Ryan Callahan might have retired from hockey, but he isn’t done with the sport just yet.
The popular former Lightning forward was placed on the long-term injured reserve list almost two years ago due to a degenerative disc disease in his back. He officially retired in December after 13 years in the NHL.
But instead of distancing himself from the sport entirely, Callahan, 35, has found a role as a television analyst. The former wing made a few appearances on NHL Network last season and will become a more regular presence this season.
Callahan was on the air the first week of February and will return to the NHL Tonight stage starting with his next stint March 1-5.
While technically under contract with the Senators last season — Callahan was traded from Tampa Bay in July 2019 to free up salary-cap space — he was allowed to appear on NHL Network to test the fit.
“To be honest, I didn’t know how I was going to like it,” Callahan said. “I kind of went in with an open mind and told them I might hate it, I might not be good at it, but I’ll give it a shot. And I ended up really enjoying my time there.”
After first getting his feet wet, Callahan became more comfortable in the role. He learned to use less jargon so the audience can understand his points and to respectfully critique players, some of whom he played with and against during his career.
During one of his February appearances, he stood next to fellow analyst Jamison Coyle, talking about that night’s matchups and players and teams who have stuck out so far this season.
Callahan said he’d pick the Oilers’ Connor McDavid in a 3-on-3 overtime situation. Callahan remembered “sitting on the bench in awe” as a player watching McDavid skate smoothly up and down the ice.
Callahan also dissected the play of former teammate Ondrej Palat with analyst and ex-Lightning goaltender Kevin Weekes. Callahan called Palat “an unsung hero” for the Lightning and “the straw that stirs that drink” on the team’s top forward line.
While his experience as a player might have made the transition into broadcasting a bit easier for Callahan, he knows he’s still far from a finished product.
“There’s still a lot of room for me to grow,” he said, “and continue to get better at it.”
Callahan and his family left the Tampa Bay area this summer and moved back to his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., which allows him to expand the Ryan Callahan Foundation, a charity that focuses on helping pediatric cancer patients and their families.
“People ask me, ‘What’s the highlight of your career?’” Callahan said. “I’ll be honest with you, this foundation is probably what I take the most away from my career. To be in a position to help out and to go and do that and make the impact we’ve made on a lot of these kids’ lives, it’s been so rewarding to me.”
Since the move, Callahan and the foundation, which launched in 2016, have reached out to local children’s hospitals in the Rochester area.
“That’s our mission,” to give these families some family unity and give them a break from their day-to-day and hardships they’re going through,” he said. “It’s exciting to see the foundation grow.”
The pandemic didn’t stop the foundation’s efforts but created some “tough timing” as the foundation was set to host the Psychedelic Soiree event March 13 at Armature Works, a fundraising event that helps to set up the foundation up for the year.
“The world stopped, but kids were still getting cancer, unfortunately,” he said. “Families were still having to travel to hospitals and get treatment. A lot of parents lost jobs during that time and weren’t getting paid their normal salaries.”
In January, Callahan announced the launch of Cally’s Comforts in Tampa and Rochester. The program provides services such as mini-massages, hair cuts, facials, nail care and more for pediatric cancer patients and their families.
“We’ve tried to come up with new ideas to help them out and give them a break from the craziness of treatment in cancer,” Callahan said.
Though Callahan’s mailing address has changed, he said his family’s roots are still very much in Tampa. He and his family plan to return to the area for periodic visits once travel becomes safer.
In the meantime, his work as an analyst will keep him busy as he looks at the game he’s known for 32 years in a new way.
“At the end of the day, I just really enjoyed sharing my knowledge with the fans and watching hockey, talking hockey,” he said. “It’s been my life since I was 3 years old, so I feel comfortable talking about the game, and it kept me involved, too.”
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