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