Eric Abbott wouldn’t have got to see some of his brothers and sisters and other relatives this year if Michael Ryder didn’t win the Stanley Cup and bring it home to Bonavista Tuesday.
“They had no intentions of coming this year,” he said, pointing to a group of his family members who are Bonavista natives living away.
“So, besides bringing home the cup, I thank Michael for bringing home the family.”
Abbott’s sister, Sandra Blake, who lives in Whitby, Ont., said it’s true. With near perfectly painted Boston Bruins logos on her cheeks and sporting a Bruins jersey, she said she’s been a Michael Ryder fan since his first day with the Montreal Canadiens.
“After Montreal, I followed him with Boston and now I have to follow him with the Dallas Stars,” Blake said.
“I’m very proud of him, and proud of Bonavista. He’s from here and you have to support your hometown boy.”
Blake was one of a number of people who took their holidays this summer to correspond to the day Ryder brought home the cup he won in June as a member of the Boston Bruins. Ryder has since signed with the Dallas Stars for the next two seasons.
It was a long day for Ryder Tuesday. When the cup first arrived, he spent some time with it at the Boys and Girls Club in St. John’s.
It was then on to a sendoff ceremony before heading to Bonavista on a chopper owned by 3D Helicopters. The event was held on the rooftop of 95 Water St. in St. John’s The helicopter had landed nearby on a waterfront parking lot to pick up Ryder, cup handlers from the Hockey Hall of Fame, Premier Kathy Dunderdale and members of the media.
When Ryder arrived and laid the cup on a table on the rooftop, the legs of the table gave way and the cup took a tumble. It received a dent, but cup handler Phil Pritchard said it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed.
It’s not the first time the Stanley Cup, with its storied history, has taken a tumble. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame website, the original cup has suffered a number of dings and dents, been lost and found, kicked into a canal, used as a flower pot and left in a snowbank.
When the helicopter circled Bonavista, a huge crowd could be seen gathered at Cabot Stadium, where Ryder played minor hockey as a kid, and at the nearby RCMP detachment building, where the chopper landed.
First to greet Ryder and the cup was his father, Wayne, along with other family members. Ryder and his father carried the cup through a cheering crowd to Ryder’s black pickup.
The pickup led a parade through the town with Ryder and the cup up in the back.
After the parade, Ryder took the cup into Cabot Stadium where he was swarmed by players in the Bonavista-Trinity Minor Hockey Association, coaches, committee members and parents, and Bonavista Figure Skating kids, coaches, committee members and parents.
He also posed for photos with some of the town’s seniors.
“Bonavista is one of the great hockey towns in this province,” MP Scott Simms said to a cheering crowed gathered a little later on the softball field behind the stadium.
“You can be from Newfoundland and Labrador, be from a small town and bring home the Stanley Cup.”
It was a hot, sunny day in Bonavista for the celebrations. The cup was set up in a viewing tent where people could get their photo taken with it. The line, at times, ran out of the soccer field and nearly completely encircled Cabot Stadium — some people waiting 2 1/2 hours to get their picture taken with the cup.
Concession stands, a beer tent and a stage that featured local bands contributed to a carnival atmosphere.
“I didn’t expect this many people, I can tell you that,” Michael Ryder told the crowd. “I want to thank everyone for coming out. I hope everyone has a good time.”
A committee the town put in place worked hard over the past week to clew up the details for the event. Thousands turned up and stadium manager Lloyd Stagg said he’s glad the day had finally arrived.
“At 4:30 this morning, I was at the arena,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d be on my feet here now.”
Premier Kathy Dunderdale called it a momentous day.
“It’s wonderful to see the number of talented hockey players from this province playing in the NHL,” she said. “I met Michael Ryder and am a part of this Stanley Cup celebration. We are so glad you are here and that we can share in your victory.”
Other speakers included Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, MHA Roger Fitzgerald and Bonavista Mayor Betty Fitzgerald.
About 40 RCMP officers, along with the local fire department and search and rescue team members provided security and crowd control.
Wayne and Debbie Ryder said the huge turnout and the support their son has been given for bringing the cup home is amazing.
“This is nothing but exciting,” Debbie Ryder said. “Just the crowds that came out, the support from everyone. People calling out to Michael, waving to him. When he started playing minor hockey it was the farthest thing from our minds. We knew he was a good player, hoping he would do something with it. It’s just unbelievable.”
Wayne, a great hockey player himself when he played senior hockey for the Bonavista Cabots, said with Michael bringing the cup home it seems like his dream has come true as well.
“Even myself as a kid, you know, I watched hockey on TV — you couldn’t always see it clear — but you watched it. It’s everybody’s dream, if you enjoy hockey, to win the Stanley Cup,” he said. “It means a great deal. As a kid you dreamed about playing pro hockey but it’s a pretty farfetched dream sometimes, but not impossible.”
READ more from Ryder's visit to Bonavista in today's digital and print editions of The Telegram.
SEE THE PHOTOS in our online slideshow.
WATCH our video of the Stanley Cup taking a tumble.