Most people have one career and stay with it. However, Ron Stern is very different. Beginning by wearing a hockey sweater most nights a week to currently dressing in a suit every day,
Stern has experienced a variety of careers which have all required different types of clothes. Over Stern’s 12 seasons in the National Hockey League, he played in 638 games and recorded 161 points (75 goals and 86 assists) for three teams: Vancouver, Calgary and San Jose.
Stern began his career in Vancouver as he was drafted in 1986 during the fourth round, 70th overall. Stern’s time with the Canucks was brief as he split time between the Canucks and their International Hockey League team in Milwaukee. He was traded to Calgary before the 1991 trade deadline and stayed in the NHL through his retirement after the 1999-00 season.
While playing for Calgary, Stern made a name for himself by becoming a player who wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves if the situation was right. In fact, from 1991-94, Stern led the Flames in penalty minutes — including 338 in 1991-92.
Stern spent seven of his 12 NHL seasons in Calgary. He had two of his best years with the Flames. In 1991-92, Stern set a career high with 13 goals. In 1993-94, he set career bests with 20 assists and 29 points.
While those seasons were memorable, Stern will never forget his final NHL season, 1999-00 with San Jose. That’s when he reached the semifinal round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the only time in his career.
After sitting out the first five games of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against St. Louis, Stern played the remaining two games and made a lasting impact by scoring the first goal at the Kiel Center in St. Louis just three minutes into the seventh game.
“The St. Louis series, Game Seven,” Stern said with lots of pride. “I scored the first goal of the game and we went on to the next round of playoffs.”
During his time with the Sharks, Stern played in 145 games, recorded 309 PIM and 25 points (11 goals and 14 assists). Stern’s time in San Jose was brief, but like most former Sharks, he’s got fond memories of playing in Silicon Valley.
“I think it was a combination of the first-class organization, great loyal fans and an exciting building,” Stern said of the reasons why he liked playing for the Sharks. “The combination of it all along with the laid-back California attitude outside of the hockey rink.”
Stern was just 33 when he retired. That’s a young age for most people, but not for a hockey player. After suffering numerous injuries through his career, Stern learned he had serious neck and back problems that required either surgery or long-term rest. So his decision became easy.
“Physically, I didn’t have a choice,” Stern said. “In order to play at that level, if you’re not physically sound, it’s more frustrating to yourself because you can’t fulfill your role on the team.”
After announcing his retirement in September of 2000, Stern moved back to his native Calgary and began a series of different careers far removed from the hockey world.
Stern began his post-NHL life by owning restaurants and then as a stockbroker. These days, he’s with an oil and gas service company doing South American sales. With the frequency of his trips to South America, Stern has learned plenty about other nationalities as well as becoming fluent in Spanish.
“The oil and gas industry is probably one of the closest things to pro sports,” Stern said. “In pro sports, you can pick up the phone and call anyone you played with and ask for a favor.” He said this type of networking also applies in the oil and gas business.
Stern is content in his line of work and doesn’t have any interest in returning to the NHL. Besides work, he spends time with his two sons, 15 and 11, both who love and play hockey as well as his newly adopted 20-moth old baby girl from Ethiopia. However, even with three children, Stern finds time to follow the NHL.
“I think the League is very, very exciting to watch,” Stern said. “It allows the skilled players to show exactly what they can accomplish, forces the skill level to increase and the tougher guys end up being a lot more skilled as well. It’s great for hockey and for the fans.”
Stern was dedicated to whichever teams he was playing for at the time. He wanted to contribute as much as possible to helping his team get closer to winning the Stanley Cup as well as improving his own hockey skills.
“I wasn’t the first round draft pick and no one doubted my physical play,” Stern said. “But I wanted to improve my skill level to be the best all-around player.”
Even though Stern never won a Cup, he left his mark on the NHL as he’s currently tied for 44th all-time with 2,077 PIM.
“I wanted to be known as a player that always gave 100 percent and wore my heart on my sleeve,” Stern said. “I wanted people to respect and appreciate that.”