Ryan’s Rant - My First Training Camp

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By Terry Ryan

In 1995, 4 years after leaving my hometown of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, in hopes to one day play professional hockey, I had finally arrived at the legendary Montreal Canadiens training camp.


Terry Ryan Autographed Card BetOnHockey 279x400.jpgNot only was there a whole lot of pressure on me as the most recent 1st round pick for the mighty Habs, I was the highest drafted member of Les Habitants since Shayne Corson almost a decade before me. I had more pressure on me than Rosie O’Donnell’s girlfriend after an afternoon of cocktails and watching women’s softball. But seriously, there were high expectations on me as an 18 year old kid, but with that came the unparalleled feeling of pride and honour of being a small part of the Montreal Canadiens organization.

I was in awe just walking around the streets and seeing the everyday buzz of a city so rich in culture and history. The language was new for me (at least this up close and personal). The restaurants were exquisite and plentiful. The museums, the art, the history... and the women! The 3’s dress like 9’s and the rest all made you want to go shopping immediately and go through a full make-over before even thinking about making a pass. These women seemed so “adult”; ultra cool and confident, almost cocky. Even the girls my age acted a lot older, and my buddies and I, the rookies at camp, were still using our hotel rooms as a site for video game wars and pillow fights. Most of us younger folk hadn’t frequented many bars in our lives, so the lights and action of a place like Crescent Street and the big city nightlife was eye-opening to say the least.

So it was off to the hockey rink, like most other days of my life, except in this case the hockey rink was the Montreal Forum - one of the most historical buildings in all of professional sports with a rich history to say the least. It was Canada’s answer to baseball’s coveted Yankee Stadium.

Outside the Forum there were a couple of dozen fans waiting to get autographs before practice. This was new to me but I came to realize that this is the case in Montreal for nearly every practice or game. It helped to push my anxiety to an all-time high and I felt as if it was a dream. I had felt nerves like this before but now it was different, given the grander scale of things. The first hour of my time at the Forum that day is very vivid in my mind and I remember gulping while meeting guys like Lyle Odelein, Mike Keane, Saku Koivu, and Patrick Roy. The thing is, in the home city of “Les Habitants”, meeting the players for the first time takes a backseat in terms of actually being in that building. For a hockey fan it was like being a history nut and waltzing into Rome’s Coliseum for the first time. Not to mention the media who were around every corner waiting to catch up on any new Habs gossip, most of which is only news worthy in Montreal due to their obsession with the coolest game on earth. I wept uncontrollably in the bathroom stall before we hit the ice hoping nobody would see me and had the butterflies so bad I puked. No big deal though, the dry heaving was a good excuse as to why my eyes were tearing up! I wish someone had been there to take my picture that day other than the media, my expression must have been priceless.

On this particular day we were having a practice, followed by a Red VS White intersquad game was to follow shortly after. I noticed halfway through warm-up that there was a line-up card posted for our game behind the bench, so I scooted over to glance at my linemates for the day. I had a little hop in my step now and at least a few nerves had smartened up and listened to my many prayers to calm down. A few seconds later that thought was squashed when I saw who was on my line for camp - Pierre Turgeon and Mark Recchi. Two seasoned veterans with an abundance of talent and possible future Hall of Fame candidates to boot. I started to sweat like Arnold Schwarzenneger trying to explain why his maid needed maternity leave.

Mark Recchi himself skated over and apologized for not introducing himself in the dressing room. I told him I wouldn’t hold it against him and as I went to lean on the boards I forgot the door was open for players still coming onto the ice. I fell down and was now wedged halfway between the bench and the ice, on my back and glancing up at Recchi with tears that were still drying and a little vomit on my lip corners for good measure. Oh no. Oh God. Oh God. How can this get any worse? As I tried gaining my composure, the invisible walls started to cave in on me and I couldn’t stop stuttering. Cosmo Kramer would have been smoother trying to get up and after a very long 15 or 20 seconds I was back on my feet. Even for a rookie I was obviously shaken up. At this point I was breathing like I had taken an extra long shift in a playoff game, yet I was standing perfectly still. In a word I looked ridiculous. In another embarrassed.

Mark laughed and said, “I am Mark Recchi, but you can call me Rex” (like I didn’t know his name). I felt like a 4 year old meeting Spider-man and now I was supposed to play with this guy on a line. As I looked at Rex, I noticed that even he found my demeanor to be a little off, and my mind raced a mile a minute. I wondered what I myself would introduce myself as. Of course, “Terry” was the appropriate, normal answer that should have rolled off my tongue, but as I thought about it, in a millisecond I changed my mind and figured I would throw out a nickname as well. As I went to spit out “Newf” (my nickname in junior hockey) I guess I was panting too fast and finally, on the verge of hyperventilation, I spit out “Roof”. I mixed “Ryan” and “Newf” into one fantastic happy little word jumble that made no sense….or did it? The only way out of this mess as I saw it was to go with the flow and not correct myself. If nobody caught on Rex would THINK “Rewf” was my nickname and would soon forget about it before it caught on.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, during the game Turgeon hit Rex with a saucer pass that Wayne Gretzky himself would be proud of and Mark was stopped on a breakaway…with yours truly trailing the play and shoving the rebound ‘upstairs’, where Daddy keeps the porn magazines. I just batted at the puck as it lay in the crease and it went in the highest part of the net, right under the crossbar.

When we got to the bench, Rex sat next to me and said “Hey kid, nice shot. Now I know why they call you Roof” (a common hockey term for shooting the puck in the upper part of the net is called “roofing” the puck). The bad news? I was stuck with that nickname for all of training camp (I told the story in the dressing room the next year while called up for my first game to an abundance of laughter). As for the good news, however, I had finally gotten over those crazy first day jitters, and the next few years would end up providing some of my most surreal memories and greatest friendships!


Check Back Every Week For 'Ryan's Rant' By Terry Ryan

Also watch for Terry Ryan's book, 'Tales Of A First Round Nothing'



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