A reader reminds us that Stanley Cup champion Michael Ryder is not the first Newfoundlander to find career success in Boston.
By Kel Kelleher
It was only a couple of hockey seasons ago that Michael Ryder left Montreal to join the Boston Bruins, much to the chagrin of loyal Canadiens fans. But this Bonavista boy was not the first Newfoundlander to follow his career to Boston.
I grew up in Sibley’s Cove and across the road from us lived the Sparkes family. Grandmother Sparkes had numerous daughters. As they grew up, they left one by one to go to the States, usually Boston. There they married and raised their families.
With our limited resources, we always lost people to outmigration. Our oppressive, high taxation rates and unattractive climate fed the current of people leaving for greener pastures. Historical accounts show that between 1846 and 1859 alone, almost 3,000 Newfoundlanders sailed into Boston harbour. During those same years, a fire that started on what is now George Street swept through downtown St. John’s and left 12,000 people homeless. The fire was followed the next year by terrible hurricane-like weather that sank many boats and destroyed fishing properties over a wide area. Add to this the high incidence of disease – typhoid fever, cholera and diphtheria – which claimed thousands of lives. Then when the cod fishery collapsed (the first time), many took advantage of berths on schooners to go to the eastern States seeking a better life. To top all that off, the two large banks, Union and Commercial, crashed – a disaster for the mercantile firms and businesses on the island.
For the Newfoundlanders arriving in Boston and the surrounding area, it was not much of a culture shock because they had found a place that looked like home with much more opportunity to work for a steady wage. New England had a milder climate and the people were very friendly. Subsequently, Newfoundlanders soon formed a distinct part of New England society.
So Michael, you are one of the many who have left our island to travel and work in Boston. And now, it seems you’re moving on again to lend your talents to the Dallas Stars next season. Regardless, you’ll always be the Newfoundlander who left an indelible mark on Boston. Meantime though, he'll be bringing Boston's Stanley Cup home to crowds of fans in Bonavista on August 30.
Editor's note: In the August issue of Downhome, we reported that the Stanley Cup would be coming to Bonavista on August 31. The correct date is August 30. Downhome regrets the error.