What dad and pro hockey player Ryan Reaves teaches his kids about hard work

Three images of New York Rangers hockey player Ryan Reaves with his children

Courtesy of subject

New York Rangers right-winger Ryan Reaves, 35, grew up with sports in his blood. His dad, Willard Reaves, is a famous former professional footballer, after all. Now, with two kids of his own, Reaves is taking the lessons he learned from his dad and his time playing hockey to teach the importance of outworking everyone around you.

“My dad was my football coach and he molded me into the type of athlete that I am,” says Reaves, who is currently assisting Rangers as they face the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. “I’m very physical and I don’t really like sports that don’t have a physical game, and he got me shaped in it.” But he also taught Reaves how to act stopped the ground and the ice.

Growing up in Winnipeg, Reaves’ father was a legend. “He won a Gray Cup and was the MVP [in 1984]. Winnipeg really loved him, and when I saw fans coming up to him, he always had time to talk to the kids and people who knew who he was. The way he interacted with these people helped me learn how to do it, and I always make time now to talk to the fans, especially the kids.”

Kids of the New York Rangers Ryan Reaves

Kids of the New York Rangers Ryan Reaves

Courtesy of Ryan Reaves

Reaves’ own children – Kanen, 6, and Kamilla, 3 – are his escape from the real world and the stress of a high-stakes job. “When I come home from work, if something bothers me, I see my kids and forget about everything and just hang out with them.”

Kanen and Kamilla are also at an age where they better understand what their dad does and start playing their own sports. “The best part is seeing my kids at the games,” Reaves said. “Seeing them wear my shirt and cheering and then my wife sending me videos after games where they cheer me on or sing the Rangers ‘Goal’ song every time someone scores – it’s things like that that don’t don’t last forever in this profession.”

Part of being a professional athlete means Reaves doesn’t have a typical 9-to-5 schedule and is often on the road during hockey season. “I’ve only had one or two Halloweens with my son and daughter, and it’s one of my favorite holidays. Sometimes you miss birthdays. I couldn’t attend any of the hockey lessons. from my son, and I’ve only done a few dance recitals from my daughter. I think that’s definitely the hardest thing, missing little things in their life and being so absent.

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t involved and doesn’t teach his children many of the lessons his own father taught him, especially the sense of hard work.

“One big thing, especially with my son right now, is not being satisfied,” he says. “I think my son gets good at something or sees he’s getting better at something, and then all of a sudden he starts saying he’s better than all these guys. I think sometimes I gotta let him know he could get better, but someone else is getting even better. You have to work even harder than them if you want to get where you want to be. That’s something about sports. and in life: you have to beat [other people] go out and work 10 times harder than them if you want to get that spot, be on that team, or get that interview and get that job. I try to instill that in my children.”

Reaves motivates his kids – and is a mentor to his teammates – to have the confidence, tenacity, drive and arrogance of someone who knows he’s giving it his all.

Catherine J. Martinez