Monday

Ron Flockhart

Ron Flockhart played an exciting style of hockey. He single-handedly attempted to dance through the entire opposition. He'd often refuse to pass to open teammates, instead attempting - and sometimes succeeding - to put on the extra move on the defenseman - and then another! He could turn a goalie as white as a ghost, or turn his coach redder than a beet.

"I get so wound up, so involved in what I'm doing, so carried away that I'd rather make the extra move," explained Flockhart. "Sometimes it works, and then I want to make another one. That's when I should move the puck, after the first one. Its a lack of concentration. Uh....greed is probably a good word for it."

Early in his career, especially in Philadelphia, fans forgave Flockhart for his faults. "Flocky Hockey" was popular

Critics raved early on in his career.

"He's the most exciting player to join the National Hockey League since Wayne Gretzky" said Hockey Night In Canada broadcaster Howie Meeker.

"He reminds me of Gilbert Perreault" said Los Angeles standout defenseman Dave Lewis.

Not bad for a kid who initially didn't want to play hockey. At age three his mom forced him to play hockey. "I hated it" he remembers with a laugh. "My mom had to force me. Second year, she couldn't get me off the ice!

Flockhart was discovered early on in his career by two members of the Flyers glory year teams. Brothers Joe and Jimmy Watson, ace defensemen, returned to their small town home in remote northern British Columbia called Smithers where they held a hockey school every summer for the local kids. Ron was one of them, and even at an early age made an impression on the NHLers.

"The little bleep never passed the damn puck" was Joe Watson's first memory of Flockhart.

At age 10, the family moved to Sycamouse, BC as Ron's dad was transferred with the Ministry of Highways. In the meantime bigger brother Rob left home to play junior hockey, and later was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks.

Rob's success intensified Ron's desire. By age 16 Ron made the WCHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, though a broken kneecap ended his season after just 11 games. In the meantime the Tigers dismissed Flockhart, as did the New Westminster Bruins a year later.

"They didn't like my style" admitted Ron, who ended up playing junior B until age 18. Needless to say, his time to impress NHL scouts was running short.

"I was thinking of quitting" said Ron. "A friend of mine was invited to the Billings Bighorns camp, and his dad dropped my name to the coach, Bob Strumm. I signed a card to come to their camp, but Strumm got fired. He landed in Regina and invited me there."

It was a great move both for Ron and the Pats. Ron exploded to score 54 goals and 76 assists for 130 points! Since Ron slipped through the NHL draft in his first year of eligibility, a loophole actually made him a 19 year old free agent in the summer of 1980. Instead of waiting for the draft, he signed as a free agent with the Flyers. Similarly, that's how the Flyers signed scoring machine Tim Kerr.

With the exception of 14 games in the NHL, Ron spent the entire 1980-81 season in the minors under the tutelage of head coach Bob McCammon.

"Bob really opened my eyes to a lot of things. I actually though I was a complete player. Turns out I didn't have a clue what to do when I didn't have the puck. They've taken the time to show me. And if they hadn't taken an interest in me to begin with, I'd probably be working today in a mill."

Ron made the Flyers the following season, but he still lacked defensive awareness and was too one dimensional offensively. This made coach Pat Quinn reluctant to use him, so he ended up playing 3 or 4 shifts a game, yet he would still score a goal. Flockhart was making it tough for Quinn to ignore him.

By December 1981 the Flyers called up Ray Allison from the minors and placed him on a line with Flockhart and the quiet superstar Brian Propp. Flockhart blossomed for the rest of the season, and finished with an impressive 33 goals and 72 points in his rookie season.

"He's a streak scorer" surmised Bob McCammon. "When he's really going he is as dangerous as anybody in the League. With experience and consistency, he could turn into a superstar."

However the Flyers patience wore thin on Flocky Hockey. He posted similar numbers in 1982-83 - 29 goals and 60 points - but showed no improvement in other aspects of his game. Though he landed 241 shots on net, he probably had another 241 go off the glass. Often he took unnecessary risks which burned his own team. Teams can live with that if you are a superstar, but more and more Ron looked like he wasn't going to develop into that in the near future.

After going scoreless in 8 games in 1983-84, the Flyers moved Flocky Hockey to their state rivals in Pittsburgh. It was a big trade of prospects also featuring Andy Brickley, Mark Taylor and a 1st and 3rd round pick in exchange for Rich Sutter (a 1st round pick in 1983) and 2nd and 3rd round picks.

Timing was not good for Ron in this case. He scored 27 goals and 18 assists but continued to struggle defensively. The team was even worse defensively as they finished dead last in the entire league. The only good thing about that was that the Pens would get first overall selection in the 1984 entry draft - which meant the Pens would land Mario Lemieux.

Flockhart survived an off season house cleaning in Pittsburgh, but was traded once again after he went goalless in 12 games to start the 1984-85 season. He ended up in Montreal, though his lack of defensive play didn't fit in there either.

In 1985-86 he was traded to St. Louis in exchange for Perry Gancher. He continued to disappoint there too, however. Despite his immense skill he was very ineffective. He shied away from all physical contact and remained poor defensively. A total enigma, Ron was accused by his teammates of being a "helicopter" - because he never used his wings.

Ron eventually wore out his welcome and was released. He landed in Italy before ending the season with Boston. However the Bruins didn't renew his temporary contract at the end of the year.

Flockhart returned to Italy and rounded out his hockey career playing "Flocky Hockey" in the Italian leagues. He would later coach in Europe, as well as hold "Flocky Hockey" schools around the world.

Flocky Hockey should have become a bigger hit than he was. Ron was a tremendous skater and he handled the puck really well. Ron would put some nifty moves on defensemen with his combination of speed and puck skills, but he would have been better served had he learned to change his speed. Opposing players caught on pretty quickly that he was almost always going a full throttle. With his acceleration and puck skills perhaps he could have found great success if he had geared down more often and then stepped on it at just the right time. His lack of a physical game and his reputation as a poor back checker also contributed to teams not giving the Flocky Hockey phenomenon a full chance.

2 comments:

mindi 7:21 AM  

DOES ANYBODY KNOW WHERE HE IS. I AM A FRIEND FROM BACK WHEN HE WAS PLAYER. I LOST TOUCH WHEN HE GOT TRADED. I ASKED OF FEW OF THE GUYS I SEE BUT NOBODY KNOWS. HE CAN E-MAIL ME mietkins@hotmail.com) THANKS, MINDI

Anonymous,  10:02 AM  

Last I know he is living in Salmon Arm B.C. He was working at the GM Dealer as a salesman.

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