Ed Ronan was a below-the-radar guy for most of his young career.
Some North Andoverites figured he should be satisfied with a Division 3 college career. But Ronan parlayed a strong work ethic and a rare perseverance all the way to the NHL. If you ever get a chance to see the Stanley Cup, you’ll see his name on it as a player for the 1993 Montreal Canadiens.
“Nothing in hockey compares to that,” said Ronan, 45, from his home in Franklin, Mass. “We were in the rink all night with my family because there were riots outside. It’s once in a lifetime to carry the Cup around the rink.”
Ronan often took a back seat to the who’s who of hockey talent on the Habs but he made a couple big plays in the playoffs.
Quebec led Montreal 2-1 after three games of the Divisional semifinals. Ronan made his first appearance in Game 4 and scored the first goal of the game, jumpstarting the club.
Then in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final vs. the L.A. Kings and Wayne Gretzky, the Great One accidentally tipped a Ronan pass into the net and Ronan got credit for the goal.
But he might have been most proud of a play in the Adams Division final vs. the Sabres. The fourth-line forward dove to prevent an icing, crashing into the boards. That hustling play led to Guy Carbonneau’s winning goal in OT.
“That was my skill. I worked hard,” said Ronan.
This summer there was a 20th reunion in Toronto. Ronan is still friendly with ex-teammates Mike Keane, Kirk Muller and Brian Bellows.
A two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star at North Andover High, Ronan did a post-grad year at Phillips Academy and that year was drafted in the 11th round by the Canadiens. The original plan was to play at Princeton, but then he thought it would be just too expensive.
“That summer I was being recruited by UNH,” he began. “I thought I would call (legendary Boston University coach) Jack Parker out of the blue. I wanted to play in the Beanpot. I said, ‘I don’t know if you know who I am.’ I was so nervous! He knew who I was. We came in and talked and I decided to go to BU. I went to BU as a walk-on. The deal was if I made the team and a scholarship was available he’d give it to me.”
He made the team. A spot opened up early in his freshman year and the rest was history. Ronan, a 6-1, 197-pound forward, had a fine career. He tallied 33 goals and 42 assists over his final two years on Commonwealth Avenue when the Terriers made two Frozen Fours.
Starring alongside Shawn McEachern, Tony Amonte and Keith Tkachuk, his BU team lost 8-7 in triple-OT in the title game to Northern Michigan in 1991.
If the Terriers had prevailed, it would have been a lifetime of free beer and pizza for Ronan at T. Anthony’s as he scored twice in the game.
As for his desire to play in the Beanpot, smart decision. He helped the Terriers to championships in 1990 and 1991 and in 1990 he was the hero in the semis, scoring the winning goal in a 4-3 win over Boston College. When BC had scored the equalizer, assists went to North Andoverites Steve Heinze and Ron Pascucci.
But Ronan obviously got the bragging rights for Turkey Town and Commonwealth Ave.
“It happened so fast,” said Ronan of the goal, which deflected off the stick of defenseman Greg Brown. “I didn’t even see it going in. I just saw the fans go wild.”
For a guy who had to scratch and claw for everything, making the NHL was doubly sweet. And his NHL debut came against the Bruins at the old Garden. While playing for the reviled Canadiens.
“It was awesome,” said Ronan, whose sister, Linda, lives in Atkinson, N.H. “Obviously, I was very nervous. (Montreal) coach Pat Burns was a very intense guy. I went one on one vs. Ray Bourque and I tried to go through his legs. He had no problem stopping me. My team was shorthanded and I was called up. As far as I knew, that could have been my only NHL game. I just wanted to earn another day. That was my mindset.”
Fortunately for Ronan, there were 181 more regular season games and 27 playoff games to follow.
Ronan lives in Franklin with his wife Leah and their three children. His son, Corey, is hockey a standout entering his senior year at BB&N. He has a middle school daughter, Cassi, 12, who is a talented player and his middle child, daughter Aubree, is a distance runner.
Away from work Ronan, a certified financial planner with Bay Financial in Waltham, not surprisingly, has a passion for coaching.
He’s coached his son since age 5. They’ve teamed up with his nephew, Connor Ronan of Berwick Academy in Maine, with the U18 Cape Cod Whalers. He also coaches Cassi with the Mass. Spitfires.
Follow Michael Muldoon on Twitter under the screen name @MullyET.
Most talented team of all-time?
Ed Ronan’s North Andover hockey teams from the mid-’80s might have been the most talented teams in area history.
That’s any sport, any era in area history
The 1985-86 team had two future NHL players (Eagle-Tribune All-Stars sophomore Steve Heinze 30-32—62 and senior Ed Ronan 44 points), future Bowdoin football/hockey captain senior Mike Cavanaugh Jr. (28-26—54), future Salem State player senior Jude Logue (29-27—56) and future three-year BC letterman Robbie Cheevers (10-36—46).
Other standouts in that era included Andy Heinze (65 goals at Merrimack) and rugged senior Rob Fredette (starting nose guard at Memphis State). The team was coached by longtime BC assistant Jim Logue.
Ronan recalled one year losing deep in the tourney to powerhouse Austin Prep on a penalty shot by Tommy Fitzgerald, who would later play 18 years in the NHL. Another year the Knights lost in the Division 2 state title game 10-5 to Scituate.
Not too bad for a public school in a town with a population at the time of about 20,000.
”Those days are long gone and they aren’t coming back,” remarked Ronan, referencing both the unique amount of talent from the town and the mass exodus of the top players to powerhouse prep schools and Junior Hockey. “There are a lot of fond memories.”
Meet Ed Ronan Age: 45 Resides: Franklin, Mass. Career: Financial planner at Bay Financial in Waltham Family: Wife Leah, children Corey, Aubree and Cassi Education: North Andover High, Phillips Andover (post-grad), Boston University Hockey highlights: Division 2 state runner-up at North Andover, 1991 NCAA runner-up at BU, scored winning goal vs. BC in 1990 Beanpot semis in, played 182 NHL games with 13 goals and 23 assists, won 1993 Stanley Cup with Canadiens Top opponent: Mario Lemieux. "At times it looked like he wasn't even trying." Top teammates: Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek