Leafs' O'Byrne inspired by memory of mom | Hockey | CBC Sports

Playoffs 2013Leafs' O'Byrne inspired by memory of mom

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 | 04:43 PM

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Ryan O'Byrne has two goals and six points this season in 39 games, including the last five with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images) Ryan O'Byrne has two goals and six points this season in 39 games, including the last five with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Ryan O'Byrne has plenty of inspiration in his late mother Lorelei, who passed away three years ago after a lengthy battle with late-stage breast cancer.

Ryan O'Byrne's life as a Toronto Maple Leaf is 15 days old and he has experienced plenty since he was traded from the Colorado Avalanche to his dad's favourite NHL team two weeks ago.

Known more for his defence than offence, he scored in his debut. He set up another goal two games later. In his fourth game, he took three minor penalties in a row against the New Jersey Devils, but his Maple Leafs survived for a 2-0 win.

In his last outing on Tuesday, he was on the ice for three goals from the Washington Capitals, including power-play goals from Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson.

300-obyrne-130418.jpgO'Byrne hardly was the problem for the Maple Leafs in their visit to Washington. But on nights like that lopsided defeat, he looks to the memory of his mother for solace and inspiration.

Lorelei O'Byrne passed away at age 56 on Jan. 28, 2010, after a nine-year battle with late-stage breast cancer. Her fighting spirit pushed her way past the time her doctors initially estimated she had to live.

"Absolutely, she is my inspiration," the 28-year-old Maple Leafs defenceman said. "She was such a strong woman, really a remarkable person. She pushed me and my sister [Krystal] hard -- encouraged us to go for it, whether in the classroom, sports or any other area in life."

New home

O'Byrne earned a hockey scholarship to Cornell. Krystal played basketball for the University of Victoria before she went on to do her residency in pediatrics. On the day her brother was traded to Toronto, she was writing her final exam.

"I told her not worry about me and to concentrate on her exam," O'Byrne said. "I'm told she did fine."

Lorelei would be proud that both her son and daughter are doing just fine. The 6-foot-5, 234-pound O'Byrne has a new hockey home and has appeared to have played well enough in his first five games to impress his Toronto teammates and head coach Randy Carlyle.

Carlyle made his newest player wait on the sidelines for a few games before he put O'Byrne, who just happens to wear the coach's No. 23 from his playing days in Toronto, into the lineup.

"My Dad [Dave] was excited about the move," O'Byrne said. "When I was with Montreal he used to come to Toronto to watch me play. This has been his team since he was a kid."

With five games remaining, the Maple Leafs are on the verge of clinching their first spot in the playoffs in nine years. O'Byrne would like nothing more than experience another lengthy playoff run, like he did with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the 2006-07 AHL Calder Cup championship season or with the Canadiens in their visit to the East final in 2010.

Charity camp

In the summer, however, O'Byrne will return to his hometown of Victoria to run his five-day charity hockey camp for girls and boys between ages nine and 12. Profits from the camp go to KidSport Victoria.

This camp endeavour, which began two summers ago, also includes the Lorelei O'Byrne Awards, in which a pair of recipients based on passion for sport and financial need get to attend the camp at no charge.

"My Mom set a very high standard, and Victoria remains a special place for me," said O'Byrne, who began the lockout last fall as an assistant coach for the local Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL before he joined the Florida Everglades of the ECHL to work himself into game shape.

"A lot of people volunteered their time for me to get to the NHL. I would like to pay it forward. I hope the kids have fun, a worthwhile experience and maybe we'll one day see one of these kids in the NHL."

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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