Fifteen Things You Didn't Know About Ryan Getzlaf

The Anaheim Ducks center is the greatest, least-known sports star Orange County has ever seen—and he likes it like that

That's a lot to ask of anyone, especially a young player such as Getzlaf, who was still developing not just as a player but also as a person. Ducks management had identified him early on as captain material.

"In 2006, we had a state of the franchise event with fans," says longtime Ducks media-relations director Alex Gilchrist. "Our GM at the time was Brian Burke, and he picked [then-Coach] Randy Carlyle, Scott Niedermayer and Getzlaf to speak. It was telling because Getzlaf was 21 years old. They were grooming him to be the captain."

It would actually happen four years later, when Getzlaf was 25, and he promptly went out and had the worst season of his career, registering career lows in points (57) and goals (11). Coach Bruce Boudreau said later the problem was how seriously Getzlaf took his role: "Sometimes, you sit there and worry, 'I'm the captain: Should I do this or do that?' Instead of just going out there and having the situations present themselves to you. . . . Sometimes, he overthinks the role."

Illustration by Andrew Hunt
The only time Getzlaf likes being recognized
Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images
The only time Getzlaf likes being recognized

Hiller says, "To be the leader, you just can't one day say, 'Okay, I'm the leader.' You have to grow into it."

Getzlaf did. By the following season of 2012-13, he averaged better than a point a game and the team took off with him . . . well, until Detroit. And this season, he has firmly established himself as one of the handful of best skaters in the league, unquestioned on the ice and in the locker room.

"He was still relatively young in the scheme of things when he was named captain," Niedermayer says. "To be put in a bigger role like that obviously can mix you up pretty good. If he's out there and not playing as well as he would like personally, but then he's worried about the team not playing well, it can be a bit more to handle than you would like. He's done a good job of just kinda sticking with it and letting it all kind of figure itself out."

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While most people focused on Getzlaf's adjustment to being captain as the reason for his struggles a couple of seasons ago, he has maintained that being a new dad weighed on him just as heavily.

He and wife Paige had their first child, Ryder, around the time he was named captain. Like any new father, he struggled with lack of sleep and all the anxiety and questions that come with being a new parent. And then there was the anxiety that comes with being a professional athlete who plays in a sport that demands you spend huge chunks of time not only away from home, but much of that time on the road, as well. He dealt with the guilt of missing those once-in-a-lifetime milestones, including when Ryder took his first steps, which Ryan watched via his phone.

As had happened with the captain's role, it took Getzlaf a while to relax and find a happy medium. But when he did, things seemed to work themselves out.

"It's hard to describe—my wife and I had to reach an understanding, a balance," he says. "The whole thing, when I'm here [at the rink], I have to be here and able to focus on what I need to do at the rink. When I'm home, I have to focus on the family."

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Ryan and Paige make a pretty impressive couple. He's a big hockey star; she's a lovely woman. He pounds on Steve Downie; she organizes diaper donations for needy families. (because there's something called, bless it, too) has called her "the perfect hockey wife," noting her tendency to head to the Twitterwaves to offer support and congratulations when appropriate, as well as her tendency to be, in their words, "smoking hot."

They were introduced to each other while dining one night and have pretty much been together ever since.

"We were both living in Newport at the time," Getzlaf says. "We hung out a few times, and then that became every day."

Since they've been together, Ryan and Paige have not only done the diaper thing, but they've also raised money for autism research and have organized an annual event to fund research for the study of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Just last week, Paige and other Ducks girlfriends and wives—the Lady Ducks—put on a fashion show, raising $175,000 for Childrens' Hospital of Orange County. Eight months' pregnant, Paige walked the runway, and Ryan put his Olympic jersey on the block, where it brought in $16,000.

But you really don't care about that, do you?

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It is a truism of modern life that beautiful women are very attracted to NHL players. The list is long and impressive of those who have dated and/or married players, including such notables as Carrie Underwood, Elisha Cuthbert, Erin Andrews, Michelle Beadle and, for those of you who remember analog, Kim Alexis. Also, a whole bunch of Russian models.

Why is this?

When asked about that, Getzlaf flashed the kind of smile only a man who's married to someone like his wife—rub it in, nice—can and says, "I wish I had an answer." Do you Ryan? Do you? "We fool the right people, I guess."

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