August 23, 2012
VANCOUVER, BC – He wasn’t even born until 3 years after Cliff Ronning’s legendary run to the Cup Finals with the 1994 Canucks. But now at the age of 14, Ty seems to be right on track to follow in his father’s footsteps. As he readies himself for grade 10 in high school, the Junior Ronning is already being talked about as the future poster-boy of the Vancouver Giants, who selected him 15th overall in the most recent bantam draft in May.
The pressure might be a bit much for a 14-year old (who was the youngest bantam draft pick of all), but when you rack up 153 points in just 72 games and win the BC and Western Canadian Championship, like Ty did last year with the Burnaby Winter Club, it kind of goes with the territory. But just like NHL superstars will tell you, it’s never a one-man show. Ty had some significant help over the season, playing alongside the first overall bantam draft pick Mathew Barzal (selected by Seattle) and the 6th overall pick Adam Musil (selected by Red Deer), who is the younger brother of current Giants defenseman David Musil.
“I played with the best of the best” Ty admitted. “Mathew always fed me the puck whenever I was open. His speed, athletic ability and work ethic is awesome. He’s a great leader and a great guy, and truly deserved to go first overall.” That quote coming from a guy who has known and played with Mathew ever since Pee-Wee. As for his other linemate, Ty had similar praise for Adam Musil. “Adam is a great character, a funny guy, and he’s huge. He always fed me the puck as well.” Overall, Ty said “our team really stuck together very well, it was an awesome year with the boys and I’ll never forget it.”
Of course, when you’re dealing with 14-year old kids, they always need a little bit of guidance to steer them in the right direction. For Ty Ronning, having the influence of his dad was big, but his coach for the Burnaby Winter Club played a pivotal role too. “I had an awesome coach last year, John Batchelor, who’s won multiple championships in the past. He’s a great coach but also an all-around great person, and he was a good role model in my life.”
The other big role model in Ty’s life is of course his father Cliff, who has been a mentor for Ty both on and off the ice. But you might be surprised to hear that despite Cliff Ronning’s lengthy and successful NHL career, he actually tried to steer his son in a different direction – either as a doctor or towards the much more mellow sport of golf. And while you might think the reason revolves around the physicality in hockey, Cliff maintained that he loves the contact of the game, and that both he and Ty thrive on it. But the lifestyle is not always as glamorous as people think. “When you’ve lived it, it’s a grind, and the Western Hockey League is a grind. You devote a lot of time in your life to the sport and you give up a lot, like going out with your friends on weekends. You have to always be training hard and being dedicated to even have a chance to succeed.”
This is a message that has been passed on to Ty, but it’s not one that deterred the youngster from chasing his dreams. He could rollerblade before he could walk, before his 2nd birthday, and while his dad was scoring goals for Phoenix and Nashville in the NHL, Ty was shooting foam pucks against the couch. Cliff wasn’t all-that surprised with his son’s decision. “I think it’s in the Ronning genes, that bug you get, once you step on the ice, that competitiveness.”
It was actually Cliff’s wife who got Ty started in hockey, and the original reason that Ty wanted to get in was simple. “When I was around the rink with my dad carrying me, parents would ask me if I played hockey like my father, and I said no I don’t. My mom got me into it so that whenever somebody asked me that question, I’d say, yes, I do play, like my father.” Filling his dad’s shoes was the ultimate reason for getting involved, and now that Ty has been drafted by the Vancouver Giants, that dream has become more attainable than ever before.
Being a Burnaby boy, it’s no surprise that the Vancouver Giants were the number one choice for Ty and his family, who admittedly wanted to stay close to him mom, his “number one fan.” It also doesn’t hurt that his high school is in close proximity to the Pacific Coliseum, where Ty has attended several Giants games in the past – each time dreaming what it would be like to play under that spotlight “on the big ice surface with the big crowd, the big jumboscreen, and the fans screaming.” Like any kid in that situation, Ty was wide-eyed and hopeful. “You put yourself in their shoes and hope that one day that will be you. It’s really exciting to have that chance now.”
Now, while being drafted by the Giants is the biggest highlight of Ty’s life, he certainly knows it’s only a stepping stone on his long journey. “I’m very lucky and humble to be given this opportunity. I’m going to their camp here and to say that I’m excited would be an understatement,” he admitted. “I’d like to get close to the guys on the team and hopefully make an impression.” And as far as draft day itself; “It was a dream come true, I’ll never forget the moment I was there, but I know never to be satisfied. I just have to work my hardest and get up there.” Remember these are the words of a 14-year old who’s headed into grade 10.
As for the critics who are always concerned about size (Ty is currently listed at 5’6, 140lbs), you might want to be a little patient. The 14-year old Ronning is already close to his dad, who was listed at 5’8, and he believes/hopes he’ll be taller and bigger. Their arms are almost matching, and Ty actually has bigger feet. Ty is eating healthy, watching his nutrition, sleeping lots, and generally taking care of his body as much as possible.
Now carrying around the Ronning name definitely has its perks – instant recognition. But at the same time, it’s instant expectations. While some kids might bathe in the fame of their last name, Ty is certainly not one of them. “It’s always a thing on my back, but with the Burnaby Winter Club, it was all about what was on my chest, not on my back, and I have to think about them and how they developed me as a player.”
But even though Ty is his own player, he never forgets the name he’s representing. “There’s a little pressure with that name. My dad always thinks he’s playing on the ice when I’m playing, telling me what I’m doing right and wrong. But I have to listen to him. He’s been there, he’s done that. I’m just going to do what he says because I know that he knows what it takes to be an NHL athlete.”
The other thing that Cliff Ronning can teach his son is what it’s like to play for Don Hay. Their paths crossed in 1996-97 (just before Ty was born), when coach Hay got promoted from Assistant Coach of the Calgary Flames to Head Coach of the Phoenix Coyotes (his only year as an NHL Head Coach). That year, Cliff came up with an impressive 51 points through 69 games, and credits a lot of his success to his coach. “I think Don is a coach that demands team first. If you work hard and play hard, things are great. It’s when you’re not giving your full effort, he lets you know. But that’s only going to make you a better player. Consistency is the biggest thing that Don expects. You can’t take a shift off.” Clearly, Cliff Ronning was a consistent player, not just for Don, but throughout his career. And that’s something he’s tried to instill in his 14-year old son.
There’s another thing that Ty’s father has instilled in him – focus. He works so hard at his craft, he is so committed, that despite what other 14-year olds might think, for Ty it’s “hockey first, girls second.” As Cliff indicated, it takes lots of discipline and lots of sacrifice to get to where he got. And Ty knows that. “Hockey takes up most of my time. Every hockey player can say they made sacrifices, they didn’t go to a party, they didn’t go hang out with friends, they had to train to get better and fight against each other.” Ty is no exception and he admitted that even though it definitely takes a toll on you, it’s a sacrifice that he has to make and will continue to make. This is the lesson from his dad that Ty always keeps in the back of his mind: “Be the hardest worker on and off the ice and you’ll definitely see some valuables in the end.” Advice that will certainly put him in Coach Hay’s good books, whether it’s during the (maximum 5) games he can play for the Giants this year, or when he blossoms into a WHL superstar down the road.
In the meantime, Ty Ronning will try to take the next step in his development with another Vancouver Giants team – this being the Northwest Giants of the BC Major Midget Hockey League. He recently had a successful tryout for their program earlier this month and now awaits the final decision.
And as for the all the Giants fans eager to see this young Ronning in action, here’s a little teaser from father Cliff. “Ty is a player that when he gets the puck at full speed, he’s fun to watch”. And it sounds like Giants fans will have a lot of fun watching Ty Ronning for many years to come.
P.S. Don’t be surprised to see other Ronning’s become superstars. Ty also has 3 sisters, who are all singers. And Kristin Ronning is on the fast-track to becoming a country star, currently going to Belmont University in Nashville for a songwriting program. So keep your ears perked.