Like father, like son
Five years after nearly dying, Ryan Howe is living his life, enjoying the little moments and captaining the Red Lake Miners to the Centennial Cup
Ryan Howe is grateful for many things – his family, his friends, hockey and, above all, life.
Wearing the Red Lake Miners ‘C’ at the 2022 Centennial Cup, Presented by Tim Hortons, the 21-year-old from Caledon, Ont., wasn’t sure he’d get such an opportunity five years ago .
“It was quite a traumatic experience, and it was close to death, so for me, I’m just grateful to be here,” Howe said. “I appreciate the little things in life a little more.”
Five years ago, Howe was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an intestinal disease that causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
He did not go to school for four months and was hospitalized for six weeks at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He was diagnosed with toxic megacolon, a rare condition that occurs when swelling and inflammation spreads to the deeper layers of the colon. As a result, the colon stops functioning and enlarges.
“There was a good chance that I would need surgery. Thankfully, I didn’t,” Howe says. “I was also diagnosed as anemic as I was battling iron deficiency.”
Throughout his illness, Howe lost a lot of weight. When healthy, the striker weighed around 165 pounds. During his time in hospital, he lost 66, dropping to just 99 pounds when he was 16.
“I didn’t know if I could ever play hockey again,” he says.
When he was discharged from the hospital, Howe weighed 120 pounds. His recovery aimed to get stronger every month.
“For me, it was just about trying to earn a little bit each month and getting stronger,” he says. “I struggled a lot that summer because I didn’t have a lot of energy.”
When Howe stepped back on the ice for his second U18 AAA year with the Mississauga Senators, he was back to normal weight, but wasn’t where he wanted to be hockey-wise.
“I wasn’t playing my best hockey at all – it was a struggle,” Howe said. “I couldn’t take a few strides or lift the puck on my stick – I was too weak. It took a long time to get there. It was a long trip.”
Throughout the experience, Howe understood that life can change quickly and embrace the little things.
“After that experience, I looked at not only hockey, but life in general, differently,” he says. “I was 16 years old, very athletic and doing well in hockey. My future looked bright in terms of hockey options and unfortunately a lot has changed. I wasn’t focusing so much on hockey as on health. »
Now he does not take an opportunity given to him for granted.
“Looking back, I appreciate the things in life. I’m very grateful to even have the chance to continue playing hockey. I was initially told that the doctors were unsure if I could play again. “Howe said. “To go from that to being able to play in the Centennial Cup is awesome and I’m grateful to be here.
Howe still has a long regimen to follow to stay healthy – every six weeks his doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital ship out a Remicade infusion which is administered to Red Lake. These take two hours to sit down, along with a daily iron pill and digestive enzymes.
“He’s a special kid who does things the right way,” said Miners head coach and general manager Geoff Walker. “He’s stronger as a person and there’s not much more life can throw at him.”
Walker has seen Howe develop over the past three years with the Miners, naming him captain this season. The growth he’s seen on and off the ice has been more impactful with his teammates.
“He’s calm, cool and in control and that’s rubbed off on the team. He’s made my job a lot easier,” says Walker. “I’ve seen him grow a lot; coming from Toronto to Red Lake is not easy, but he took it head on and embraced this leadership role so seamlessly.
For Howe, he used his experience to share that wins and losses aren’t the most important things. And the miners have been feeding on what Howe has been preaching all season – doing it together.
“Winning matters, but I wanted it to be a tight group and it’s been that all year. These guys are my best friends,” Howe says. “The Centennial Cup is a prestigious tournament and is played against the best [Junior A] teams in Canada is a cool experience. We know we’re the underdogs, but we’re trying to take advantage of the moment. »