Ross Lonsberry

 

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David Ross Lonsberry
Born: February 7, 1947 (Humboldt, Saskatchewan)
Died: May 4, 2014 (Santa Clarita, California)

Ross Lonsberry was a two-way forward overshadowed by stars and goons on the Philadelphia Flyers roster with which he won two Stanley Cups.

The dependable left winger skated on the Flyers second line with Rick MacLeish and Gary Dornhoefer, playing a rugged style while leaving the on-ice mayhem to felonious lunkheads like Dave (The Hammer) Schultz and Andre (Moose) Dupont.

ImageA forward known for rigorously patrolling his wing, not unlike a table-hockey player going back and forth without wandering, Lonsberry fit well into Flyers coach Fred Shero’s simple system. While he often had responsibility for checking opposing stars, such as Guy Lafleur of the Montreal Canadiens, Lonsberry was a fine playmaker who averaged more than 20 goals per season.

While his stellar junior career hinted he might become an NHL star, Lonsberry accepted his role as a second-tier player.

“If winning didn’t matter,” he once said, “then why do they keep score?”

Lonsberry joined the Estevan Bruins junior team in his home province at age 16. He recorded 44 points in his first season of junior, 96 points in his second before scoring an eye-popping 67 goals with 77 assists in 60 games in 1965-66. He was a terror in the playoffs, too, scoring 23 goals in 25 games for the Bruins before being seconded to the Edmonton Oil Kings, with whom he won the Memorial Cup junior championship in 1966.

He had brief call-ups with the NHL’s Boston Bruins in the following three seasons (the tryouts lasted 8, 19 and 6 games), while spending most of the season with the Oklahoma City Blazers.

The Bruins were loaded with talent, so Lonsberry (two goals and three assists in 33 games over three seasons) and veteran Eddie Shack were traded to the Los Angeles Kings for a minor-leaguer (Ken Turlik) and two future first-round draft choices (Ron Jones in 1971 and Andre Savard in 1973).

A full-time NHLer at last, Lonsberry enjoyed 20- and 25-goal seasons with the Kings. On Oct. 9, 1970, he scored the first NHL goal at the Pacific Coliseum as his Kings defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 3-1, to ruin the expansion team’s home debut.

On Jan. 28, 1972, Lonsberry was part of a seven-player trade with the Flyers, who would be his employer for the next 6 1/2 seasons.

Lonsberry credited coach Shero with ensuring the Flyers worked together as a team.

“Freddy’s got the knack of keeping people motivated and happy even when they don’t play regularly,” he once said. “We’ve got stars all right, but not to Freddy. He demands the same from everybody and everybody knows he’ll get a fair deal when his turn comes.”

While no stranger to the penalty box, Lonsberry mostly avoided the goonery for which the Broad Street Bullies became notorious. After incidents when Flyers players faced criminal charges after games in Toronto, Lonsberry said, “We’ll do what we have to do, even if it means the entire team must be bailed out of jail for the games.”

The winger’s value seemed more pronounced in the playoffs, when he managed to score his share of goals while keeping the opposition in check. Never flashy, he was always productive.

In the 1978 offseason, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, as the Flyers unloaded veterans for a future first-round draft choice.

He retired after three solid seasons with the Penguins.

Lonsberry played in 968 regular-season NHL games, scoring 256 goals with 310 assists. He had 21 goals and 25 assists in 100 playoff games. He played in the 1972 NHL All-Star Game.

Prematurely bald, he was teased as a rookie for his lack of hair. He sported a number of hairpieces during his playing days, also growing a thick moustache at the nadir of the Flyers’ biker-gang goonery.

He worked as a commercial insurance broker in Southern California. He lived in Acton. He was diagnosed with cancer years ago and died in hospital. He was 67.

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The 1974 Stanley Cup-winning Philadelphia Flyers featured stars and goons who overshadowed the dependable Ross Lonsberry (third row, sixth from the left).

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