Ryan’s Rant - On the Juice with the Juice

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By Terry Ryan 

Folks, as I wrote this chapter of my book, "Tales of a First Round Nothing", I figured I had to include this in a Ryan's Rant at some point.


This story is brutally honest but I figure screw it, people may as well know a real story from a typical day in the life of a minor leaguer. Hope you like it! Oh, and it's not for kids...


“On the Juice with the Juice”

As I write these stories and word has gotten out that I am putting a book together, there have been a few requests for specific tales. This one is a favorite of  Josh “Juice” Green who I was fortunate to have played with in Fredericton, New Brunswick for the 1997-98 season and we have remained close to this day.

BetOnHockey_Terry_Ryan_Canadians.jpg1997-98 was a fun year for me, and most of the team for that matter. The Fredericton Canadiens had been Montreal’s farm team for the better part of a decade but this particular year they combined minor league affiliates with the Los Angeles Kings so we had 9 or 10 Kings hopefuls - Roman Vopat, Chris Schmidt, Donald “Daddy Mac” Maclean, Juice, Eric Belanger, to name a few - playing with a slew of young Habs prospects including myself, Jose Theodore, David Ling, Brad Brown, Thomas Vokoun and Stephane Robidas. We were all in our early 20’s and having the time of our lives.

The majority of the boys were in their 1st full pro season, including myself, and a lot changes in those short few summer months after your last junior/college season and before your initial professional experience. Paychecks are huge (I made $90 a week as a 19 year old in Red Deer and around $2000 a week in Freddy Beach). In Junior we were destined to live with a roommate and billets and now we were free to live on our own. Travel becomes easier as roadside motels are replaced by 5 star hotels. Everyone is of legal drinking age so after games cards and beer is the new gameboy and pepsi. The high school girls of junior morph into a wide-variety of horny women ready to get physical with any of us future has-beens for no other reason than the fact we have our names on their kids hockey cards. The cities are a step up. The suits go from Tip Top Tailor to Hugo Boss. Cheap beers and chewing tobacco take a back seat to scotch and cigars. Like David Wilcox says in one of his many classic tunes, “Downtown Came Uptown” so to speak. On top of all this most of us at some point during the season got called up to the big show which is even another step up where 5 Stars become 6 Stars, scotch becomes Crystal, the Aitken Centre becomes the Bell Centre and the women become….well, that story is for another time. Moving on….

Our daily routine would usually consist of being at the rink by 8 or 9, practicing from 10 - 12 and maybe a workout after. After that it’s all free time for the most part. This would often include restaurants, pubs, taverns, bars, clubs, patios, lounges, whatever. We picked our spots to tie one on but if you watch the movie “Slapshot”, I have to say it’s fairly accurate. Even if we weren’t boozing, we were hangin out together. Especially in a small town like Freddy Beach. We became family in a lot of drinkin establishments.

So, whenever we got to the rink there was usually some stories from the night before to be told, or quite frequently player would be sent down from the NHL and he would have some big-show stories to tell the boys over stale coffee and whatever doughnuts that were brought in that day from various rookies. It was something to look forward to on cold winter mornings and added to the camaraderie that is needed to keep a young kid on track. A lot of fans don’t realize how stressful it can be. Even though we do what we love, there are sacrifices and stress that get hard to deal with. A scoring slump can end in a demotion to one of the lower leagues (the ECHL), and a few good games can be rewarded with a call up to an NHL city. It really is that simple at times and when a few points or penalty minutes can be the difference between thousands, hell, millions of  bucks  - well let’s just say it can have a kid stressing like Barry Bonds before giving a urine sample.

BetOnHockey_Case_of_24_Beer.jpgOn this particular day, Roman Vopat had been recently demoted by the Kings and was telling us a great story about a day off the Kings had in L.A. a few days earlier. One of the guys bet the rookies a pile of dough that they couldn't drink 24 beer in 8 hours.

“That sounds easy RV, I can flatten 24 beers in 8 hours!” I say irresponsibly, as was often the case.

“I know, but it’s not” says Roman, a good guy, tough player and chick magnet who hailed from Czech but played in the Western Hockey League. He was always up for a good time or a challenge. “There are rules. There can be no eating and no puking. The beer can’t be light beer, it has to be at least 5% alcohol. There will be no consumption of water during the time allotted and we all have to witness it.”

“Perfect. I will smash that record and quite frankly Roman, I am offended you don’t think I can do it. I am also flabbergasted that a man of your so-called experience and pride couldn't do it. We’re on.”

I can’t remember what the Over/Under was on me doing it but there were more than a few guys who took a part of the action. That very day happened to be St. Paddy’s Day and the following day we were off for a road trip, so as a collective group of idiots we all headed to Dolan’s Pub after practice to hang out at the table next to the women’s washroom for the afternoon. We did this to make sure we got a glance at every dame in the place of course.

I sat down with Matt Higgins, Miloslav Guren (my roomie), Juice and Chris Schmidt. Most of the team was there but I distinctly remember sitting down with those guys and ordering my first Guinness. I remember because Juice pointed out I should be going with a bottle instead of a pint as I was now drinking more than I should have and it could play a part in the outcome. I told him to relax, his coin was safer than Titanic’s box office records but not quite as safe as Britney Spears’ virginity.

“Juice”, I said, looking him in the eye and smirking. “This is a walk in the park. Don’t sweat it big fella. Happy St. Paddy’s Day mon amis, Cheers!”. With that we all touched glasses and sat back to take in the vibrant atmosphere of one of Freddy Beaches coolest poison providers.

BetOnHockey_Guinness_Beer.jpgThings went well early. A few of the boys were junior rivals (Schmidt - Seattle. Juice - Swift Current. Higgins - Moose Jaw) and I was telling them how I would put dirt on the floor of the visitors dressing rooms so as to scuff up their skate blades a little before games amongst other things. I liked to start shit and get everyone arguing. All the boys lead the conversation at some point and good times are being had. We actually made a side bet that I couldn’t make it to 10 beers without a trip to the mens room and I broke the seal at number 11, so I already won free beer for the day. Although I do have to confess that around beer number 4 I switched to the bottles. I figured Juice had a valid point; it wasn’t just my money I was gambling with, I was representing all the boys who stood behind me and I would have more time to show off and drink Guinness after the challenge if I wanted.

Time was passing and everything was going well! I hit number 20 in full stride and although I had a slur and my shirt was off, I was still going strong. I looked like a fool but that’s not the bet now is it. Four more wobbly pops and I win. I looked at my watch and Juice pointed out the obvious - we are only at the 5 hour mark! I had 3 hours to drink 4 beer!!

I immediately went to get Roman to start the celebration. He is a cheap drunk and has low standards. The girl he was now focusing on finishing the evening with had the sex appeal of a plane crash. 

“Ok Roman, get your wallet out and lets have some shooters to celebrate!”. We had a couple of rounds of the house tequila and I got him to grab me a few rum and cokes along with my remaining 4 beers since I feel fantastic.

What happened next is anybody's guess. Juice had come outside and seen me with my pants down, hammer out in a snow bank lying in a pile of yellow snow. He threw me in a cab but I remember nothing (There is actually a good moral lesson here somewhere about takin' it easy when hitting the sauce, but it is a fun story so let's not focus on that! It built character, as they say).

In the morning, the phone was ringing, for what seemed like hours. I was all wet and it remains to this day the only time I pissed myself from hitting the sauce too heavy. There was regurgitated pizza all over the floor which confirms the dreams I had about eating pizza were not really dreams at all. I was bed ridden and after about 7 or 8 separate calls I answered the phone. It was Earl Cronan, one of my roomies. “TR, Mike (Michel Therrien) called a practice. We were caught off guard and me and Brownie slept at Higgy’s last night so we came straight here. He said he phoned you first. And congrats by the way, good job last night big guy, we'll spend my winnings later”.

I was pissed. Mike and I didn’t see eye to eye anyway and I am pretty sure he called practice only because he had heard my antics the night before. We were scheduled for a day off and he knew we were celebrating Paddy's Day.  When I got to the rink the boys stood up and clapped as the daily wager was currently whether or not I would make it to practice on time, if at all. The boys also filled me in on the nights events as I blacked out before I finished, and it turns out I had finished all 24 in 5 hrs and 15 minutes. Kids, don't try this at home.

BetOnHockey_Josh_Green_Oilers.jpgWhen we hit the ice I felt like shit, and when I looked at the bench three of the boys were already puking just from pre-warm up - the warm-up before warm-up.  I can honestly say it’s the worst I have ever felt for practice. No preparation, we were supposed to have a day off! To add insult to injury Big Mike called a hitting practice with no pucks to prove a point and made me the subject of most drills. When he did bring pucks out they were given to D-men to practice shooting and me and a couple more guys had to practice shot blocking. But this just added to the story so we all had a chuckle and most people I keep in touch with to this day bring up that story, including the Juice, who just reminded me of that crazy March day in 1998.

Thanks Juice, and retire already!



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