What Dad and Professional Hockey Player Ryan Reaves Teaches His Kids About Hard Work

New York Rangers right wing—and hockey tough guy—Ryan Reaves on how he's parenting his kids to work hard in sports—and in life.

Three images of New York Rangers hockey player Ryan Reaves with his kids
Photo: Courtesy of Subject

New York Rangers right wing Ryan Reaves, 35, grew up with sports in his blood. His dad, Willard Reaves, is a famous former professional football player, after all. Now, with two kids of his own, Reaves is taking the lessons he learned from his dad and from his time playing hockey to teach the importance of working harder than everyone around you.

"My dad was my coach in football, and he molded me into the type of athlete I am," says Reaves, who is currently helping the Rangers as they face off against the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs. "I'm very physical and I don't really like sports that don't have any physical play in them, and he molded me into that." But he also taught Reaves how to act off the field and ice.

Growing up in Winnipeg, Reaves' dad was a legend. "He won a Grey Cup and was the Most Outstanding Player [in 1984]. Winnipeg really loved him, and when I saw fans come up to him, he always had time to talk to kids and people who knew who he was. The way he interacted with those people helped me learn how to do that, and I always take time now to talk to fans—especially kids."

New York Rangers Ryan Reaves kids
Courtesy of Ryan Reaves

Reaves' own kids—Kanen, 6, and Kamilla, 3—are his escape from the real world and the stress of a high-stakes job. "When I come home from work, if something is bothering me, I see my kids and I just forget about everything and hang out with them."

Kanen and Kamilla are also at an age where they understand more about what their dad does and are starting to participate in sports of their own. "The best part is seeing my kids at games," says Reaves. "Seeing them wearing my jersey and cheering, and then my wife sending me videos after games of them cheering me on or singing the Rangers' 'Goal' song anytime anybody scores—it's things like that that don't last forever in this profession."

Part of being a professional athlete means that Reaves doesn't have a typical 9-to-5 schedule, though, and is often on the road during hockey season. "I've only had one or two Halloweens with my son and my daughter, and that is one of my favorite holidays. Sometimes you miss birthdays. I haven't been able to go to any of my son's hockey classes, and I've only made a couple of my daughter's dance recitals. I think that's definitely the hardest thing, missing little things in their life and being away so much."

But that doesn't mean he's not involved and teaching his kids many of the lessons his own dad taught him—especially the meaning of hard work.

"One big thing, especially with my son right now, is not being satisfied," he says. "I think my son gets good at something or sees that he's getting better at something, and then all of a sudden he starts saying he's better than all these guys. I think sometimes I have to let him know that he might be getting better, but someone else is getting even better. You have to work even harder than them if you want to get to where you want to be. That's something in sports and in life: You have to beat [other people] out and work 10 times harder than them if you want to get that spot, be on that team, or get that interview and get that job. I'm trying to instill that in my kids."

Reaves motivates his kids—and is a mentor to his teammates—to have the confidence, toughness, drive, and swagger of someone who knows they're giving it their all.

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