The last two weeks have been hectic ones for Ryan Shannon.
Not only did the Darien native sign a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he became a father for the first time following the birth of his daughter.
Still, the 28-year-old Shannon took time out of his busy schedule Wednesday to host the Big Assist III at the Terry Conners Rink in Stamford. The exhibition game attracted numerous NHL players, including Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson and Martin St. Louis, Shannon's new teammate in Tampa Bay.
Shannon's goal is to eventually move the game to a bigger venue. The Terry Conners Rink, who was almost full Wednesday, seats about 1,500.
"We're getting more talent on the ice in terms of NHL players," Shannon said. "It's a fun thing. Hopefully, it'll continue to grow."
The game benefits the Obie Harrington-Howes Foundation, which provides support to individuals with spinal cord injuries and disease.
Shannon's first coach in youth hockey, Obie Harrington-Howes, broke his neck in an accident at Jones Beach 13 years ago and was paralyzed.
Last year's game raised $40,000, double from the previous year. While Harrington-Howes doesn't expect to raise $80,000 this year, he would be thrilled with another $20,000 bump.
He gets emotional when he sees all the NHL players show up to support his cause. This list of players who participated Wednesday included James Van Riemsdyk of the Philadelphia Flyers, Max Lashoff of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders and Ben Smith of the Chicago Blackhawks - along with a number of local players.
"I'm humbled, I'm honored, with these professionals donating their time for our cause," Harrington-Howes said. "I was never a great hockey player, but I enjoy the game and I enjoyed skating with the kids. It's one of those things you look back on. I wish I could get out there and take a lap with the kids, but mustly it's very humbling and I'm grateful for the guys donating their time."
With a newborn in the house, Shannon hasn't had much sleep, but he is excited about his new address. He and St. Louis work out together during the summer at Body Tuning in Darien.
"The fit was more important than the money, so we decided that Tampa Bay would be a great fit for me," said Shannon, who signed for $625,000, a figure that probably could have higher with another team. "To play with Marty, obviously is a dream and to be in Tampa, as opposed to the Great White North, also is a dream."
Steve Yzerman, who won three Stanley Cups in Detroit as a player, brought his winning pedigree to Tampa Bay. In his first year as the Lightning's general manager last season, they reached the Eastern Conference finals, losing in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Bruins.
"Just speaking with him on the phone, he's a true professional," Shannon said. "The experience he has in the league, and the respect he has with the guys in the locker room, seems unbelievable and it's a winning culture. Guys really enjoy playing and fighting for one another."
Shannon is appreciative of the support he has gotten from his fellow NHLers but he isn't especially surprised.
"It's specific to hockey, because it takes a village for a hockey player to make it," Shannon said. "In order to be a successful hockey player, you have to have a dedicated family, you have to have financial resources.
"You need rinks, you need people to support you the all way from when you're four years old to when you reach your ultimate goal."
You also need grounded, down-to-earth NHL players willing to give back to their communities.