Town looks forward to visit from hometown hero
The Stanley Cup is coming to Bonavista. Hometown hockey hero Michael Ryder and his Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 Wednesday night in the seventh game of a hard-fought NHL playoff final.
At Cabot Stadium in Bonavista, children wearing Boston jerseys and with Ryder's number 73 painted on their faces sat in front of a huge video screen, lined across the same blueline that Ryder, as a young minor hockey star, soared across many times with a dream as big as any kid loving the game can have.
For Ryder, that dream came true Wednesday night. That realization also hit the crowd as the time clock ran down and their loud cheers echoed in the rafters of the old stadium.
Debbie Ryder, who watched the start of the game nervously at the rink, said while winning the Stanley Cup is a big event for her son, it's also important for the town when he brings the cup home.
"It's unbelievable," she said. "I can hardly imagine it."
Celebrations in Bonavista began hours before the game Wednesday night. A motorcade began at nearby Port Union and travelled to Bonavista and throughout the town.
Police and fire department sirens blared, horns honked and people cheered while waving flags, signs and gold and black balloons. A seemingly endless number of vehicles participated in the motorcade, while other people lined parts of the streets to lend their support.
At the stadium, people enjoyed the game being played on a 12 foot by 16 foot video screen. Many fans were in Boston jerseys and caps, a couple wore sou'westers. Some children crafted crude Stanley Cups from cardboard and tinfoil.
"We just want to show Michael we support him, and that we want to see the cup," said young hockey fan Ryan Pearce.
Although there was a sea of gold and black at the rink, some life-hockey fans with allegiances to other teams found themselves torn and trying to hide their love of red and blue.
"It's tough for me," said Johnny Way. "I'm a die-hard Montreal Canadiens fan. I wanted Michael to win, but I couldn't cheer for the Boston Bruins."
Way said there are many die-hard Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs fans in the town who, while normally at odds with each other, united to support Ryder in winning the cup.
Levi Warren, president of the Bonavista-Trinity Minor Hockey Association, said both of the town's NHL stars - Ryder and the Calgary Flames Adam Pardy - have done wonders for the recruitment of young people into the game and he can't imagine what a visit from Ryder with the Stanley Cup will do.
"It's such a morale booster," he said. "It is good for the minor hockey system."
Fears there wouldn't be high attendance at the stadium to watch the game - with a full night shift working at the town's crab plant and the fishery in full swing - were soon banished as the game began and fans piled in.
At the start of the game, some found it difficult to control their nerves.
"My legs are like rubber," Roxanne Freake said. "This is so exciting."
Even some of those not interested in the sport of hockey came to cheer on one of their own.
"I don't know anything about hockey, but I'm here to support Michael," said Jessie Brown.
Gail Sexton lives across the street from where Michael Ryder grew up in Bonavista. Since he first started playing in the NHL she said she hasn't missed a game.
"I'm so proud of him," she said. "I can't wait until he brings that cup home."