I grew up a huge tomboy on Long Island. Daddy always taught me about baseball (go Yankees!), how to change a flat tire, fix things, mow the yard and most importantly, how to be independent. What he never did teach me was about professional hockey … he is not much of a hockey guy after all! All I know about hockey I learned from friends and by watching great rivalries battle it out on the ice. There was no greater hockey rivalry than the New York Rangers and Islanders. Many lunch table arguments ensued due to this contention.
Hockey in Florida is just as loved as back home in New York. Locally, we are fortunate to have the minor league team, Jacksonville Icemen, to get our hockey fill! Later this month, professional hockey fans will flock to arenas to see their favorite players take on opponents in hopes of winning the coveted Stanley Cup. This year, due to COVID the shortened and delayed NHL Season officially kicks off on January 13. As a New York Ranger fan I was thrilled to sit down at a local Starbucks with Ponte Vedra resident and former New York Ranger, Ron Duguay, to discuss all things Ponte Vedra Beach life, career and hockey.
Where were you born? Subury Ontario
Best part of childhood? Family and friends plus having the opportunity to play hockey.
Growing up, who was your childhood hero? My hockey hero was the great Bobby Orr.
As a child did you know you wanted to play hockey? Yes, since I was gifted and winning awards as a kid it made me want to pursue professional hockey.
At what age did you start skating? I was very young and started at age 3
Tell us about the first time you ever took the ice in uniform? Not at 3 but as a young child, I don’t remember a lot other than enjoying being on skates and the movement.
What was your favorite part of playing in professional hockey? Playing in Madison Square Garden. It’s the best arena in the world to play in front of the rowdiest, most exciting fans. Plus the energy of the building and connecting with all of it. It was like nothing else.
The fights? Fans love them … but why? And as a player how did you feel about them? The fights took away from the enjoyment of actually playing the game. Back then it was a game of intimidation through force. It was not that I was scared or fearful of it but having to think of who you would fight that night or fight for your teammates, it was too much at times.
As a Long Island girl, there was always the New York Ranger vs Islander rivalry? Was it just as strong between the two teams? It was a very enjoyable rivalry because we had respect for each other and played hard. It was not really about hurting each other. A lot was the energy of the building. It was a healthy rivalry. We played hard and competed hard and it wasn’t set up around fighting.
Greatest career memory? Beating the Islanders as the underdogs favored to win the Stanley Cup and the energy from Game 1 just kept building and building and to actually beat the favorites as under dogs at Madison Square Garden. We were a tight group of guys and it was a celebration of brothers coming together.
Other than hockey, favorite sport? Tennis to keep my legs strong. I like that it’s not a team sport so you have to rely on yourself. It was good to counter the off season with something calculating.
What about new year’s resolutions? Do you make them? What are they? No, I always get asked that and it’s not that I never need to make a big change in my life but I’m constantly working on improving myself so I don’t wait until the New Year to make a change to do what I can do better now.
Who inspires you and why? Being an athlete, I get inspired by Michael Jordan because he’s the complete level of an athlete. Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as well. You learn how they are able to maintain a high level of being consistent. You can go into the season being great but how do you do it all? Michael Jordan’s compete level is focused and willing to do what it takes to win. Locally, Tim Tebow inspires me. His growth and his unwavering Christian beliefs. I watched him in high school with my kids and it’s impressive how he has not ever wavered.
You’re obviously really good at hockey so what’s something you’re terrible at? I struggle with retaining information so therefore I constantly have to write things down. Playing without helmet, I did get a few concussions so it could be an effect of that. I know a lot of stuff but retaining words I struggle with. Physical things though, not many things I am terrible at.
Complete this sentence: “People think I’m a tough guy. They may think otherwise if they saw me: Well there’s a tough “hardness” to a person or tough “physical appearance.” If you see me work with kids, you will see a very soft side. Before COVID, I spent 2 years in the Bronx with kids and when I am around them I’m a big softy.
What brought you to PVB? I moved after I got married to Kim
Favorite part of living in PVB? It’s definitely the beach. It’s only a block away and at any given time I can get there. The beach changes everything and to have access to it just changes your moods. Before COVID, I was always traveling and even if I had 2 days off I would come back home to be near the beach and then leave again 2 days later. I’m attracted to the water and definitely a water person. It’s just good for who I am. When I am working I am entertaining all the time, I always have to be “on” and be “Ron Duguay.” When I come home to Ponte Vedra I can just be myself.
Hockey history in Jacksonville began in the 60’s with the Jacksonville Rockets, then the Lizard Kings, Barracudas and now the Icemen. Internet trolling says you played for the Lizard Kings and the Barracudas. Is that correct? I played a couple of games for the Lizard Kings and I would fill in. Towards the end of the season I played for the Barracudas and then took over as Coach. The next season I was full-time as the Coach and we won the championship (the only championship) and I have the trophy.
Do you attend Icemen games at all? Sometimes. I’ve been to a few games.
Tell us about “Up in the Blue Seats?” Up in the Blue Seats* is a New York Post sports podcast that I co-host alongside Larry Brooks and Molly Walker. We have special appearances and guest Alumni (mainly Ranger alumni).
In these times of COVID, do you find the absence of fans this season affecting the flow of the game? No and by mid-February, (maybe sooner), there should be fans in the stands. Right now it’s just a political correctness thing, but really if you can wear a mask anywhere else why not a hockey game? At least there’s still games being shown on TV and people can watch.
Do you still play a role in the NHL or is that behind you now? No. I do a lot of work for the New York Rangers to host parties and charity work.
*New podcasts are released every Thursday for Up in the Blue Seats. You can subscribe Here.