Ryan's Rant - New Chiclets

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By Terry Ryan

'Tis that time of year when training camps are ending, last cuts are being made and numerous parents across the country are getting the call that their boy just made the NHL!

This is a story about my experience in the minors - the legendary West Coast Hockey League - one year, 2001-2002, at roughly this same time of year.


    My season in Boise was pretty much a right off from the beginning, as I got hurt at Dallas Stars camp in September and again on opening night in Boise (a high ankle sprain which would end up being the reason I had to retire from hockey) . Great people though, and a great city. They really supported us.

Like I said, the injury was there, however all year I tried to play through it and therefore played sparingly over the course of the season, but ended up getting in 25 games or so and when we lost in the final (Game 7) to the Brodie "Coco" Coffin, David "Mayday" Mitchell  and the rest of the Fresno Falcons I felt like part of the team. Off the ice I would try and do what I could to help the team out, whether it be volunteer to visit kids at various schools or children’s hospitals or simply fill water bottles at practice. I would stay on the ice in practice late to make sure the goalies were ready, things like that. I had always wanted to win a ring, and I wanted it to be justified!

BetOnHockey_Hockey_Smile_250x114.jpg    This particular part of the year was getting strenuous to say the least, as my marriage was failing (marriage #1 ended shortly after), my dreams of playing in the NHL permanently were dwindling, and to top it all off I had half of my two front teeth missing. I had lost them in a hall hockey game at a national tournament in Montreal that summer representing Newfoundland. I could have gone to the hospital right after I lost 'em but the boys were leaving to go home and the last night of any trip is a gong show. I was off to Dallas the next day so I figured I would just get them done Texas style and party with my pals from the Rock that evening, forgetting how expensive it would be and the fact that I was only invited to camp, not signed by Dallas.  That meant if I got hurt, I had to pay for it figuratively and literally. Put it this way, by the time I got to Boise in late September it had been done for two months and I was wearing a mouth guard around in everyday chores to prevent the nerves from being any more exposed….they hurt whenever I took a breath. One of the first things I did when I got to Boise was try and get them fixed, but our trainer "Hip" Kip Dribnak warned me the team wouldn’t be paying for the dental work as I did it in the summer and wasn’t property of Idaho at that point. I was pissed because I had no way out - or so I thought - because this made sense.

BetOnHockey_Beer_200x245.jpgSo here I was, facing an approximate $5000+ bill and there was nothing I could do about it. My ball hockey insurance only paid for $1000.00 so at this point I had to eat a $4000 bill . Then it came to me.

    One morning that week I was at the rink early as usual and mockingly complained to our doctor.  “Doc”, I said, “What if I keep these teeth and eventually someone knocks them out worse and I have to get them fixed (I looked like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. Half teeth). I mean the chances are I may lose them again if I continue playing hockey and it’s a costly bill, so maybe I will wait and see.”  “Sure”, doc replied. “Of course we would fix them up nice. And knowing how injury prone you are it may actually be a possibility!”, he said laughingly, never thinking the plan I was unfolding would be followed through on. I waited until after practice and called a few pals over to tell them the news of my scheme. Some laughed, some grimaced, some stood in disbelief, and at the end of the day there were dressing room bets over whether or not I would go through with it. The following is as vivid in my memory to me as the day I saw my first stripper on a pee-wee hockey trip to Montreal (I got in by pulling my hat down and putting Vaseline and pepper over my face to look like stubble, but that’s another story)…..

BetOnHockey_Hammer_200x300.jpg     The stage was set. I waited three weeks so as not to seem obvious, and I told the boys in our morning skate it was time. We all lived in the same apartment complex which the team provided for us so all the boys were there that night, waiting for a result, or lack of.

I remember how I prepared for doomsday. I waited until after my nap which always came immediately following practice, and grabbed a half dozen beers to summon my inner courage. I popped in a VHS tape of “The Simpsons” to lighten up my mood (I recorded them all so we would have something to watch on any long bus trips, which in the minors are as common as players’ mustaches in the 1970’s broad street bullies era) and once I finished my 6th wobbly pop, I grabbed a toy hammer left in the apartment by the son of one of the players. It was metal but tiny and seemed as though it may be able to chip off some of my teeth. I walked over to the bathroom mirror and figured I would lightly tap my teeth, they would chip a little and I would say I did it in a practice, which would set the stage for my free jibbers.

    After several blows to my teeth - which weren’t budging by the way - I figured it was time to use a bigger tool. My teammate and close friend Bobby Stewart was downstairs and I KNEW he had a toolbox so I ventured down and the smallest thing he had was a mini sledgehammer. 

Upon returning upstairs I realized the size of this hammer and figured I had better be accurate, the end of this thing was large and rounded and the teeth were ALREADY half gone so I had a small margin for error. Plus I was half cocked from the liquid courage needed to give me the balls to pull this off in the first place! I said “Fuck it!” - I swung away and…uh-oh….pulled up the last minute, splitting my lip in two so much so that my tongue could go right through it!! Now I was leaking and I HAD to finish this off…..

BetOnHockey_Sexy_Nurse_200x213.jpgThe next swing drove my head so hard that I knocked out all 4 front teeth, two of which I was completely happy with, and they fell into the sink. The mess was large and the moment was surreal.  I walked down to show the boys and all I remember doing was laughing and actually having a few more beers while telling the story.  I had to hide this until I got onto the ice.

The next day at the rink was a challenge, but I got through it. I even spoke with the doctor and trainer, all while looking down and with my hand over my mouth. I would be around the corner doing up my skates and they were in the training room as usual. They would remember TALKING to me, but hadn’t actually SEEN me and therefore the thought of self-mutilation didn’t even surface in their minds I am sure. I taped my teeth to my skin under my jersey and when I finally hit the ice I acted like I slipped on a puck right away and threw the teeth across the ice, nicked over my gums as to produce some blood, and ran into the room in what appeared to be agony. The doc couldn’t believe his eyes and confirmed I must have been the most unlucky hockey player he had come across in a long time.

$6500.00 (U.S.) later, I had a brand new set of chiclets!


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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