VANCOUVER - The official Olympic biography tends to be a sanitized page of drivel, full of favorite movies, favorite foods, ages of brothers and sisters, maybe a famous linkage or two. If there is any family dirt, it is not for public consumption, which makes Bobby Ryan's entry all the more stunning:
Previous Names: Robert Shane Stevenson.
Additional Information: Bobby Stevenson became Bobby Ryan after his father Robert Stevenson changed his name to Shane Ryan to avoid being caught by law enforcement authorities. The elder Stevenson had jumped bail after being charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and criminal restraint against his wife Melody.
The next two paragraphs aren't any better, describing in full detail the timeline that took the family to places like Michigan and California as U.S. marshals hunted down Bob Stevenson, finally arresting him in 2000.
It's a story the kid from Cherry Hill has never run from, disclosing it on the day he was drafted, retelling it countless times since, including now.
But still . . . in your official Olympic bio?
"Stunned?" he was asked?
"No," he said. "It's news once everywhere you go. I've kind of, for the most part, put it in the past. No one really asks me about it anymore unless it comes up in one of those sheets. I tell the story once in every new city. It gets old pretty quick."
Here's what doesn't. His candor. His success against all odds. For a kid who grew up living a lie, Ryan seems incapable of telling one. For someone who lost a big piece of his innocence through this ordeal that dominated his adolescence, he seems incredibly normal.
Say it happened to you. Say your dad had beaten your mom into a hospital bed while you slept upstairs, been arrested, fled the state, summoned you and your forgiving mother to join him, changed the name you spent your first 11 years with, and trained you to answer to it and only it.
Say you had to leave all your friends in one place, then again in another place, then finally once more to play junior hockey in Canada.
"I think through it all I became a lot more independent," he said. "I had to spend a lot more time on my own. My mom worked a lot. I came through it in the best possible way. If there's anybody who's going through the same situation, maybe with a kid who plays hockey? Channel everything through sports. That's what I did."
Brian Burke, general manager of Team USA and the former GM of the Anaheim Ducks, drafted Ryan in 2005. He tells of a draft-day meal with the player and his two nervous parents, of the three adults barely touching their plates while the player wolfed down his. "He's always been like that," his mother told ESPN recently, but yesterday Ryan made it clear his stoicism was forged by the tumult.
"I think I developed it over those years," he said, and then again, for effect. "I spent a lot of time alone."
No more. He has a girlfriend, owns his own home now, has a big-fat contract in his immediate future. With his unexpected selection to this U.S. Olympic hockey team he is, one month short of his 23rd birthday, officially the first NHL superstar from South Jersey.
The second overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft (that's in the bio), his 28 goals and 21 assists this season (that's not), on top of last year's breakout rookie season (also not in the bio), have given him this unlikely, unprecedented opportunity. Those numbers, Burke's description of him as a "big man with small-man skills," should have stuffed the bio.
"Bobby's become a guy who can change a game all by himself," Burke said. "He's a guy who can break a game open."
So is Ryan mad that it isn't? Hardly. The truth, truly, has set him free of that kind of wasted energy.
"I like to think the path I took was the best," Ryan said. "It wasn't under the best circumstances but . . .
"I certainly don't have any skeletons in my closet."
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