Cliff Ronning said playing in Vancouver Canucks alumni games is about friendships and getting to know the fans.
Once the Canucks alumni finish playing the Penticton Old-Timers Sept. 7 at 5 p.m., the players will joins fans for a meet-and-greet and autograph session.
“That’s when you really get to meet the people, talk to them and their kids,” said Ronning. “We’re there really just to kind of kickstart the Canucks year.”
Ronning, who spent six of his 18-season NHL career with the Canucks, said they are not taking the game super-serious.
“The biggest thing is hockey fans will notice just the passion still for the game is there,” said the speedster, who proved doubters wrong about his five-foot-eight frame.
He’s excited to hit the ice at the SOEC as he likes the group he lines up with because of their skill.
“Thomas Gradin was one of my favourites,” said Ronning, who started his career with the St. Louis Blues and also played for the Phoenix Coyotes, Nashville Predators, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders. “Thomas Gradin to me was a gentleman on the ice and off the ice. He was a player that to me was one of the best skaters that I’ve ever seen. Helped me realize that you don’t have to be super-big to play the game. If you’re a good skater and focus on that, it definitely helped me become a better player.
“It’s fun to be around those type of guys,” he continued.
Ronning, a member of the 1994 Canucks team that lost the Stanley Cup to the New York Rangers, likes the different eras of Canucks hockey covered by the players. The coaching staff features Orland Kurtenbach, Harold Snepts and Richard Brodeur.
Asked if any practical jokes can be expected, Ronning said he’s not that kind of person.
“I’m sure there will be stuff going on,” he said. “I know Lofthouse has been known to do stuff. Gary Nylund is another one.”
Jared Holmes, a member of the Penticton Fire Department and Penticton Old Timers, is excited to play against what he said are some of the Canucks’ great players.
“Just to experience the way they play the game will be exciting,” said Holmes.
Growing up in Nelson, Holmes enjoyed watching Adams, a Nelson Minor Hockey product play for the Canucks, as well as Ronning, Smyl and Babych. Holmes said he and the other firefighters are pumped about the game.
“It should be a lot of fun,” said Holmes, who joked that the Penticton Old-Timers may be like the Washington Generals against the Canucks alumni. “Even if they take it easy, they will be awesome. I think it’s going to be a lot of laughs. Something I have never done before.”
Ronning will be joined by Greg (Gus) Adams, Dave Gagner, Thomas Gradin, Dave Babych, Mike Brown, Doug Bodger, David Bruce, Jamie Huscroft, John Craighead, Gary Nylund, Paul Reinhart, Mark Lofthouse, Garry Monahan, Stan Smyl and Dave Tomlinson for a tilt against the Penticton Old Timers Sept. 7 at 5 p.m. as part of the Canucks Young Stars Classic that hits the ice at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Sept. 5.
The Canucks alumni will face a Penticton Old-Timers roster that includes Frank Darin, Penticton Vees director, Craig Cooke and Lance Johnston alumnus of the Penticton Vees and Knights alumnus, Dean Garnet, who played for the Summerland Buckaroos according to HockeyDB.com and local firefighters Marc Tougas and Holmes.