I just finished my profile on new Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay. Look for that online in a little while.
It’s amazing how much stuff you can’t fit in a story after you have sat down with a hockey lifer and talked for a half hour. I thought I would share this story on how Ramsay described getting called up to the NHL. He was drafted in the second round in 1971 (19th overall) and spent 19 games playing for Cincinnati.
Here’s the story in his words:
“I was very lucky. My last adventure in the American Hockey league we were flying out of Cleveland, I think. We tried to get up over the water. Someone yelled ‘Oh my gosh.’ One of the engines had to be shut down and we limped into someplace, maybe Pittsburgh. They set it down and we got a bus. Joe Crozier borrowed money off players because the bus driver wanted cash to drive us to Baltimore. We got to Baltimore at six in the morning and went to the rink that night.
“Joe Crozier said ‘Kid, play good tonight and I’m sending you to Buffalo. I played like hell and we lost 4-0. I was a dog. He threw a ticket at me and that was that. Didn’t tell me how to do it. I was in Baltimore. I had to get up at six in the morning, find the bus station to take a bus to Washington. A cabbie yelled at me and said ‘Where are you going?’ I said ‘Washington National.’ He said 15 dollars. I had borrowed 30, 10 dollars off three different players so I would have enough money to get there. I paid him 15 dollars, got to the airport in Washington and flew.
“Nobody met me. I found a ride downtown to the hotel. With no information, I walked over to the rink. The trainer said ‘What are you doing here?’ He said come back around 5. I said ‘Why, do we play tonight?’ He said ‘Yeah.’ So I went in, played the game, I only played a few shifts. It was against the Toronto Maple Leafs, my favorite team as a kid. After the game everybody was getting dressed all the players were excited because they were going on a trip out to Los Angeles. No one had spoken to me yet. Punch Imlach came in five minutes before the game and say ‘Hey, you made it.’
“So I said to one of the players, ‘What do we do with the puck in our own end? What do we do with the breakouts?’ He said ‘Just get it out anyway you can, kid.’ That was coaching.
“So finally I went into the coaches office and said ‘Am I going on the trip?’ Punch Imlach said, ‘You got any money?’ I said ‘Nope.’ He said ‘I guess you are going then.’ I was on a three-game road trip in the American League now we went out for a week to 10 days in the National League and I had one sport coat, two pairs of pants and three shirts for now what was going to be 10-12 days on the road.
“Interesting, I got my first point in the second game. I set up Eddie Shack for a goal. One of the great players and fun guys of all time. Then I blocked a shot in New York and missed the next game in St. Louis. I skated on Sunday and said ‘I think I can play.’ I scored three goals that night. We won 3-1. I scored my first, second and third goals that night and everybody thought they had a star scorer. I played 57 games that year and scored six. Three in one game.”
I thought you’d enjoy such a tale from the old days in the sport. I have a feeling I will be hearing a lot more of those. I’ll share the ones I can.