Ronnie Paterson, recent BC Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, spoke with the ‘Richmond Sentinel’ to discuss his hockey journey.
Screen grab from 'Richmond Sentinel' Videos
Richmond Stories: Ronnie Paterson
Published 12:39 PDT, Fri June 9, 2023
In another Richmond Story series, the Richmond Sentinel, Jim Gordon (JG) sat down with a local businessman and former Olympian hockey player. One of the things the Richmond Sentinel wanted to do with our Richmond stories series is to showcase local citizens along with their backstories and history. Today, we’re at a very popular and longstanding pub called Pioneer’s Pub. Joining me is the owner, Ronnie Paterson (RP).
JG: You have a great story. I did not know that you were a goaltender that came up through the system. Let’s start with the goaltending experience in 1980, Lake Placid, to me that whole series was about a bunch of kids from the States beating the Russians. You were on Team Canada and went toe-to-toe with the Americans throughout the previous year leading up to the Olympics. Tell us about your career, in the early days.
RP: Anytime one gets a chance to represent their country it’s always very special. In fact, my esteemed career started just down the road at the Richmond Arena. Actually, It was even before that. The Richmond Arena was not built until the early 60’s, so my brother and I actually started playing hockey in Ladner in a little hangar.
It goes back that far and then to fast forward to when I played junior hockey here and at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and then joined the Olympic team for a couple of years, championed by Father David Bauer was a tremendous honour and a great life experience. We did an awful lot of travelling globally for a couple of years, and to get to the Olympics and witness the U.S. team do something no one has ever done, was an absolute remarkable life experience.
JG: I think for people, youngsters watching, I try to equate it to the Vancouver Giants beating the Boston Bruins. It was just that monumental of a shift, back when it was really us against them.
RP: It was very much a David and Goliath situation. Nobody anticipated that, and as you know everything had to be aligned for the U.S. team to achieve that ultimate goal. I remember Ken Morrow was a defenceman and he scored late in the game, like seconds remaining against the Swedes to tie it 2-2, that point got them into the medal round. They were so close to being eliminated, and ended up winning a gold medal which is a pretty remarkable experience.
JG: Another thing we should point out is that this was when it was young amateurs playing for Team Canada, it’s not the NHL’s best. You were a young amateur in college at UBC.
RP: Yeah, and subsequently that gave me the window of opportunity to play for the leopard program, pros were not allowed to participate. The focus was, to target college athletes as well as junior players across the country. We came together, practiced, and were housed in Calgary for about a year and a half prior to the Olympics. It was a great life experience, the memories we cultivated were pretty incredible, and we reflect on those, we have reunions, and we have lots of fond memories that were cherished.
JG: I think most people have this in their lives, for your it’s very black and white and definitive, but you came to a fork in the road where it was ‘do I continue my impressive career overseas in Europe or do i go back to UBC.’ You chose the latter and it leads to a position with Molson Breweries where you were employed for 25 years.
RP: It was a difficult decision, I did have a small opportunity to go to Finland, but I also started my education and wanted to complete it. All in all, I wanted to finish my degree, I wanted to continue to experience the work environment with Molson, so I chose to first, finish my education and graduated with a degree in education. Then opportunity to continue a position with Molson Breweries presented itself and for 25 years it was a wonderful career.
JG: You also said that if you could sum up everything you did over the course of the last 30 to 40 years, it would be hospitality and hockey. We’re here in one of your locations, you also own the Landing Pub and Grill in Ladner, some liquor stores, but you also kept your hand in the local hockey scene.
RP: Hockey has always been a big part of our life, our family life, and I continue to tell our kids that we wouldn’t enjoy what we enjoy today without the game of hockey. Hospitality has always been very special, we continue to embrace both elements, hockey and hospitality with our children. They’re very actively involved in the family business, as is my wife. It’s a really rich experience for all of us as we embark on growing the business that has been great to us.
JG: One point I found very touching was your tribute to your mom. Talk about the experience growing up, your father passed away when you were young, but your mom was there.
RP: My mother had three young children, I was the youngest of three, and my father did pass away when I was at a very young age. There was no such thing as GoFundMe activity, so my mother sacrificed a lot, that allowed us to grow and learn and develop those life core values. She taught us the meaning of hard work and what it took to support her children. She provided the amenities in life that other kids enjoyed with having both parents. I look back and I’m very grateful, not only for my mother’s sacrifices that she made for us but, also for her mother (my grandmother) who also was an integral part of our upbringing.
JG: You get one game to show youngsters, under the age of 16, is there one game in the last 40 years that you would want them to see?
RP: I do remember, and ironically it would be against the U.S. team and the game was in Calgary. It was before the Saddledome, and the arena was jam-packed. We won 3 – 2. It was just one of those magical moments where it was a great experience, a victory, and all part of the development. When I look back, if there was one game that remains very special, it’s probably that one.
JG: That was the time leading up the to the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. As a goaltender, I’m curious to get your thoughts on today’s goaltending. When I look back at your era, my era, the goaltenders looked like young kids because the equipment was not what is worn today. You alluded to the physicality and constant round the clock working out and staying in top shape. What do you think about the goaltenders today in comparison to when you played hockey.
RP: It’s really advanced, there’s a lot more science involved, it’s so sophisticated and the position has changed so much. Many years ago, when I played you could be 5’6 now you arguably have to be 6’5. They’re square to the puck, they go down, they do things that are totally different in style and in approach to the position. I don’t think away from the rink it’s changed; I think it’s still very emotionally challenging. I love watching hockey and I continue to enjoy watching and cheering them on.
JG: It has been a great pleasure to sit and listen to your story here on location at your Pioneer Pub. What a great story. These are the kind of Richmond stories the Richmond Sentinel likes to cover.
RP: The community in Richmond has been awesome and to think that my family and I continue to get to service the community that I grew up in is a real special time for our family.
For the full video interview visit richmondsentinel.ca/videos