Interview: Rangers prospect, Ty Ronning on growing up around the NHL’s greats and his own future
Born in Scottsdale, Arizona, Ty Ronning has lived all over North America. At age 2, the Ronning family moved to Nashville, Tennessee. His father Cliff played in the NHL from 1986 until 2004, spanning 3 decades and 7 different teams. Ty always looked up to his dad who was a member of the Vancouver Canucks team that lost the 1994 Stanley Cup Final to the New York Rangers. “I always looked up to him. He was my hero and I wanted to be just like him”.
Ronning considers Vancouver his home. After his father retired, they moved back to Vancouver where at age 7, young Ty started playing hockey in Burnaby for the Burnaby Winter Club, a source of amazing talents such as Mathew Barzal, Dante Fabbro, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Glenn Anderson, Paul Kariya and many more. I recently sat down with Ty to discuss his hockey life and his future. Here’s our latest prospect interview.
Growing up with Wayne Gretzky
Ronning, as a kid, was surrounded by great players all the time. “I grew up in that locker room vibe, surrounded by players, chewing bubble gum. I knew how everything worked because of that. You get a different perspective growing up that way“. Hockey has been in his blood and he was surrounded by it at such a young age. Living in Vancouver, everyone he knows has hockey playing on TV almost 24/7. Many players have made an impression on him, but none more so than The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
“When you meet Wayne Gretzky, that’s one that sticks with you. He’s such a humble and kind person. I was in awe as a kid, but he taught me a lot and I get to ask him for advice now that I am older and play the sport, which I am very thankful for“. Brett Hull is another person he asks for hockey advice on what flex to use for his stick for instance. Ronning says he feels blessed to have been around these hockey players. He picks their brains now that he’s playing himself. Guys like Theo Fleury, or as he calls him “Mister Fleury” and Mike Modano or just a few more NHL legends he talks to about the game.
Growing up in Europe, hockey was never part of my life, aside from watching highlights on TV. There’s no hockey in the Netherlands. I was a huge football (soccer) fan growing up though and I noticed as a kid that there’s a distance between the fans and the players. Now, at age 35, I know hockey is different and Ty Ronning, growing up in that world, knows that as well. “The connection with the fans, it makes hockey players one of a kind. I love watching soccer but hockey is a sport where the players are very open and don’t hesitate to take pictures with fans after the game, even if it’s a bad game“.
The draft and being part of the Rangers organization
Ronning did not attend the draft but watched it from home. “Players look at mock drafts and see 3rd round, 4th round, 5th round and you just don’t know what’s going down until that day. Teams keep quiet even after the combine interviews“. Ronning was surrounded by family and started to sweat a bit the longer it went on. Eventually Ronning got a phone call from the Rangers to notify him that he was drafted in the 7th round. “Everything just changed then and there. You’re a part of an Original Six team and I now have an opportunity to show what I can do“. Of course the initial response in the Ronning family was positive but his dad immediately said “The Rangers go from one of the most hated to now my favorite team”, referring to that 1994 Stanley Cup Final of course.
He flew to New York the following day to attend the prospect development camp in Westchester together with the rest of his draft class like Sean Day and Gabriel Fontaine, and the other prospects. “It’s a week and it’s a great experience. You get to talk to the coaches, build friendships with other prospects and it is the start of a new chapter in your career“, Ronning said. The players stay in touch throughout the season and follow each other on Instagram. Kravtsov and Ronning are pretty close friends and they hang out a lot outside of the rink too. “We play some FIFA together, hang out. We try to stay in touch now while being on opposite sides of the world“. Prospects feel like they are part of a family being drafted by the same team.
Ronning played with the Vancouver Giants in the WHL for 2 more seasons, until he was offered his entry level contract. That was 2 years ago and Ronning is entering the final year of his contract. Ronning feels like he has a lot to prove. He believes he is capable to make it a success but he knows that putting the time and effort in, is a big part of that success he is trying to accomplish. It’s a theme I notice with a lot of the late round picks. It reminds me of a line by Herb Brooks: “You don’t have enough talent, to win on talent alone” and that’s something 90% of hockey players realize. There are more steps to climb and having the right attitude goes a long way.”
Ronning was sent down to the ECHL in his first 2 seasons. It’s a different league, with a different attitude. Brandon Crawley explained in more detail what his biggest challenges were in last week’s interview. The league has transitioned into a more skill-based style of hockey which may change the way NHL teams treat their affiliates. In the past, the ECHL was basically a place where hockey careers ended. Ronning was called up by the Wolf Pack late in the season and finished the year in Hartford. There will be a bunch of new faces next season, but Ronning is ready for the challenge.
Life outside hockey
Ronning, like Brandon Crawley spends a lot of time coaching young kids. They want to give back to the community that got them to where they are. “I like coaching the younger generation. I teach them shooting techniques, how to transfer the weight. I use that to my advantage and teaching others is a lot of fun“. Ronning’s dad owns a hockey stick company and he teaches them on shooting techniques as well. They record everything with high speed cameras and then analyze. Ty certainly takes after his dad and not just as a hockey player. What the future may hold is uncertain, but Ronning’s passion and love for the game probably pushes him towards a career in hockey after retiring as a player.
Author’s Note: As always, I want to thank the player, Ty Ronning in this case, for sitting down with me and telling me his story and giving me the opportunity to share it with our readers.