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"I missed a lot of years with him," says Bob Ryan, who drove from his home in southern New Jersey and sat with Bobby and forward Drew Miller and his father. "I'd rather spend that time [with Bobby] alone."
Bob Ryan—he occasionally refers to himself by his original name, Bob Stevenson—missed those years because he was in prison. This is the story, as painful and abridged as it is ultimately hopeful:
In October 1997 Stevenson assaulted his wife, and Bobby's mother, Melody, in the family's Cherry Hill, N.J., home. Bob, who had been drinking, fractured Melody's skull, broke four of her ribs and punctured a lung. Bobby, an only child, says he remembers nothing of the incident; the 10-year-old had fallen asleep after attending a Blues-Flyers game in Philadelphia that night with his parents and recalls only waking at his grandfather's house the next day and wondering how he'd gotten there. Bob Stevenson was arrested and charged with six felony counts, including attempted murder. Although Melody obtained a restraining order against her husband, the couple soon reconciled and she asked that all charges be dropped. When a Camden County judge decided to proceed with the case, Stevenson, in late 1998, jumped bail. Melody and Bobby would join him the next summer in L.A.
The father and son took the surname Ryan, from Saving Private Ryan . "My father wanted something really Irish," says Bobby Ryan, born on St. Patrick's Day. The identity switch was only troublesome when Bobby was forced to feign ignorance after kids at the rink told him he looked and played like Bobby Stevenson—a roller hockey star on championship teams from New Jersey that had played tournaments in L.A. To lay low, and to clear time for hockey, Bobby was schooled at home.
Bob Ryan always intended to come back to face the charges, he says, but he wanted his son to be settled first. The timetable was abruptly adjusted in early 2000 when state and federal agents raided the family apartment in Hermosa Beach. "I was sleeping on the couch on our first floor so they had to come right through me," Bobby says. "It was 4:45 in morning. Quick. It was like, 'Oh, bye.' And then I went back to sleep."
"The way I like to look at it is maybe at ages 13, 14, 15, I wasn't meant to be the influence in his life," says Bob Ryan, who in July 2000 pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and bail jumping. Even with Bob in prison, Bobby prospered, embraced by families in Michigan and Owen Sound and wherever youth hockey took him. He spent summers with Melody and his grandparents in New Jersey, periodically visiting Bob in the state prison in Camden.
Bobby Ryan has been telling his unconventional story since before his draft—"This is who I am, I'm not running, I'm not hiding," he says—and it does have an unconventionally happy ending. Bob Ryan, a former insurance executive who became a personal trainer after his incarceration of nearly four years, and Melody Stevenson (she never changed her married name) are still married. The personal training business is booming and Bobby, earning $850,000 this season, is praised by teammates who tag him with one label that makes a father most proud: "Good kid."