. I’ve liked that about him since I saw him the first draft skate.
“He goes out and plays hard. He’s in the corners, he’s got good hands, and I love the way he skates.”
Asked if he approached the game with some trepidation at the start of the season — which began, coincidentally, with a game at the Glacier against the Flyers — Ryan insists he’s not afraid to get hit.
“I try to keep it out of my mind.”