Ryan O’Reilly has found himself in the headlines again this month but not for hockey reasons. The new Buffalo Sabres center is scheduled to appear in a London, Ontario courtroom August 20th after being charged with driving while ability impaired and leaving the scene of an accident.
By now you’ve heard that O’Reilly allegedly drove his truck into a Tim Hortons cafe shortly after 4am last Thursday, leaving the scene once doing so. Sabres management has heard about it as well, releasing the only statement they could considering what facts are available.
"“We are aware of the reports regarding the incident involving Ryan O’Reilly last week,” Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said in a statement issued by the team late Monday night. “We are currently in the process of gathering more information and will have no further comment until we have spoken with all parties involved.”The Buffalo News"
I’ll admit when I first learned of Ryan O’Reilly and his legal issues I was frustrated. Some of that comes from Ryan O’Reilly playing for the team I root for. After two historically terrible seasons O’Reilly was part of a great offseason and allowed Sabres fans to consider making the playoffs.
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My emotions ran deeper than that. I began taking all my frustration with athletes running into legal troubles out on Ryan O’Reilly. I prefer my sports as a distraction from life for a few minutes each day, a few hours for games. While I don’t look to athletes to find morality I become frustrated when such talented people make choices that risk not only their futures but that of others.
That’s the only thing we seem to know. Ryan O’Reilly ran into trouble just after 4am, a time at which very few good things are known to happen in general, not just in professional sports. With few details confirmed at this point we are left to wonder what circumstances led to Ryan O’Reilly getting behind the wheel of his truck in the condition he is alleged.
We can also be relieved nobody was seriously hurt. Not Ryan O’Reilly or any passengers in his truck or anyone in that Tim Hortons. Or anyone on the road or walking nearby. When the legal process plays out and any discipline is handed down by the court and the NHL, O’Reilly will be able to reflect as he surely has already and be grateful that night only ended up with property damage.
Ultimately there will be three groups handing out various discipline to Ryan O’Reilly. First is the Ontario court system, where O’Reilly will be treated as a first-time offender. Second will be the Buffalo Sabres and any legal discipline. Some of this we may hear of and some will be kept in-house by Sabres players and management as O’Reilly begins his first season with the team.
The third has already started. The court of public opinion is often swift and polarizing when discussing the cross between athletes and the law. Add to that how serious driving while under the influence is and reaction is predictably strong.
Ryan O’Reilly will get his due process as he should. When it’s all over the spotlight on his first season in Buffalo will burn much hotter. It’s not just about whether his massive contract is worth it and how much more can he be as a player. It’s about the perception of character issues. Not knowing all the details about off-ice matters this serious translates to concerns about his on-ice performance before he ever puts on the Blue and Gold.
I hope this news ends with Ryan O’Reilly learning a valuable lesson and moving forward with maturity and humility. Learning from this incident can go further to defining him as a person, something much more important than the game of hockey will ever be.
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