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The lone Ryders


Two Ryders, Michael and Daniel, out on the hockey trail, seeking a secure future in Canada's favourite past time. But wait, something happened on the ride to the rink, both Ryders are thrown, Michael lands back on his feet in Boston, while Daniel's future is still unknown. To do this right, we need to take a look at the long ride both of these players took to get them where they are today. So, let's saddle up and take a look at the ride to date, taken by the younger of the two hockey-playing brothers from Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Behind the bench - Two Ryders, Michael and Daniel, out on the hockey trail, seeking a secure future in Canada's favourite past time. But wait, something happened on the ride to the rink, both Ryders are thrown, Michael lands back on his feet in Boston, while Daniel's future is still unknown.

To do this right, we need to take a look at the long ride both of these players took to get them where they are today. So, let's saddle up and take a look at the ride to date, taken by the younger of the two hockey-playing brothers from Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Following a stellar minor hockey career, Daniel was touted to have even greater potential than his brother Michael; already riding high with the Canadiens in Montreal. Danny's junior career with the Peterborough Petes and Plymouth Whalers of the OHL was nothing short of spectacular. Which resulted in his being drafted 74th by the Calgary Flames in the third round of the 2005 entry draft. This at the ripe old age of 18 years - a sure bet to follow his brother to the NHL (who was drafted 216 in the eighth round of 1998), at least one would think so.

Then, the devastating press release from the Flames organization this past week, that Daniel Ryder had been suspended from the Las Vegas Wranglers of the East Coast Hockey League for, quote; "Violation of team rules and conduct detrimental to the best interests of the team." The unofficial word on the street is that he was missing practices.

What were the factors leading up to this terrible situation? Why was he demoted from the AHL Quad City Franchise to the ECHL Wranglers? You will remember that last fall I wrote about a brief interview I had with Darryl Sutter, GM of the Calgary Flames, as to how Daniel was progressing following his return to the organization. While management was disappointed the young player had walked out on the Quad City team just six games into last season, citing personal reasons, they welcomed him back for another opportunity realizing his potential. The general manager told me personally at that point in time, with his new attitude he would bet on Daniel.

The younger Ryder was already on a short lease with the Flames. This latest suspension makes the third time around, and as sad as I am to say so, this could very well be the end of a promising career, at least with the Flame organization.

I've read and listened to quite a bit about the so called 'personal problems of Daniel Ryder - some good, some bad, and more totally ridiculous. While I don't pretend, nor claim to know what the problems were, and obviously still are, I would like to offer a suggestion as to when the seeds of doubt were first planted in the young players mind.

Daniel Ryder just did not perform in his Memorial Cup appearances, game in and game out, and the media of the day said so. Greater things were expected, after all he had just been selected the Wayne Gretzky99 MVP Award in the OHL playoffs, only to completely go in the tank at the Memorial Cup.

Following the Memorial Cup, a persona began to develop around the young player. He either didn't attend off-season development camps, or was known for arriving late. He showed up at evaluation camps out of shape. He failed to get invited back to Team Canada's final junior selection camp. I contend that these actions and others were the result of his completely losing confidence following the Memorial Cup tournament.

I remember well the 2006 Cup, just watching it on TV I felt the kid was snake bitten. He just could not hit the net, and when he did it was right at the goalie. As the tournament wore on, the effect on his play was evident. Little did I realize then the impact this would have on this young players career.

Some out there might think I'm crazy with this observation, but I've been around sport, and the young men and women who participate in same for a good many years - long enough to see the signs. This is not something new, as a matter of fact the loss of confidence and self esteem is so obvious at times that we miss them completely - but that's another story.

I'm confident, and quite certain that the story of Daniel Ryder is not about drugs or something from the dark side, but rather an extremely unfortunate situation that has resulted in a promising hockey career going off the trail. This entire scenario has been precipitated by success and admiration as a minor hockey player expected, by an adoring and well meaning public, to ride the hockey trail all the way to the show as his brother before him. Then came the signing bonus, the extreme pressure to perform day in and day out, the adulation that comes from being a potential superstar in professional sport. It's not for everybody.

My thought was just one column on this subject. But as I started to write, I quickly realized it will take another. I haven't touched on Michael, and there has to be a conclusion to tie it together.

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