It’s been 25 years since the Bonavista Cabots won the Central Beothuck Senior "A" league trophy. A quarter century ago they defeated the Bishop Falls Express team to take the coveted title.
So it felt just like yesterday on the weekend when the two teams met again at the Cabot Stadium in Bonavista.
It certainly was a trip down memory lane for players, coaches and fans alike.
Stadium manager Lloyd Stagg invited the 1987 Bishop Falls Express team to a fun game with their Bonavista rivals.
They arrived on Friday, eager to face Bonavista in two scheduled games on Friday and Saturday.
In the early eighties, there was no eastern senior hockey league for Bonavista to join. In 1983-84 they joined the Central Hockey League, which featured teams from Bishop Falls, Grand Falls, Twillingate, Badger, and Springdale.
The 1986-87 season was the highlight for the Bonavista Cabots. That that year they won both the All-Newfoundland Senior "A" Hockey championship and the Central Beothuck Senior "A" Hockey League, defeating the Bishop Falls Express in the finals, four games to one. Congratulations were flowing from the hockey world, the town and government officials.
Quoting from a souvenir booklet printed for the 1987 celebration banquet, Coach Harold Brown felt that the "biggest reason we have succeeded was because of the "Friendships" throughout our organization."
He congratulated the team, praising their hard work and thanking all the loyal supporters, volunteers and officials, with special thanks to assistant coach Barry "Rocky" Randell for his help in “making those difficult decisions over the year."
To manager, Marvin Ryder, Brown stated, "I am confident in stating that this organization would not operate without him. To you Marvin, I say, the long hours we have worked over the years have been well worth it, I am happy to say it’s been a great pleasure."
To the Team, he offered, "We traveled as a team; we played hockey as a team; we won as a team; now let’s party as a team. Have an enjoyable evening."
Twenty-five years later, both Brown and "Rocky" Randell were once again behind the bench, reliving old memories as the Bonavista Cabots iced nearly a full roster of original players. Only a few of the original players were unavailable.
Brown made the journey all the way from Fort MacMurray, Alberta, just for this special occasion.
"I just couldn’t miss it," said Brown.
There was one noticeable absence on the weekend, however. Former team manager Marvin Ryder passed away in 2006 at the age of 60.
Friday night’s game was lively, for a group of men aging in range from late 40s to 60-ish (some didn’t want to tell reveal their age).
The scrimmage ended in a 5-5 tie, with Bonavista going on to win in the shootout. It wasn’t a rough game, but there was one casualty when Tom Walsh suffered a painful nose injury from an errant puck.
"Some are in shape," quipped Captain Wayne Ryder, "but we got a defribillator on hand, just in case."
Bishop Falls boosted their roster with a few hometown and local players, including stadium manager Lloyd Stagg and Jarrod Ryder, son of late Marv Ryder.
Saturday evening began on a more somber note with a quiet tribute to a very devoted figure in hockey, not only in the Bonavista area but throughout the province, and indeed the country.
A moment of silence was observed for Marvin Ryder as Stagg pointed to a special burgundy banner flying high overhead.
The inscription read: Marvin Ryder, 1973-1995, Bonavista-Trinity Minor Hockey Executive Member/President; 1995-2006–Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador Executive Member and President.
"Over 30 years of dedication to kids having fun playing the game they love – hockey.”
In 2004, Ryder was presented with the Hockey Canada Order of Merit Award which recognizes individuals who have dedicated many years of faithful service to amateur hockey, and Marv Ryder more than met that criteria.
Following the moment of silence, Ryder family members unveiled two new banners inscribed with the Cabot’s 1986-87 championship victories.
Speak to anyone at the arena that night, and all were unanimous in their praise of Marv Ryder.
"He was Mr. Hockey of Bonavista," said former stadium manager Doug Robbins. “When he made up his mind, that was it. If he had lived, his next step would have been the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association."
Although the low attendance for both games was disappointing, many reminisced about the good ole days of hockey when the Cabots were in full swing.
Bonavista’s Ken Stagg never missed a game or a practice in Bonavista.
An avid supporter, Stagg would be always fundraising for the team at his workplace, the former Fishery Products Port Union plant which was in full swing at that time.
"We traveled to central when the playoffs were on," remembered Stagg, “and there were always a couple busloads."
He noted that Bonavista had a good team the year they won, and were in first place.
"This place was blocked when the playoffs were on," said Stagg. “You’d lose your seat if you got up for a minute."
Paul Norman traveled from Port Union to watch all the games. He remembered the trip to Badger during the playoffs when his old van broke down. In a quandary how he and his buddy would get back home, they approached one of the Cabot players and got a ride home on the team’s bus.
"We sure enjoyed that," said Norman.
Nabbing the Cabots Captain Wayne Ryder on his way to the dressing room, Norman asked him to autograph an old copy of the 1986-87 celebration dinner souvenir booklet.
Ryder was happy to oblige, returning the booklet with each player present autographing their photo in the booklet for a very proud Cabot’s fan.
For the Bishop Falls team, it was a great fun weekend.
When you think central Newfoundland hockey, the name synonymous with that area is "Faulkner" and this team was no exception.
Right winger Gene Faulkner played seven years with the team. He is the son of Lindy Faulkner, nephew of provincial hockey legends George and Alex.
Gene was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
"The rink was always full of fans cheering for their team," Faulkner recalled of the days they played the Cabots in Bonavista.
The Cabots continued on after the championship, but by the early 1990s they had left the league.
Players were moving away and the dynamics of the whole area changed with the Cod Moratorium in ‘92. The Central league continued for some time after, but it too disbanded.