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.
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.
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."
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.