“It was kinda gutless,” Ryan said. “I almost feel degraded when it comes out like that. It is what it is – that’s their decision and that’s how they feel about me.”
Leaving aside the inclusion of the ever-popular “it is what it is,” what Ryan is talking about here is how the process came to light and what various members of the selection group had to say about him. Anyone who read the article by Scott Burnside of ESPN discovered unprecedented access to how the United States put together their Olympic hockey team for 2014. But they also discovered something else.
“He’s a passive guy,” Brian Burke was quoted as saying about Ryan. “He is not intense. That word is not in his vocabulary. It’s never going to be in his vocabulary. He can’t spell intense.”
Said an anonymous member of the selection squad: “He’s a sleepy skater.”
And from Peter Laviolette, “One of the lowest percentage power-play points guys we have.”
Burke and Ryan do not get along. Everybody knows that. Burke recalls fighting with his scouts in Anaheim over whether or not to draft Ryan over Jack Johnson. They were pushing Ryan and Burke was pushing for Johnson. In the end, Ryan was selected but Burke was never all that pleased about it.
“I should have taken Jack,” Burke says during the Olympic team selection process. “No way he lets us down for 12 days. I know he’s having a poor year, but I love everything about this kid.”
What does this do to a player? Nothing good, I can tell you that.
Burke apparently tried to contact Ryan after the article and the snub emerged, but the Senator didn’t return the call.
“They were direct quotes,” said Ryan. “It’s unfortunate they feel that way. They’ve got to form a team. I guess to a certain degree you have to respect it. You don’t have to agree with it, right? I certainly don’t. They could have just cut me.”
And there’s really no way around this: USA Hockey botched the job. Perhaps it was because they gave such unprecedented access to the selection process (a fascinating if not invasive thing in and of itself) or perhaps it was because they were unfair, but there’s nothing about how they handled this that comes out right.
Everybody knows that players are pitted against one another in these sorts of selection processes, but not everybody has to know what’s going on behind closed doors – especially when what’s going on behind closed doors relates to ripping players to shreds in favour of other players. The NHL guards the arbitration process for this very reason, so why did the American team drop the ball?
And as for Burke, this isn’t exactly new.