TERRACE, British Columbia
-- Everyone around these parts is certainly excited for Monday's preseason game between Vancouver Canucks
and the New York Islanders
, but of the four NHL alumni who are here this weekend, British Columbia native Cliff Ronning is especially pumped.
Ronning, who spent six seasons with the Canucks and finished his career with the Isles, is thrilled to see his province host Kraft Hockeyville for the first time.
"This is great," a gushing Ronning said after showing a group of kids the ropes at Terrace Sportsplex. "B.C. gets a chance to host it. It's definitely something that's Canadian-wide. You're pretty proud to be a Canadian. Being from B.C., they've done a really good job here in Terrace. Just going down the street and seeing all the signs in the windows, they're really excited."
For many residents here, this could be the one and only time they get to see the Canucks play in person. Although they're part of the same province, Vancouver is roughly a 16-hour drive from Terrace. Combine that with the expenses that come along with such a trip, and it's simply too much for some to afford.
But on Monday, the dream becomes a reality. And they'll be sitting much closer to the ice than they probably would at General Motors Place.
"Sometimes in the big venues, in the 20,000-seat arenas, they're sitting far away," Ronning said. "Some of the guys look kind of small and you don't realize how fast the game is. They'll see that when they're sitting this low. Every seat will be a good seat in the house for Monday's game.
"It'll be a big thrill for a lot of these young kids to see. They'll get to see really how big and how fast the NHL is now."
"It's definitely something that's Canadian-wide. You're pretty proud to be a Canadian. Being from B.C., they've done a really good job here in Terrace. Just going down the street and seeing all the signs in the windows, they're really excited."
-- Cliff Ronning
Ronning, who said he had a great time on the ice with the kids, admitted he still often thinks about his pro career that began in 1986 and lasted nearly two decades. He appeared in 1,137 games between St. Louis, Vancouver, Phoenix, Nashville, Los Angeles, Minnesota and the Islanders. He scored 306 goals in the NHL and added 563 assists, helping the Canucks reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1994, when they lost an epic seven-game series to the New York Rangers
"I think you always miss playing," said Ronning, who hung up the blades in 2004. "I play in charity games across Canada, and I love playing hockey. I think it brings out a lot in good people and meeting good people right across Canada. You make so many friends along the way. I was fortunate to play for a lot of different teams and meet a lot of good people. They're still friends today."
Although his playing days are behind him, Ronning remains an avid fan. The Burnaby, B.C., native is hopeful that the Canucks will go a long ways this season.
"I grew up a Vancouver Canuck fan," said Ronning, who will celebrate his 44th birthday on Oct. 1. "Like all Vancouver Canuck fans, we're waiting for that one day that it all happens again like in '94. Everyone's excited with the (Roberto) Luongo (contract extension). You just never know."
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org.