I am not entirely sure why, but I always had a certain fascination with watching Ed Ronan when he played for the Montreal Canadiens. Maybe it was because he was the 4th line underdog, and I always have a soft spot for such players. Maybe it was because he played with physicality and tenacity that should have warranted more ice time. Or maybe it was just because he wore #31 - what an odd sight to see a skater crashing and banging around in jersey usually reserved for goaltenders.
Guest writer Ange Frederick Lavallée recently interviewed Ed Ronan. They talked about his growing up in a hockey family in Massachusetts, his surprise NHL draft, his time in the NHL and what he and his family are up to nowadays.
An Interview With Ed Ronan
By guest writer Ange Frederick Lavallée
I woke up around 7 Am that morning. I was a little nervous and didn’t sleep too well the night before. What did I throw myself into? I, Ange Frederick Lavallée, a hockey historian to be, was about to have an interview with a former Stanley Cup champion? I was ready, I was prepared, I was so nervous! Before going to work, my girlfriend reminded me of how gutsy she thought I was for succeeding to get the interview and she left with these words : ‘’ It’s gonna be fine! ‘’
So I get these words in my head….it’s gonna be fine….it’s gonna be fine…yeah ok, but I’m no professional! I’m scared I will sound like some trashy Québécois whose English is deficient, even though I’m almost completely bilingual...
I drank a cup of coffee, read some news, and before I knew it, I was on the phone with Ed Ronan!
“Hello, Mr. Ronan?”
I couldn’t believe my ears! I was on the phone with a Stanley Cup Champion! Ronan did his fair share in the Canadiens 1993 Stanley Cup run, scoring two goals and registering five points. He was kind enough to spare some of his busy time for an interview on his life and his hockey career.
Ed Ronan was born on March 21st, 1968 in Quincy, Massachusetts. He grew up in North Andover, where he learned to skate on the pond near the family house.
“I come from what we could call a hockey house. My older brother played hockey, as well as my father’s brother, who played college hockey,” said Ronan who, like lots of other young kids, would spend hours skating on the pond.
“I was playing hockey recreationally. My brother and I spent hours on the ice...even before going to school! I knew very young that I wanted to play in the NHL. You see the adults…you admire them, you want to emulate them,” said the former Boston Terriers winger.
And he adds, “When I grew a little older, just before high school, I wanted to concentrate on getting to play at the college level.”
Ronan spent ten years playing in Massachusetts Youth Hockey Program. He grew up with Steve Heinze, a former Boston Bruins player, and they played hockey together.
“I was at the right place at the right time, because the Youth Hockey Program developed at the same time I came into the system.”
The right winger was playing at the highest levels, but he was not amongst the most talented. People often laughed at him and tried to crush his dreams. “Fat chance!” said his brother about him making the NHL, and many others who thought the gritty player wouldn’t make it very far in hockey.
Did he ever think of quitting ?
“Not at all. It’s just a person’s opinion. I certainly had my weaknesses and I knew I had to improve a lot.”
Ronan was drafted as a high schooler by the Montreal Canadiens, in the 1987 entry draft. He wanted to be a professional hockey player, but he didn’t even expect to be drafted at that time. He was stunned to find out from a classmate in his High School that he had been drafted by the Canadiens…it was several days after the draft.
“I couldn’t believe it!” I studied one extra year in High School (called a Post-Graduate year) at Phillips Academy (PA) in Andover , Massachusetts only for academic reasons, because I was hoping to attend Princeton University. My plans changed a bit when André Boudrias, a scout for the Canadiens, saw me play at PA and I was drafted.”
Holding that Montreal jersey must’ve been quite the moment.
“As far as I knew back then, that could’ve been the highlight of my career! I knew I was far from the NHL and I just wanted to concentrate on my scholarship at Boston University for the next four years and improve my game.”
The Massachusetts native played four years with the Boston University Terriers. He had teammates like Shawn McEachern, Tony Amonte and Keith Tkachuk. The Terriers won the Hockey East League Championship in 1991, before losing in the NCAA championship game to Northern Michigan.
“That game went to triple overtime and even though we lost, that was definitely my best memory during my time there!”
In 1991 the 23 year-old Ronan signed a contract with the Montreal Canadiens organization after his time in B.U. , and played his first three NHL games that year, as he was called up along with Paul DiPietro and Jesse Belanger to fill in for injuries.
“My first game was at the Boston Garden against the Bruins. It was a great experience, playing in front of my family at the Garden...against Raymond Bourque, which I idolized when I was a kid. I actually remember going one on one against him...I tried to put the puck between his legs, but he stopped me easily. Great memories.”
1992-93 would have to be described as Ronan’s highlight season, as the right winger played 53 games with the big club, amassing 12 points, including five goals. He also scored 2 goals in the playoffs, helping the Canadiens capture their 24th Stanley Cup.
“Having a streak of ten overtimes without losing is definitely my best memory from the Cup run. It really shows the character that the team had back then. We a close team and got along with each other very well…and we had good nerves!”
Following the Cup, the robust Ronan would play two full seasons in the NHL with the Habs. Unfortunately, that would change during the 1995-1996 season. The Winnipeg Jets claimed him off waivers on October 13th, 1995. Only 17 games ( and not a lot of ice time ) later, Ronan was sent down to the AHL Springfield Falcons, where he would finish the season nicely and play solid hockey in the playoffs.
That hard work paid off, as the Buffalo Sabres organization signed Ronan to a two-way deal for the 1996-97 season. The Boston University graduate kept on playing good hockey in the AHL ( Rochester Americans ), and the Sabres gave him the call to finish the season and help in the playoffs.
“I got called up midway through the season. I played with Mike Peca and Jason Dawe, which was their first line. They were a blue-collar team and that was more my style of play. I had a really good time there.”
After the season, Ronan was at crossroads. He had a young family and a new baby on the way so he took the beginning of next season off. He was signed by the Providence Bruins, where he actually ended his hockey career. He was pretty young at 30 years old, was Europe an option?
“No. I was always about getting to the next level. Playing in the NHL and then going backwards...I would’ve continued if I could’ve stayed in the NHL, just to see how good I could get...but it was time to go on with my working career. It was more stability for my family.”
Ronan has been working in the financial industry for 12 years now.
“My job is similar to hockey in some ways because it’s a competitive field, you’re working with very disciplined people. They’re a lot like your typical athlete, driven for achievement and success. I get a lot of satisfaction out of working with people that are like that, because that’s me.”