As a junior, Getzlaf played four seasons with the Calgary Hitmen and was twice named to a Western Hockey League (WHL) all-star team. Internationally, he has represented Canada on numerous occasions. Getzlaf was a member of the 2005 World Junior Championship squad considered the greatest in Canadian history, and won a silver medal at the 2008 IIHF World Championship. A two-time Olympian, Getzlaf played with Canadian teams that won gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games.
Getzlaf was born May 10, 1985, in Regina, Saskatchewan. He is the younger son of Steve and Susan Getzlaf, and has an older brother, Chris. He attended Robert Usher Collegiate in Regina.
Growing up in an athletically minded family, both Ryan and Chris were encouraged to play several sports, particularly hockey and football. Chris focused on football and ultimately joined their hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League as a slotback. Ryan played tailback in football, and represented Saskatchewan as a catcher in a national youth baseball tournament, but focused on his hockey career.
While a member of the Regina Bantam AAA Rangers in 2000, Getzlaf was drafted into the Western Hockey League (WHL) by the Calgary Hitmen with the 54th pick in the 2000 WHL Bantam Draft. He stood 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) at the time of the draft, but grew 6 inches (0.15 m) by the time he joined the team as a 16-year-old. Getzlaf made his junior debut in 2001–02 and recorded 18 points in 63 games. He nearly quadrupled his offensive production as a 17-year-old in 2002–03 by scoring 29 goals and 68 points. His performance made him a top prospect for the 2003 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft; the NHL Central Scouting Bureau ranked Getzlaf as the fifth best North American skater in the draft and he was taken in the first round, 19th overall, by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
The Mighty Ducks returned Getzlaf to the Hitmen for the 2003–04 season. He recorded 75 points in just 49 games and was named to the WHL's first all-star team. Due to the 2004–05 NHL lock-out, Getzlaf was again returned to Calgary for his fourth season of junior hockey. He was named team captain, but was briefly stripped of the title by the coaches after earning several misconduct penalties for arguing with the officials. The captaincy was restored after a couple weeks, and Getzlaf moderated his interactions with referees. He also missed time during the season after suffering a concussion as a result of a hit by Dion Phaneuf of the Red Deer Rebels. Getzlaf finished the regular season with 54 points in 51 games, and after the Hitmen were eliminated from the WHL playoffs, was assigned to the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League (AHL) for their own playoff run. Getzlaf appeared in 10 post-season games for Cincinnati in his professional debut. He recorded one goal and four assists.
Getzlaf made the Mighty Ducks' roster out of training camp and began the 2005–06 season in Anaheim; he made his NHL debut on October 5, 2005, against the Chicago Blackhawks. After recording his first point with an assist on October 14 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Getzlaf scored his first NHL goal seven days later against goaltender Manny Legace of the Detroit Red Wings. Though Getzlaf had seven points in his first 16 games with Anaheim, he was demoted to the AHL's Portland Pirates in mid-November, partially to gain more playing time than he was getting in Anaheim. He appeared in 17 games for the Pirates in which he scored 8 goals and added 25 assists. Along with teammate Corey Perry, Getzlaf shared AHL co-rookie of the month honours for December and while he was named to play in the 2006 AHL All-Star game, Getzlaf did not appear in the contest as he was recalled to Anaheim in mid-January. He completed the season in the NHL, and finished with 14 goals and 39 points in 57 regular season games, then added seven points in 16 post-season contests.
In his sophomore season with the newly renamed Anaheim Ducks, Getzlaf appeared in all 82 regular season games for the team and finished with 25 goals and 58 points. He played in the YoungStars Game at the 2007 NHL All-Star Game in Dallas. At the age of 22 years, Getzlaf joined with Corey Perry (21) and Dustin Penner (24) to form the Ducks' "kid line" which emerged as a top scoring unit during a 2007 playoff run to the Stanley Cup final. Getzlaf led the Ducks in post-season scoring with 17 points, at the time a franchise playoff record, as the Ducks defeated the Ottawa Senators in the final series. It was the first Stanley Cup championship in Anaheim's franchise history.
The "kid line" was broken up prior to the 2007–08 season after Penner signed a contract as a restricted free agent with the Edmonton Oilers; however, Getzlaf opted to remain in Anaheim. He signed a five-year, $26.625 million extension that carried through the 2012–13 season. Getzlaf emerged as one of the NHL's top young stars as he played in his first All-Star Game in 2008, and led the Ducks in both assists (58) and points (82).
Getzlaf tied a Ducks franchise record early in the 2008–09 season as he recorded five assists in a 5–4 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on October 29, 2008. One of the League's leading scorers, Getzlaf again led the Ducks with a franchise-record 66 assists, and his 91 points was sixth-best in the NHL. He appeared in his second All-Star Game after being voted into the starting line-up for the 2009 contest by the fans. Though the Ducks were eliminated in the second round of the 2009 playoffs, Getzlaf set a franchise playoff record with 14 assists (in 13 games), and finished sixth overall in post-season scoring.
Injury, primarily an ankle sprain, reduced Getzlaf to 66 games played in 2009–10. He still led the Ducks with 50 assists, and was second in team scoring with 69 points. Scott Niedermayer retired as a player following the season, and the Ducks named Getzlaf his successor as team captain prior to the 2010–11 season. Ducks' head coach Randy Carlyle described the promotion of the 25-year-old in terms of Getzlaf's maturation as an NHL player. He added, "We felt that with it being his sixth season in the League, now is the time for the transition and the veteran players agreed with us." During the season, he suffered multiple nasal sinus fractures after being struck in the face by a puck, and consequently appeared in only 67 games; he recorded 19 goals. Getzlaf's 57 assists ranked fourth in the NHL and he added six points in six post-season contests, including his 50th career playoff point.
Getzlaf played his 500th career game on March 12, 2012, a 3–2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. He played all 82 games for the Ducks in 2011–12 and led the team with 46 assists. Another milestone came late in the 2012–13 season as Getzlaf recorded his 500th point on March 8, 2013, with an assist on a Bobby Ryan goal in a 4–0 win over the Calgary Flames. On the same day, the Ducks signed Getzlaf to an eight-year contract extension that runs through the 2021–22 season and is worth $66 million. He finished the lock-out-shortened campaign as the team leader in assists (34) and points (49), and tied for the team lead with 15 goals.
In 2013–14, Getzlaf recorded a career-high 31 goals and finished second to Sidney Crosby in league scoring with 87 points. Getzlaf was named to the Second All-Star Team and was a first-time finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. He finished as the runner-up to Crosby.
In the final seconds of Anaheim's opening contest in the 2014 playoffs, against the Dallas Stars, Getzlaf suffered lacerations and bruises after blocking a shot with his face. He returned for the second game of the series, but missed the following two games due an undisclosed "upper body injury." Getzlaf returned for the remainder of his team's playoff run, and recorded 15 points in 12 post-season games before the Ducks were eliminated in the second round by the Los Angeles Kings.
In the 2015 playoffs, Getzlaf tied the previous Ducks record for most assists in a post-season – which he himself set in 2009 – at 14 when he provided the primary assist on teammate Simon Després' game-winning goal in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks on May 22, 2015.
In 2017, Getzlaf was named a finalist for the Mark Messier Leadership Award along with Calgary Flames defencemen Mark Giordano and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno. In the 2017 playoffs, Getzlaf surpassed former teammate Teemu Selänne's franchise record of 35 playoff goals against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 4 of the best of seven series. During the Western Conference finals, Getzlaf was fined $10,000 for using a homophobic slur to insult an on-ice official. He later said, "That's my responsibility to understand that there are eyes and ears on us all the time. Fortunately enough, nobody heard it. If you can read lips, it's a little bit harder, and I apologize for that. That's a thing that you won't hear from me again. I hope I didn't offend anybody outside the circle that we trust."
Getzlaf made his international debut as a member of the seventh-place Canada-West entry at the 2002 World U17 Hockey Challenge in Manitoba. The following year, he joined the Canadian under-18 team at the 2003 IIHF World U18 Championships. In seven games at the tournament, Getzlaf recorded two goals and two assists as Canada, in its second appearance at the event, won the nation's first gold medal at the U18 level.
Moving up to the national junior team, Getzlaf made his first of two appearances at the World Junior Hockey Championship in 2004. He recorded six points in six games for a Canadian squad that scored 25 goals in its four round-robin games and surrendered only four en route to a gold medal showdown with the United States. With Canada leading 3–1 early in the third period of the final, both Getzlaf and Sidney Crosby failed to capitalize on opportunities to add an extra goal that may have sealed a victory. Instead, Canada surrendered the lead, and Getzlaf and his teammates were forced to settle for the silver medal after goaltender Marc-André Fleury accidentally sent a clearing pass off a teammate and into his own net for the game-winning goal.
The 2004–05 lock-out ensured that several players who would otherwise have been playing in the NHL, including Getzlaf, were available to return to the national team for the 2005 World Junior Championship. One of 12 players with previous experience at the tournament for Canada, Getzlaf was a leading player for what many observers have called the greatest team in the tournament's history. With 12 points in 6 games, Getzlaf finished second in overall scoring to teammate Patrice Bergeron's 13. He scored one goal and added two assists in the championship game against Russia as the Canadians won the gold medal by a 6–1 score; it was the nation's first title in eight years at the event.
Getzlaf made his first appearance with the senior team at the 2008 World Championship. He led the tournament with 11 assists and his 14 points was second overall to teammate Dany Heatley's 20. Canada reached the championship game, but were forced to settle for the silver medal after Russia overcame a two-goal third period deficit and won the championship 5–4 in overtime. Getzlaf was named to the Canadian roster for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, however a sprained ankle suffered during the NHL season left his participation in doubt until just before Canada was required to confirm its roster. He had recovered enough to play and recorded seven points in seven games, including the game-winning goal in Canada's 3–2 semi-final victory over Slovakia. Canada won the gold medal with a 3–2 overtime victory over the United States.
Two years later, Getzlaf served as Canada's captain at the 2012 World Championship. He tied for second in team scoring with nine points in eight games. However, Canada was eliminated in the quarterfinal against Slovakia, 4–3. Getzlaf was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct late in the game for kneeing Juraj Mikúš. A dejected Getzlaf lamented the result and his penalty following the game: "It hurts like hell right now. I feel like I let the guys down. To be in a hard-fought game like that and play the tournament we did and lose in that fashion, it's not easy to swallow as a group."
Returning to the Canadian roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Getzlaf's play was cited, along with that of fellow centres Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, as being one of the key aspects of Canada's successful defence of their Olympic title. Canada defeated Sweden by a 3–0 score to win the gold medal and repeat as Olympic champions.
Getzlaf is known as a power forward with excellent playmaking skills. The Hockey News describes Getzlaf as being "the complete package" and praises his all-round game. He is credited as having both a powerful shot and willingness to engage in physical play, but also criticized for taking poor penalties at times and occasionally passing despite being in a quality shooting location. One of the league's top passers, Getzlaf has led the Ducks in assists for ten consecutive seasons between 2008 and 2017; he has also led the team in points seven times. With 814 career points through the 2016–17 season, Getzlaf is the second-leading scorer in Ducks franchise history behind only Teemu Selänne (985). He and winger Corey Perry have formed one of the NHL's most potent scoring tandems; both were top five in NHL scoring in 2013–14. The duo, who have been called the "twins" in Anaheim, have played together since being drafted in 2003. In addition to pairing up for the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship, they have played together on World Junior Championship and Olympic gold medal teams. Getzlaf was recognized for his leadership role with the Ducks in 2014 as he earned his first nomination for the Mark Messier Leadership Award, with a second nomination coming the following season.
Getzlaf is married to Paige Getzlaf and together, the couple have three children. An active member of the Orange County community, Getzlaf hosts an annual golf tournament on behalf of CureDuchenne, an organization that seeks a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He also maintains a program with the Calgary Hitmen called "Getzlaf's Gamers", which allows underprivileged children to attend games.