Ry­der’s re­demp­tion

The Compass - - OPINION -

Nor­mally the early rounds of the NHL’s play­offs (sec­ond sea­son) hold rel­a­tively lit­tle in­ter­est for most hockey fans. It’s when the fi­nal four take to the ice the in­ter­est re­ally starts to peak.

But, this year was dif­fer­ent – at least for most New­found­land fans. This was the sea­son of the re­demp­tion for Bon­av­ista’s Michael Ry­der.

Ry­der had played two sea­sons for the Montreal Cana­di­ens and led all scor­ers on the team with 30 goals each year. Then in his third year, for what­ever rea­son, the wheels came off the Montreal ride.

His ice time dropped off dra­mat­i­cally and he fell from the first line to the fourth line and then into the press box.

There were many sug­ges­tions for Ry­der’s down­fall. Among there were the tri­als of his younger brother, Daniel, who left the Cal­gary Flames’ farm club and quit hockey. There was a sug­ges­tion Coach Guy Car­bon­neau did not want Ry­der on his team, and al­lowed the sharp­shooter to warm the bench.

What­ever the rea­son, his goal out­put fell to half of the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons, and at the end of the year there was lit­tle or no ef­fort on be­half of Gen­eral-Man­ager Bob Gainey to re­sign the winger.

Montreal’s treat­ment of this tal­ented young hockey player was noth­ing short of scan­dalous. But through it all Ry­der took the high road.

Then en­tered the Bos­ton Bru­ins and Ry­der’s sup­port­ive coach from his ju­nior ranks and early pe­riod with the Cana­di­ens – Claude Julien. The Bru­ins signed Ry­der to a three-year $12 mil­lion con­tract.

And Ry­der re­sponded. He scored 27 goals and would have reached the 30-goal plateau again if it hadn’t been for in­jury. An­other mar­velous stat was his (de­fen­sive) plus/mi­nus rat­ing – one of the best on the team.

This Ry­der kid has made him­self into a com­plete hockey player, but the Cana­di­ens were not able to see past some prej­u­dice and dis­carded him.

It was prob­a­bly the best move for Ry­der though. He re­sponded in the first round of the play­offs lead­ing the Bru­ins with four goals and three as­sists and a four game sweep of the Cana­di­ens.

And to make it sweeter it all came on the 100th an­niver­sary of the Montreal fran­chise.

Montreal has al­ways been a class act through­out its his­tory – there was no bet­ter am­bas­sador for hockey than for­mer team cap­tain Jean Bel­liveau. But with Ry­der, there was a prob­lem for the Cana­di­ens’ man­age­ment.

Ry­der, though, rec­og­nized the his­tory of the Cana­di­ens’ or­ga­ni­za­tion down through the years, felt priv­i­leged to have played three sea­sons for the fran­chise and walked away with his head held high.

This sea­son, and the first round of the play­offs, was Ry­der’s re­demp­tion.

This classy hockey player won in a num­ber of ways; while the Cana­di­ens lost not only a good player but on the 100th an­niver­sary a lot of re­spect for the way man­age­ment han­dled the team this sea­son.

Ge­orge Macvicar, Ed­i­tor, South­ern Gazette

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