I first met Ron Shudra way back in 1993, I’d just opened up my first Hockey Shop and had negotiated a deal that enabled me to stock merchandise from the Sheffield Steelers, it was their stock, I had it on a ‘sale or return’ basis and took a small commission for selling it.
It was a win win situation with no upfront costs to me, I did the selling for the Steelers whilst also selling ice hockey equipment and NHL merchandise to their rapidly increasing fan base.
Also part of the deal was that the Steelers would occasionally send over a few of their players for photo shoots and promotions. One day it was the turn of Ron Shudra and although I’d seen him play several times, I had absolutely no idea of his background or hockey pedigree.
Originally from Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada, Ron was chosen in round 3 of the 1986 NHL draft by the previous season’s Stanley Cup Champions, the Edmonton Oilers. Ron played 10 times for the champions in 1987 – 88, including a couple of shifts with the ‘Great One’ himself, Wayne Gretzky.
Check out the points stats in the Oilers 1987 victory, 5 – 0 over the Buffalo Sabres and you’ll see:
“Goal scored by Jari Curri, assisted Wayne Gretzky and Ron Shudra”
Now that’s an achievement to be proud of, in fact Ron went on to get 3 assists that evening.
He was then traded to the New York Rangers and spent the rest of the season playing for the Rangers farm team in Denver, Colorado. Subsequently he moved to their affiliate team in Michigan with the prospect of another 3 year contract with the New York Rangers on the table – only to have it withdrawn when the then GM, Phil Esposito was replaced by Neil Smith.
Smith cancelled all contract offers and so at the age of 22 Ron chose to look for other opportunities, one of which was moving to Europe, and in particular the UK and to the Solihull Barons and the Hobbs Moat Road rink.
The UK adventure begins
Having “landed” at Hobbs Moat Road, Ron quickly began to build his reputation as a solid D Man with a “rocket” of a shot, but maybe his biggest challenge was understanding his own British team mates . With a range of West Midland, North Eastern and Scottish accents to decipher, his task wasn’t easy.
Unfortunately, within weeks of the start of the new 1991-92 season the financial position of the Barons became untenable and players had to be released from their contracts. Despite a brief visit to Basingstoke, Ron chose to follow several of his team mates up to South Yorkshire and join the new Sheffield Steelers – their new GM being former Barons forward and team mate Ronnie Wood.
For the next seven seasons Ron would play a pivotal part in the rise of the Steelers, up through two divisions, taking the British Hockey scene by storm before reaching what, in my own opinion, was to be their finest hour, 25th March 1995. By beating their main rivals, Nottingham Panthers 8-6, in their own barn, Steelers had won the first of their BHL League championships.
From 1991 to 1998, with Ron as Captain, the Steelers won an astonishing 7 trophies in 7 seasons, including:
2 x BHL Championship titles, 3 x Playoff titles, 1 x Benson & Hedges Cup and 1 x Challenge Cup as well as 2 promotions.
I asked Ron what was the secret of all of the Steelers success, his reply “we were a group of tight knit, experienced guys that knew how to win, everyone was a leader, everyone played hard and everyone played focused”.
The 1999-00 season saw Ron drop down a league to play for a couple of other BNL teams but he returned to his beloved Steelers twice more before finally hanging up his skates at the end of the 2008 – 09 season.
After his retirement he joined the Sheffield junior development program at the twin rink facility of Ice Sheffield, and in June 2014 became their head coach.
Ron was honoured by the Sheffield Steelers, in March 2010, by having his #26 team jersey retired. He was also inducted into the British Hall of Fame in the same year.
Here’s Ron’s full playing stats – as listed by Hockeydb.com’s database.
Click here to listen to Ron’s Podcast Interview .
Watch the Jersey retirement ceremony here: