Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Whatever Happened To: Byron Ritchie

It kind of feels like something is missing in the hockey world this season, as one of the most-travelled hockey players Lethbridge Hurricanes fans have ever cheered for quietly hung up his skates earlier this year.

Byron Ritchie began his young career with the Hurricanes in 1993-1994, notching 15 points in 44 games. He would spend the rest of his WHL career in the Windy City, including a 126-point season in 1996-1997, pacing the Canes to the WHL championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup. Ritchie became an instant hero with the first goal of that wild third period against Hull that started a comeback from down 6-1 where Mike Josephson scored the 7-6 OT winner.

From there, Ritchie earned many Frequent Flyer miles. The Hartford Whalers' seventh-rounder immediately headed to the New Haven Beast for the next season. He would bounce between the bigs and the minors for a few years with Carolina, Florida, Calgary and Vancouver, before he headed across the ocean.

In 2008-2009, Ritchie began the next leg of his career in Geneva with the Swiss-A league. Then he headed over to Minsk Dynamo for a year in the KHL, a year with MODO Hockey Ornskoldsvik, then it was back to the Swiss-A league for four seasons with Bern SC. He had spent the past two seasons back with MODO.

In articles I've scanned, Ritchie announced his retirement in March, citing some injury troubles, including to his feet and a concussion. He also said the time away from hockey will allow him to focus on being a dad.

"The brain injury affected me a lot for the first month," Ritchie told Mittmedia. "I actually slept all the time, but now I can live normally, except I can't train now."

In another article, Ritchie said the feet were more his focus, but the concussion took its toll. He admitted he has had those symptoms before and it always felt good after a few days, but this one refused to go away.

"It's a weird feeling, which I never had," Ritchie said.

This season has started with a weird feeling, knowing for the first time in 25 years, Byron Ritchie won't be in uniform anywhere in the world.

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