Did you ever stop to wonder that with so many draft picks every year, whatever happened to the majority who don’t make it to the NHL or AHL, and seem to disappear into obscurity? One such story caught my attention today.
Back in 2005, forward Daniel Ryder was drafted in the third round by the Calgary Flames, and in 2006, won the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award for being the most valuable player in that year’s OHL playoffs. His future was bright, as Hockey’s Future analyzed his talent here:
Daniel, like his older brother Michael, is a goal scorer, pure and simple. He has a knack for finding open ice as well as finding the open man. He fights for loose pucks, battles hard in the corners and does a lot of the other intangibles that are crucial come playoff time.
But sometime over the next year or so, everything went very wrong for Daniel Ryder.
For a while, Ryder seemed to be on the right track, accepting a 3 year entry-level contract from the Calgary Flames in 2007, but as Hockey’s Future notes, he walked away from the deal after playing only 6 games with the Quad City Flames. At that point, he was formally suspended by the team. Arik Knapp at 4th Line Blog explained what happened next:
Darryl Sutter met with the Ryder family (though I’m assuming older brother Michael, of the Bruins, wasn’t there) and decided that Daniel would remain suspended for the remainder of the season. The following season, Daniel Ryder was allowed to attend training camp, and then played 14 games with the QC Flames putting up 3-6-9, before being reassigned the to Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. There, he seemingly hit rock bottom- managing zero points and 15 PIMS. He did receive a 25 game tryout at the end of the season with the P-Bruins, who declined to keep him around after the 08-09 season ended.
This is where it goes from sad to tragic.
And where Daniel Ryder’s life seemed to take a drastic u-turn. In January, 2010, he was arrested for armed robbery, making it clear things went from bad to worse for the former NHL prospect. From CBC:
He turned himself in to police Jan. 6, a day after a man held up a convenience store in Bonavista, Ryder’s hometown. The RCMP said at the time that the man’s face was partially covered, and he told the cashier he had a gun.
Ryder’s counsel and a psychiatrist argued that his documented mental health problems should prevent their client/patient from standing trial, and back in February of 2010, the judge agreed. But somewhere in the interim that ruling was overturned and Ryder did, in fact, stand trial. His case wrapped up this week and now he is waiting to find out the verdict in late August.
It’s a tragic story on several levels. Of course, first and foremost, innocent people were obviously terrorized by an armed robbery, and no one should have to go through something like that. And then there’s the hockey angle.
For most of us, the opportunities Daniel Ryder once had in front of him are the stuff our dreams are made of. And we know that most kids who get such an opportunity work their buns off; sometimes with great success, but just as often (or more often) they eventually run the course of their hockey careers at an early age, and move on to other things.
But Daniel’s case stands out not because he tried and failed, but because other forces seemed to be at work. Perhaps that’s where the first hints of mental health problems began…. and if you’ve ever known anyone who’s suffered from such things, you know how devastating those changes can be.
In a case like Ryder’s, I suppose such tragedies seem even more magnified, given the bright future his family, teammates and fans had reason to believe was possible.
A tragic story all around. But with the conclusion of his trial, and by dealing with the consequences of that, whatever they may be, perhaps a brighter future awaits.