NATION PROFILE: BILL RANFORD

Lowetide
March 01 2013 07:12AM

He arrived as something of an unknown, partial payment for fan favorite Andy Moog. In the spring of 1990, when fans were aghast at his poor play against Winnipeg, Bill Ranford turned on a dime and posted a performance for the ages. Oiler fans watched in awe, as Ranford rewarded them with a Conn Smythe performance and a major role in the club's 5th Stanley. 

BEFORE THE DRAFT

  • Born: Brandon, Manitoba December 14, 1966
  • Last Amateur Club: New Westminster Bruins (WHL)
  • Drafted by: Boston Bruins, 3rd round (52nd overall in 1985) 
  • There is very little available on Ranford in terms of pre-draft scouting report, beyond "promising" and "quick reflexes." It is safe to say that he was one of the more prominent goalies in the draft, as he was the 7th goalie taken. Names ahead of him? Sean Burke, Mike Richter and 5 lesser lights. In later newspaper articles Ranford would be described as a "longshot prospect" but in fact Ranford held promise from the moment Boston called his name. 

EARLY CAREER

At Ranford's first training camp, things were unsettled for the Boston Bruins at the position. Pete Peeters was the starter, but was in the doghouse after a subpar season in 1984-85. The job would go to Peeters if he could prove to coach Butch Goring he was worthy. Doug Keans was the backup, but not considered a strong candidate to replace Peeters. Beyond them was Cleon Daskalakis (slotted for AHL duty in Moncton) and behind him was Bill Ranford, who showed well but was returned to New Westminster. 

It was an ideal situation for Ranford. By season's end the Bruins would trade Peeters and recall Ranford, who played so well the name Ken Dryden was invoked more than once. In 1986-87 Ranford shared the starting role with Keans and was for all appearances the goalie of the present and future for the Boston Bruins. At age 20, things were looking good.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the Garden. For 1987-88, coach Terry O'Reilly went with Keans and veteran Reggie Lemelin, meaning Ranford spent that season (or most of it) in the AHL.

TRADE!

On Mach 8, 1988, Edmonton dealt disgruntled goaltender Andy Moog to Boston for F Geoff Courtnall and G Bill Ranford. It was a good trade for Boston, settling down a position of weakness and giving them a proven veteran. For Edmonton, it was an inspired trade, although it would take some time to bloom.

Ranford was bitter. He wanted to be the #1 goalie in Boston, and when the opportunity was taken from him (first by Lemelin and then by Moog) it hurt his professional pride.

As luck would have it, Bill Ranford would have a chance to exact revenge. Ranford sat on the bench for the 1988 playoffs, and played 29 regular season games in a backup role for the following year.

Then came 1990.

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

The real story of Billy Ranford as an Oiler--the highlight of his career--began with a horrible playoff start. He was awful. Bill Ranford leaked SEVEN goals in a 7-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets May 4, 1990. They won the next game in OT, lost a 2-l nailbiter and then lost in double overtime to go down 3-1 in the series.

But they did not break.

THE SAVE! (take it from the 8-minute mark) 

From there, they blew out the Kings in the second round, survived the Hawks in 6 (in what was Mark Messier's defining series) and then won out over the Boston Bruins in the final.

And Bill Ranford played out of his mind in goal. By the time they hit Boston he was recalling Dryden and Bernie Parent and every other brilliant goaltending performance in NHL playoff history. On Tuesday, May 15th in the Boston Garden, Bill Ranford outdueled Andy Moog in an epic struggle that went to the third overtime and set the tone for the final.   

It must have been sweet music for Ranford to win the Stanley and Smythe against the team that sent him away.

Craig Simpson said it best about Ranford in the final: "He shut the door."

LEGACY

After that, Ranford was steady at times, spectacular at other times, and was never the problem during a trying time in the early 1990s for the Oilers. By the time EDM began climbing back into the playoffs and enjoying playoff victories Ranford would be in Boston and then Washington, but did return to the place where magic happened ten years after (99-00).

  • From HHOF: With the Oilers, Ranford faced certain relegation to number two spot behind Grant Fuhr, but it also gave him the chance to apprentice with the best. But at the start of the 1989-90 season, Fuhr was rushed to hospital with appendicitis. He returned later in the season but hurt his shoulder. Ranford wound up playing most of that year, and playing spectacularly at that.
  • More HHOF The result was that come playoff time he had earned the starting job. He played in every game, led the team to the Stanley Cup and was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy. Younger than Fuhr by a few years, his play also meant that general manager Glen Sather could comfortably trade Fuhr and keep Ranford as the number one man.
  • More HHOF: At the start of the 1991-92 season, Ranford was perhaps the finest goalie in the world. He was named Canada's starter for the 1991 Canada Cup, and not only did he lead the team to victory, he was named the outstanding player of the tournament. His standup style was different from most young goalies, but for him it was effective.Bill Ranford's NHL career lasted 15 seasons and over 600 games with two Stanley Cup wins.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on TSN 1260.
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#1 Spydyr
March 01 2013, 07:16AM
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Bill stacking the pads old school.

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#2 Lofty
March 01 2013, 09:12AM
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Stack the pads!

Damn it Spydyr you beat me to it.

I was thinking of Ranford last night when Dubnyk charged out and built a padded wall

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#3 MATT HUNTER
March 01 2013, 09:21AM
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DUBBY STACKED THE PADS THE OTHER NIGHT LIKE RANFORD #CLASSIC

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#4 HardBoiledOil
March 01 2013, 09:22AM
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Ranford was great for a few years, then the rug was pulled out from under him by the early 90's and the team sucked...i know because i was sitting in the 2/3 full stands throughout the 90's watching the dog's breakfast. and other than the '06 Stanley Cup run, it seems like we are still trying to recover from the early 90's player purge that really hurt this franchise.

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#5 Light, Sweet, Crude
March 01 2013, 09:39AM
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Ranford made a visit to my kindergarten class in 91 and he passed his cup ring around. I don't know what circumstances made this possible, but I do remember being kind of disappointed he wasn't in his full gear. The Ranford Oilers are the earliest I can conjure from my memories.

Thanks to my Granddad for bringing me to games.

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#6 Justin
March 01 2013, 09:43AM
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My sister works with his mom, and when she found out she couldn't stop talking about how Ranford was my favorite player growing up. In fact when I was young I was going to the carnival of champions to get his autograph, but he was traded less than a week before it.

Hearing this story, his mom met him at the most recent Oilers vs Kings game (Where he is the goalie coach for the kings). My sister comes to my house the next day and gives me an Oilers program and a Bill Ranford trading card both signed by him. Im 25 now and that made my day.

Classy guy even years after playing.

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#7 OilClog
March 01 2013, 10:37AM
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Favorite Oiler EVER!

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#8 Crooked
March 01 2013, 11:09AM
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He was my favorite Oiler for the longest time, always enjoyed watching him play. He looked fantastic during the Canada Cup too.

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#9 Shredder
March 01 2013, 11:37AM
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When I was in elementary school, I remember one day where we went around the class asking everyone who their favorite "Hero" was...most kids picked Superman or Batman, but I picked Ranford. Everyone laughed, because he didn't have any superpowers, but he was my hero for that one kick save that will forever make him my most favortist goalie.

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#10 Scott in Grande Prairie
March 01 2013, 12:10PM
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I'll never, ever forget seeing Winnipeg coach Bob Murdoch walking up and down the bench of Game 1 of that Jets/Oilers series telling his players to "Shoot that puck from everywhere. Shoot that puck from everywhere. Shoot that puck from everywhere."

It was the first time, well, ever, at that point in the Oilers history that we actually opponents keying in our goaltending. We had gotten so used to the steady excellence of the Fuhr/Moog 1/1A tandem that it was almost insulting.

And it looked like it was going to be a quick playoff exit. But Ranford dug deep and turned it around. That series was so, so huge - one of the great watershed moments of this franchise. I swear I aged about five years during that seven-game series.

And, of course, it was all due to Ranford, whom I also believe turned into the Best Goalie in the World for a couple of years.

Great article - great memories.

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#11 Fresh Mess
March 01 2013, 12:17PM
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Greatest goaltending I ever saw in 90-92. He was the best goalie in the world for a couple of years.

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#12 Shaun Doe
March 01 2013, 03:34PM
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He was my favorite Oiler/hockey player when I was a kid too. Living in BC I was pretty unpopular for my love of the Oil but it never stopped me. My Grandma lived in Edmonton during the glory days and the not so glory days. Best christmas present she ever gave me was a Bill Ranford signed photo which I still have on my wall as a 31 year old now and a stick signed by several of the 90's oilers. The autograph has long since faded but the memories of those days are still the same. My personal favorite save of his was the roll over job with the legs in the air job he did. Great days indeed

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#13 Oilers 21
March 01 2013, 06:16PM
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Billy was something special for sure, as was Klima's helmet!

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