Life after hockey: Goodsoil’s Ron Greschner
Small town values still paramount for Goodsoil’s Ron Greschner
By Rhonda Cooper
It has been 21 years since Ron Greschner laced up the skates for the NHL New York Rangers but for the retired defenceman it feels like yesterday.
That may be because since his retirement in 1990, the Goodsoil native has been busier off the ice with business ventures as well as being a husband to wife Lori and a dad to their five children – sons Julian, 14, Ashton, 11 and Jagger, 9 and daughters Gia Rose, 8 and Georgia, 6.
“After I left hockey I got into television,” said Greschner. “I had a pre-game and post-game show and I found I liked radio over television because you had to dress up for television. I had enough of that when I played. Ever since I was in junior you had to wear a shirt, tie and jacket. I have businesses now that I don’t dress up for.”
While many players often look towards a second career behind the bench, Greschner had no desire to do so.
“I ran hockey schools back in the 80s and I really liked working with the kids but I had more fights with the parents than I did when I was in hockey. There was one mother who came to me on a Wednesday and said her son wasn’t getting any better. Now this was a boy who had never skated before the school started on Sunday and had only been on the ice for about five hours. I explained to her I had been skating for 10 hours per day since I was three. I guess she thought that after a few hours her son would be like Bobby Orr.”
Greschner noted how in a 10-year span from 1975 to 1985, only three teams won the
Stanley Cup, the Montreal Canadians, the New York Islanders and the Edmonton Oilers. In his 16 year career, Montreal and Edmonton each won five, the Islanders four and the Philadelphia Flyers and Calgary Flames, one each.
“We had to play the Islanders back then and they had a good group of guys there,” he said.
One of his favourite career memories is scoring the winning goal against those very same Islanders in 1979 to get to the Stanley Cup finals. While he considers not winning the Cup as his worst memory, he says that having kids more than makes up for that.
“They at least will hug me back,” he noted. “Just making it to the NHL is a great memory,” Greschner said. “All I ever wanted to do was play. I was pretty black and white about it, there was no grey. I wanted to play. When I was sent down to the minors, I told my sister Linda that if I had to stay there I was going to quit. She told me to stick it out. I said I didn’t want to play in the minors, only the NHL. Five games later I was called back up.”
During Greschner’s tenure with the Rangers the team had 13 coaches. “I think I’m the only player on a NHL team where two first round draft picks were traded for coaches. The first was for Fred Shero and the second, Michel Bergeron. The last time I saw a coach score a goal – well, I must have been really young,” he recalled with an ironic chuckle.
Greschner’s signing with the Rangers was engineered by Emile Francis.
“He told people I had broken my leg. Back then there was none of this tweeting and he put it into an article. This was so he could draft me in the second round,” he said.
As far as Greschner is concerned New York is still the city with which to be associated. He lived in Florida for a number of years but in January it will be two years since he and his family have returned to the New York area, putting down roots, down the road in Connecticut.
“My kids love it here. They like the cold. They like to ski, skate, play hockey and football,” he said. “On the weekends I am busy driving them around.”
Greschner loves being around people and that made New York a perfect fit for him during his hockey years. At a recent golf tournament, Greschner noted how some retired athletes and actors brought body guards to the event.
“I don’t understand that. People for the most part just want you to acknowledge them whether with a ‘Hi’ and a handshake or sometimes just a look. My whole life I’ve done that. I was lucky to have really good parents who taught me to be respectful of my elders and people in general. In the 41 years I’ve been gone from home, I think there’s been two incidents. People are usually pretty respectful.”
Although he has made his home in the United States for the past 37 years, Greschner has a great appreciation for his home town.
“If I had to pick a place to grow up, there is no better place than Goodsoil,” recalled Greschner. “The people were great. You could ride bikes and do things and no one ever worried about it. I played hockey with the senior hockey team, the Goodsoil Flyers with guys like Kenny and Jerry Eckel, my cousins. There is a closeness in a small town and so many other nice things that you don’t get once you leave. I have nothing bad to say about that whole area – Goodsoil, Pierceland, Meadow Lake. It was a great place to grow up. I’ve taken my kids back there and we’ve gone fishing and such and their comment was, ‘Dad it’s nice here.’”
When he’s not busy with his family, Greschner said he’s into a lot of things. In 2001, he founded the Ron Greschner Foundation to help raise money and awareness for children with autism.
In addition to his family, foundation and business interests, Greschner still does a lot of public relations for the Rangers and its alumni.
“I like doing it. I am very lucky to be doing it and I consider it a real blessing.”