Kids were swarming Bobby Ryan, begging for autographs, even though he was just a kid himself. Banners at the J.D. McArthur Arena read "Welcome Bobby Ryan." It was June 2003, and Ryan was in town to meet with the staff of the Owen Sound Attack, the team that had called his name in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League draft. A reporter from the local paper wanted to interview the 16-year-old right wing. "Tell me about growing up, about your family," he said. Everyone wanted to know about the kid from New Jersey.
This was Ryan's first visit to Owen Sound. He'd never even heard of it, had to get out a map just to find it. There it was, tucked into the south shore of Georgian Bay, 120 miles northwest of Toronto. With a population of 22,000, it's the smallest town in the OHL. Because of that, some prospects tell the team not to draft them. Coaches even use Owen Sound as a motivational tool. Got a slacker? Hint that you're talking trade with the Attack.