Bobby Ryan opened his eyes and was instantly frozen by fear.
The front door to his home was broken down. The 12-year-old was surrounded by men with several large guns, holding him down on the living room couch on that dark February morning in Southern California.
He knew this day could be coming.
It wasn’t uncommon for him to look through the back window of his mother’s car and write down license plate numbers, wondering if undercover police were following them.
His father was a fugitive. His life was a lie. The end was always near.
He’d known it since he became Bobby Ryan.
“I think I knew this wasn’t gonna last forever,” Ryan told Sportsnet in 2013. “That was kind of the toughest time when [my dad was arrested]. I knew it was gonna be a long time before I saw him again.”
A little more than two years earlier, the boy who would become a star forward for the Ottawa Senators — scoring four goals, with three assists in the playoffs to help set up a second-round matchup with the Rangers starting Thursday night — was known as Bobby Stevenson and living in Cherry Hill, NJ.
On Oct. 29, 1997, his father, Bob, an insurance executive, took his only child to see his favorite team (the Philadelphia Flyers) host his favorite player (Brett Hull). After the St. Louis Blues’ 3-2 win, they returned home, and Bobby went to bed.
He was asleep when the attack began. He was still sleeping when the police arrived. He didn’t see his mother taken away in an ambulance. He didn’t see his father taken away in handcuffs.
After bringing his son home, Bob went out drinking with friends. When he returned, the interrogation began. Suspicious that his wife, Melody, was using drugs, Bob set up a tape recorder on their home phone. When he left, Melody made one call. He believed that she was trying to buy drugs, which she denied.
The former amateur boxer — who had charges from a bar fight dropped months earlier — began punching his wife and choking her. When a door stood between them, he ripped it off its hinges. The brutal scene stretched into the street. He chased her to a neighbor’s house, where the beating continued.
Melody spent the next four days at Cooper University Hospital in Camden with a fractured skull, a punctured lung, internal bleeding and four broken ribs. Bob was charged with attempted murder and five other felony counts.
“That night changed everything,” Bob told Sportsnet. “Regardless of what I think I heard and what I believed, it didn’t give me the right to do what I did, and I was wrong.”
Melody refused to cooperate with prosecutors, but enough evidence existed to likely convict her husband. After being released on $75,000 bail, Bob went on the run.
Robert Stevenson became Shane Ryan, adopting the surname from a movie he’d recently seen — “Saving Private Ryan.” He bounced around the United States and Canada, looking for a place where his family could safely live and his son’s growing hockey talent could thrive.
Melody forgave her husband, and after seven months apart, the family reunited in Washington, DC. Together, they drove across the country and settled in El Segundo, Calif., a town where Bob had lived for three months.
“A lot of it was for Bobby,” Melody told Sportsnet, supporting Bob’s claim that he planned to turn himself in when their son was 15 or 16. “We were staying together as a family.”
Their son was now “an actor.” He was a “character.” He was Bobby Ryan.
“They were serious, so I only had to be told once: ‘You’re Bobby Ryan to anybody who asks. No exceptions,’ ” Bobby recalled.
Life was surprisingly normal for the Ryans, almost as it once was for the Stevensons.
The family reflects on the time fondly, with Bobby likening it to a “long-term vacation.” They never spoke of the unspeakable act, and Bobby said he never saw his father erupt in violence again.
Bobby didn’t see much, though. Outside of hockey, he was largely hidden, home-schooled in their small apartment near the beach, while Bob earned money by playing poker at Hollywood Park Casino.
Their cover was nearly blown because of Bobby’s incredible talent on the ice. When he traveled to play in tournaments, multiple people from their past recognized the standout skills and told Melody they knew the family’s secret. All kept quiet, though. To his team in California, they remained the Ryans. The mother was caring. The father was involved. The son was well-liked.
“Back then, it was just a normal life from the outside,” LA Junior Kings youth coach James Gasseau told The Post. “Shane was always paying attention and helping with Bobby’s training. He was just the normal good dad who wants to support his son. It was a surprise to hear everything that went on. During the time we were coaching, none of that was transparent. Bobby was a good, happy kid. He fit right in. It didn’t seem to really affect him.”
Shane stopped coming to the rink in February 2000, when US marshals dragged away one of New Jersey’s most-wanted men. The facade fell apart when he used a credit card with a different alias — which the FBI was tracking — to rent a movie at Blockbuster video. The dad was arrested, extradited to New Jersey and served four years at Riverfront State Prison after pleading guilty to aggravated assault and bail jumping.
‘They were serious, so I only had to be told once: “You’re Bobby Ryan to anybody who asks. No exceptions.”‘
Melody, a former stay-at-home mom, worked two jobs to provide for her son and further his promising future. During the day, she worked at a hockey rink, allowing her son free ice time. At night, she worked at the airport, helping reduce travel costs.
Bobby could rejoin his peers at school. The acting was over. He finally had a say in his life — and his identity.
His mother gave him the choice. He could be a Stevenson or a Ryan.
“It’s really weird that I didn’t want to go back to my other name,” Ryan said. “I don’t know if it was because I didn’t want to be associated with everything that happened or I was getting recognition throughout the country for hockey or what it was . . . but I liked it. I felt more comfortable with it at that point for some reason.”
The career his father trained him for blossomed while Bob was behind bars. Bobby won two national championships with the Junior Kings. By 16, he was playing in the Ontario Hockey League. Two years later, he was the second overall pick in the 2005 NHL Draft by the Anaheim Ducks. In each of his first four full seasons, he scored more than 30 goals. He won a silver medal in the 2010 Olympics. He made the 2015 All-Star game, two years after he was traded to Ottawa.
The scars remained, but Ryan’s visits to sports psychologist Dana Sinclair — who began seeing him after he was drafted by Anaheim — helped him attain success.
“I wasn’t really excited about the game for a while. I wanted to quit. I had a lot more going on than most 18-year-olds should ever have to deal with,” Ryan told the Ottawa Sun. “[Sinclair] saved my career really.”
In 2004, Bob was released from prison. In 2005, he was back under house arrest after violating his parole to be at the draft, alongside Melody, whom Bob was prevented from seeing because of a court-enforced restraining order against her wishes.
When it was lifted, the parents got back together in New Jersey. After several years living with each other, the couple split. Now 30, Bobby still maintains a relationship with his father and had dinner with him last month while in Philadelphia to face the Flyers. Melody, who was the only one to change her name back to Stevenson, was set to remarry, but she died in July of liver cancer at age 57.
She had just become a grandmother to Bobby’s daughter, Riley.
“With the circumstances of my childhood, there were a lot of ways my life could have gone,” Bobby wrote in a heartfelt tribute to his mother in The Players’ Tribune.
“There were a lot of times when I could have screwed up or strayed in the wrong direction. But instead, I’ve realized all of my dreams. Every single one. And it was all because of you.”