The award is given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.
In November 2019, Ryan entered the NHL/NHL Players’ Assistance program. In February, he went public with his battle with alcohol addiction in an effort to help others with their own addiction issues.
On Feb. 27, the veteran winger returned to the ice for the Senators, scoring a hat trick in a win over the Vancouver Canucks.
“I told my wife five years ago, because of her I could feel myself and see myself starting to become the man I wanted to be. I took a detour, but I’m back,” Ryan said after winning the award. “I’m back and I’m trying to get better every day. Every day I wake up and go through this process with therapy and everything so that I can be better for [my family]. And hockey will always come second to that.”
Ryan also took a moment to congratulate fellow nominees Oskar Lindblom and Stephen Johns.
“I’d like to say congrats to the other nominees, both Oskar and Stephen, who were equally if not more deserving of winning. I think it’s important to honour them in my conversation, and I wish them health and long careers going forward.”
Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in December, completing radiation treatments in July and returning to the ice with the Philadelphia Flyers for the latter portion of their playoff series against the New York Islanders.
Johns missed a season and a half with post-concussion syndrome, suffering through painful headaches which put his future career in question. Eventually returning to the ice with the Dallas Stars, he scored four games into his return against the New York Rangers, with his parents in attendance at Madison Square Garden.