Bobby Ryan is an NHL hockey player for the Detroit Red Wings. He was born in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and had a troubling childhood. While drunk, his father beat his mother and was charged with attempted murder. He fled to Canada, where Bobby and his mother joined him and lived under fake names. Eventually, U.S. marshals found Bobby’s father and, he went to jail for five years. Bobby has stated that while his childhood did not contribute to his drinking problem, he did have many issues surrounding it that he did not deal with. He has shared that ignoring these issues led to them escalating over the last three years.
Bobby was struggling with alcoholism and tried to stop many times on his own. He feared asking for help due to the stigmas surrounding alcohol abuse. After trying to stop drinking on his own several times, Bobby realized he needed help. In November of 2019, Bobby entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. The player assistance program was formed in 1996 and is typically a confidential program that provides players and their families with help for mental health and substance abuse issues. When a player is forced to take a leave of absence to enter the program, it typically leads to it being more public. Bobby knew if he continued drinking and not getting help, things were not going to end well. He has had support from his wife, teammates, coaches, and fans. Some other players in the NHL have shown Bobby support by sharing their stories of addiction and working through the program.
First Home Game after Treatment
Bobby Ryan returned for his first home game in February. Ottawa Senators’ fans greeted him with several signs welcoming him back after he entered treatment for alcoholism three months earlier. Ryan helped lead his team to victory, ending a four-game losing streak, with an incredible performance. Bobby scored a hat trick, or three goals in one game, and earned player of the game. Fans cheered him on with a standing ovation and moved Bobby to tears.
There has been an incredible amount of support from fans for Bobby at the game, as well as online. Bobby Ryan publicly shared his problem with alcohol abuse and was supported by the NHL, fans, family, teammates, and other NHL players. Hopefully, through sharing his struggle, Bobby can help end the stigmas surround alcohol and drug abuse.
Ending the Stigma
Bobby stated that he struggled with asking for help due to stigmas surrounding alcoholism. Many people fear being judged if they ask for help. Public figures sharing their struggles with mental health and addiction is helping end some of these fears. The more people that share their stories, the more connections people that are still struggling can find. Support for people facing addiction and mental health issues is vital and may lead to them getting the help they need.
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- “NHL player wipes away tears after emotional hat trick in return from alcohol rehab” – Today, Scott Stump; 28 Feb. 2020
- “Ryan ‘doing great,’ hopes to return for Senators this season” – NHL.com, David Satriano; 21 Feb. 2020
- “NHL rumors: N.J.’s Bobby Ryan enters NHL player assistance program” – NJ.com, Brian Fonseca; 20 Nov. 2019