Ty Ronning loves scoring goals, and he is good at it too.
Especially this past season, his final year of junior hockey with the Vancouver Giants, as the winger potted 61 goals, a new single-season team record.
And he was consistent.
Playing in all but two of his team’s 72 contests, Ronning never went more than four games between turning the red light on, and that happened just once, in early October.
A further breakdown reveals he was held goal-less in just 28 games, scored once in 26 contests, while having 13 two-goal games and three hat tricks, scoring a goal in 60 per cent of his team’s games.
Asked to describe the feeling of slipping the puck behind a goaltender and into the net, setting off the goal horn and high fives from his teammates, he had to ponder the question for a minute or so.
“It is a huge rush of joy and emotion. It is the best feeling you can feel, especially if it is a close game,” Ronning explained. “It’s hard to describe because it is such a great feeling — there is no better feeling than scoring a goal for (your team).”
Ronning surpassed Evander Kane’s team record of 48 goals, set back in the 2008/09 season.
“(The record) is a huge honour, especially because I have been here for five years,” Ronning said.
“I grew up in Vancouver, I have played in Vancouver my whole life and to think that I may be able to create some history, put my name on a little thing is kind of cool.”
Ronning has done all this under the pressures and expectations which accompany being the son of not only a former NHLer, but also of one of the more popular members of the Vancouver Canucks, his father, Cliff Ronning.
“There is nothing really to deal with because it has always been there for me and I have grown up with the last name on my back,” he said. “There has always been expectations.”
But the message from his dad — a veteran of 1,137 games, scoring 306 goals and 869 points in that span — has always been simple: “What are they going to criticize you for if you are working your hardest?”
And hard work is clearly evident in the younger Ronning’s game, especially this past season as the Giants had a breakout season, returning to the WHL playoffs for the first time in four years.
“A lot of the doubters and the haters and the nay-sayers about me being too small, too light or too slow or not good enough,” he said about what motivates him.
Ronning is five-foot-seven and 172-pound and has always faced questions about his size. He was noticeably stronger on and off the puck this past season.
“I kind of take that and add it to the fire and I like proving people wrong — it’s an even better feeling than scoring,” he said.
Ronning played a big part in that, whether it was his on-ice production or his mentorship of the team’s younger players.
He is also great off the ice with the team’s fans and Lower Mainland community as evidenced by the fact Ronning is the Western Conference nominee for the Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s humanitarian of the year.
The winner — he is up against the Regina Pats’ Matt Bradley — will be announced at the WHL awards on May 2.
“In all my years of working in junior hockey, I’ve met few guys like Ty who are just wired to do good things for the fans and the community,” said Dan O’Connor, the Giants director of media relations and the team’s play-by-play broadcaster.
“He doesn’t need prompting, he doesn’t need to be coached through much of anything. He is a self-starter who often times on his own time will go out of his way to do community work.”
A perfect example of this is when a fan in Burnaby wrote to Ronning earlier this season, Ronning could have done nothing or written a letter back. But instead, he personally delivered a Giants’ jacket to the young fan’s house.
He is a frequent volunteer at the team’s hockey school and always quick to volunteer with the Giants’ Read to Succeed Initiative. And he regularly speaks with students about the importance of perseverance and a strong work ethic.
Giving back was something instilled in Ronning by his parents, Cliff and Ivana.
“I just try to be a good person and if that makes someone smile, I love that,” Ronning said. “It all comes down to hard work and putting smiles on people’s faces.”
And the award nomination means something special.
“It is tremendous. It is right up there with getting drafted into the National Hockey League,” he said.
Ronning was a seventh round draft pick by the New York Rangers in the 2016 NHL entry draft and signed with the team in March.
He has gone to two rookie camps with the team and spent a dozen games last spring and three more earlier this month with New York’s top AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Ronning has a pair of goals and five points in that limited sample size playing professionally against men and will spend the summer training as he gets set to embark on his first full professional season.