Ducks forward Bobby Ryan was about to take aim at a fairway this afternoon and sounded less intimidated by the hole in front of him than the possibility of making the U.S. Olympic Hockey team.
“Surreal is probably the best word,” said Ryan, who along with Ryan Whitney was one of two Ducks invited to the three-day orientation camp last week in Chicago. “With some of the big names out there, it was pretty incredible to get to skate, pal around and get to know the guys.”
The 22-year-old is considered a longshot to make Team USA’s final roster. Thirty-four players were invited to the three-day orientation, and only 23 will make the final cut in February. Speculating who will go to Vancouver has been a pastime of the media during the NHL’s off-season, but Ryan didn’t bite.
He said the camp felt less like a tryout and more like a business gathering.
“There werea lot of meetings, sitting down and listening to other people talk,” he said. One stood out. “Some military guys spoke about what they’ve gone through. The similarities, I guess, are you have to come together a for a short period of time, though their situation is obviously much more dire.
“It was an eye-opening speech by all of them. Speaking for everybody who was there, you take a lot from it.”
As for the hockey, there were three practices, one each day of the camp. Not that its intricacies — the forward combinations, defensive pairings and goalie battles — were a focal point of the media coverage.
That would be Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, the only invitee younger than Ryan, who pled guilty on Thursday to disorderly conduct for his role in an altercation with a cab driver days before the camp began. How much of a distraction was it?
“Iknow Patrick,” Ryan said. “It’s something I feel is out of his character, but it’s not for me to comment on by any means, The front staff of Burkie (general manager Brian Burke) and (head coach) Ron Wilson told us to say we’ve dealt with it and move on. Knowing Patrick, it’s something that was probably blown way out of proportion. I didn’t even ask him about it.”
Burke hasn’t planned another formal team gathering until Valentine’s Day, two days before the team is scheduled to play its first game in Vancouver. Burkesaid this week that he expects to make his final roster “around December 30.” The NHL regular season, then, will serve as the rest of the tryout process as the GM watches from Toronto.
Even though Burke drafted him second overall in 2005, Ryan doesn’t think that familiarity will benefit him when Burke makes his final roster. There is one perk, however.
“I’m too old for the Junior Olympics,” he said, “so they can’t send me down.”