Leonard Keith Ronson
Born: July 8, 1936 (Brantford, Ontario)
Died: September 29, 2014 (Portland, Oregon)
Len Ronson, nicknamed The Rifleman for his wicked wrist shot, scored 62 goals one season for the minor-league Fort Wayne Komets. He was also part of a famous 1963 NHL trade in which two future Hockey Hall of Fame goaltenders changed teams.
Born in Brantford, Ont., the left winger played his junior hockey with the Brantford Truckers, Galt Black Hawks, St. Catharines Teepees and Hamilton Tiger Cubs.
The 5-foot-8, 175-pound forward turned professional in the International Hockey League in 1956-57, playing for both the Indianapolis Chiefs and Huntington Hornets. He spent the following three seasons with the Komets. In 1959-60, he scored a team-leading 62 goals and added 47 assists in just 68 games. He added seven goals and 10 assists in 13 playoff games, as the Komets lost the Turner Cup finals to the St. Paul Saints.
Ronson opened the 1960-61 season with the New York Rangers as one of four rookies on the roster who had impressed coach Alf Pike at training camp. In the Rangers’ first game of the season, Ronson fired the puck past Don Simmons in the Boston goal at 16:13 of the third period as the Rangers defeated the Bruins, 2-1. The game was seen by 13,475 fans, as well as by NHL president Clarence Campbell, the largest opening-night crowd at Madison Square Garden in a decade.
Three weeks later, Ronson scored his second career goal, knocking a rebound past Terry Sawchuck, which would be the winning goal as the home Rangers defeated the Detroit Red Wings by 4-3.
Despite the two game-winning goals, Ronson was sent to the minors after 13 games. He also recorded an assist in his brief stint with the Rangers.
On June 4, 1963, Ronson was traded to Montreal as part of a package including Dave Balon, Leon Rochefort and featuring goalie Gump Worsley. The Rangers received Phil Goyette, Don Marshall and Jacques Plante. Ronson was the only one of the seven players not to skate for his new team.
He returned to the NHL briefly in the 1968-69 season, when the expansion Oakland Seals, suffering another agonizing campaign, called up the 32-year-old forward from the San Diego Gulls. He played five games without appearing on the score sheet and was returned to the Gulls.
Ronson led the WHL in goal scoring with 51 markers in 1969-70.
The Los Angeles Sharks of the World Hockey Association selected him in the league’s inaugural general draft in 1972, but he stayed with the Gulls, finishing his career with 30 points in 44 games in the 1972-73 season.
In his minor pro career, he also skated for the Buffalo Bisons, Kitchener-Waterloo Beavers, Sudbury Wolves, Baltimore Clippers, Cleveland Barons, Omaha Knights, Providence Reds, Portland Buckaroos, and Fort Worth Wings.