Cruthers returns to the place he calls home

Ryan Cruthers has scored eight goals and eight assists through 28 games for the Orlando Solar Bears. (Mike Ashmore)

Ryan Cruthers has scored eight goals and eight assists through 28 games for the Orlando Solar Bears. (Mike Ashmore)

He may have been born in Farmingdale, N.Y., but after spending three years playing for the Reading Royals, Ryan Cruthers considered Reading, Pa., his home.

So when it came time for him to pack up and move to Alaska, it was tough for him to swallow.

The former captain of the Royals was traded to the Alaska Aces late last season and had to leave behind not only the place he knew, but also his wife and young son.

“Alaska is a place I wanted to go and I was grateful that Reading traded me there,” Cruthers said. “It was a great experience, but it was far. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be being that far away.”

The move didn’t come as a shock as the Royals were struggling to get wins and fight their way into a playoff spot. Changes and shakeups were going to have to be made, but Cruthers wasn’t happy by the way it happened.

“I heard from another player and I was just disappointed that I didn’t hear it from them,” he said. “I understand it’s a business and they’re going to trade guys and do what’s best or just try to shake things up, but I just wanted to hear it from them first. But I think we left on good terms.”

Once the Aces were knocked out of the playoffs in the conference finals, Cruthers had some thinking to do about the upcoming season. Alaska wanted to re-sign him right away, but there were possible issues he had to face if he was to return.

“I just wanted to go home and think about it and think about being that far away again,” Cruthers said. “I knew the lockout was looming and I know there’s a bunch of NHLers that live in Alaska and they like playing for that team.”

Cruthers knew that with limited space for veterans and the NHL lockout going on, his playing time may have been cut short if he stayed with Alaska.

“If you look at what’s happened there this year, they have a guy, [Matt] Robinson, who hasn’t played very many games because of [the lockout],” he said. “I’m pretty sure that would have been me sitting out as the extra veteran.”

Instead, the Orlando Solar Bears reached out to the 28 year old to entice him into joining the club returning from “hibernation,” as the team puts it.

To Cruthers, it seemed like a perfect choice for him. He was closer to home, in a warmer environment and even featured entertainment for his son with Disney World nearby.

Adding on the facilities and fan base in Orlando, Cruthers has overall been enjoying his experience in Florida and as a Solar Bear.

“Our facilities are probably the best in the league,” he said. “Our practice facility is all NHL grade. It’s just been unbelievable. The crowd we have is one of the best in the league.”

Playing in front of the Orlando fans has been pleasant, but Cruthers didn’t deny the fact he took note of the game on Dec. 15 on the schedule.

It just happened to be the day he made his return to the Sovereign Center in Reading – this time in a different uniform.

“It was a great experience going there,” Cruthers said. “A lot of the kids I coached over the summer were there. A lot of fans that loved me were there and a lot of those that didn’t were there, too.”

Cruthers was received by the fans with mostly cheers when he was announced at the beginning of the game, but when he assisted on a tying goal in the second period, it quickly changed to boos. He was even named “Pest of the Game” that night.

“I thought it was funny,” Cruthers said. “People forget what you did for them while you were there, but I know I still hold a lot of records in Reading, so they can boo me all they want. I remember what I did there.”

Though he may have become the enemy in Reading, Cruthers will always have fond feelings for the city and fans.

“I remember how great it was and I still consider Reading home,” Cruthers said. “It was great going back and I love it there.”

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Categories: ECHL, Features, Ice Hockey, Sports

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