Year after year, it was as much a part of the Thanksgiving festivities as turkey and cranberry sauce. He sat on the couch watching football and around the table enjoying Thanksgiving dinner alongside a who’s who of hockey heroes, the likes of Al MacInnis and Basil McRae, as they talked hockey. And there was John Ramage, his mind like a sponge, soaking up every word.
It may be difficult for the average hockey fan to imagine the unfettered access that Ramage had to some of the game’s great players when he was growing up in St. Louis. Even still, he’s the sort of person who’s well aware — and who mentions frequently — just how fortunate he was.
“It was awesome, just being a little kid, to sit at the table and just listen,” Ramage recalls. “We always had football on, but mostly we weren’t really paying attention. We were talking hockey.”
His father, Rob Ramage, was a long-time NHL defenseman whose career spanned 15 seasons from the time he was selected as the No. 1 overall pick by the Colorado Rockies in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft until he hung up the skates in 1994. In between, he made four NHL All-Star Game appearances and twice had his name carved into the Stanley Cup.
And even though John was only about 5 years old when his father retired from the NHL, hockey was an integral part of the Ramage household.
On the ice and around the dinner table, there was no shortage of teaching moments as Ramage learned at a young age the necessary defensive skills — how to dig the puck out a corner, give a shoulder check, protect yourself from tenacious forecheckers. There were also opportunities to grab a ringside seat to watch MacInnis craft his Hall of Fame career.
And the fact that his mother of all people was the one who got him skating for the first time probably says something about the atmosphere as well.
“My dad didn’t really have as much patience as my mom had,” Ramage says with a laugh. “So, I think that’s the main factor that it came to. Just a little bit more patience.”
John Ramage | #42
Still, hockey was in Ramage’s blood and he was determined to follow in his father’s skate tracks. After graduating from the St. Louis Bandits to the National Team Development Program, Ramage learned firsthand how to deal with the increased pressure brought on by a long and strenuously fought season, how to play at a higher level.
But it hasn’t been skill alone — the ability to force the puck, to play the position at an even higher and more effective level — that has made Ramage such a force to be reckoned with.
It’s the leadership that he displays on and off the ice. It’s the reason that you see the “C” stitched onto his sweater. And it’s just one more aspect of his career that seems to mirror that of his father, who wore the C with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Still, it’s important to know that John is crafting his own legacy.
Now with Mike Eaves and the University of Wisconsin Badgers, Ramage has proven his mettle time and time again as an integral part of the team.
“[John] plays with his heart and his soul,” Eaves says. “He’s willing to go to the hard areas and block shots and finish checks. And he’s had a lot of experience being on the World Junior team a couple times. So, he brings all those kinds of intangibles to our team.”
Eaves, who played in the pros about the same time as the elder Ramage, says he sees a lot of his father when he watches the younger Ramage patrol the Badgers blueline.
“Rob was very competitive as well,” Eaves recalls. “The apple hasn’t fallen very far from the tree, that’s for sure.”
Kansas City, Kan.
If you were to flip through the pages of The Boy Scout Handbook, you’d probably come across the Scout Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”
And if you were to meet with 12-year-old Jacob Smith from Kansas City, chances are you’d find the definition fits him pretty well.
For the past six years, since he first became involved with the Scouts, the Peewee A player for the Junior Mavericks has made a point to represent those values both on and off the ice — even when it’s most difficult.
There was an incident this past season when one of Jacob’s teammates inadvertently put the puck in his own net and was getting blamed for the team’s loss. Jacob stood up, defended that player, reminded the team that it can happen to anybody, even NHL players, and if the team failed to win, the TEAM was at fault.
It just goes to show, sometimes it takes an individual to stand up and make a difference.