Ellis Made Hockey History, Now He Promotes It












by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

For 15 seasons, Ron Ellis of the Toronto Maple Leafs was one of the NHL’s most respected two-way players and one of the game’s greatest gentlemen. But as much as his hockey resume speaks volumes, it’s his work with the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) that may end up being his legacy.

Ellis, 73, of Lindsay, Ont., was a prolific scorer with the OHL’s Toronto Marlboros, and helped them capture the 1964 Memorial Cup. Along with grizzled veterans including George Armstrong, Johnny Bower, Red Kelly and Terry Sawchuk, the right winger was a member of the Leafs’ last Stanley Cup winning team in 1967. And he was a key member of Team Canada at the 1972 Summit Series.

Photo: Ron Ellis.

Today, Ellis is program director of the HHOF’s development association and fiercely proud of the hall’s education program. His career spanned the days of the NHL’s Original Six through expansion, and into the Wayne Gretzky era, and he’s adamant about preserving hockey heritage in Canada. Promoting the education program, Ellis is able to assist youngsters in learning about the game’s history and what it means to the Canadian fabric.

“The HHOF is a beautiful facility. According to all of the other halls of fame for major sports, we are No. 1,” Ellis said. “But we are very proud of our school program. School boards can bring their students to the hall, and can use our education program which, for example, helps students look at both history and geography.”

It’s one thing for a youngster to look at the hockey career of Corey Perry, who won a Memorial Cup with the London Knights in 2005, a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and gold medals at World Junior, World Cup, World Championship and Olympic hockey tournaments. But with the HHOF’s education program, studying Perry’s career can also take the form of a geography lesson.

“It’s important to educate our youth about hockey history,” Ellis said, “and it’s also important that when students visit the HHOF, they really do enjoy their visits.”

The HHOF education program, outlined in detail at HHOF.com, was created by teachers for teachers. Junior (ages 4-6), intermediate (ages 7-8) and senior (ages 9-12) programs each include pre-visit, HHOF visit and post-visit activities. Math, social studies, English, language, the arts, Phys Ed and business are all twinned with hockey history. Let’s face it: students would much rather learn about Edmonton’s oil history when it’s tied to Gretzky and the Oilers.

Ellis’s role with the HHOF sees him come full circle in the hockey world. Wearing his familiar No. 6 for most of his career, he recorded nine straight 20-goal seasons for Toronto between 1966 and 1975. He retired in 1975, returned to play for Canada at the 1977 World Championship, rejoined the Leafs and then retired for good after the 1980-81 season with 332 goals and 308 assists over 1,034 career NHL games.

Photo: Hockey Hall Of Fame.

Despite a serious neck injury suffered in Game One of the Summit Series at the Montreal Forum, Ellis played a strong checking role in all eight games of the series.

Few know that Ellis had to overcome serious challenges even before he laced on his skates. He was born with a club foot, and later battled a speech impediment. After hockey and disappointments in the business world, he lived with severe depression. Today, he is a speaker on the importance of diagnosing and treating clinical depression.

“Ronnie has always done more for other people than he ever does for himself,” said Ellis’s former Leafs teammate and Summit Series hero Paul Henderson. “He’s got such a tender heart for people. He’s one of the finest individuals you’ll ever meet in your life.”

I’m sure if you were to ask Ellis’s colleagues at the HHOF, they would echo Henderson’s words.

Ed. Note: Ellis is our feature interview for the late-fall 2018 edition of THE INTERVIEW – only at LondonOntarioSports.com. Click here for our complete interview with Ron Ellis, coming soon.


Jeffrey Reed is a long-time member of the London sports media, and publisher/editor of LondonOntarioSports.com, and LondonOntarioGolf.com. Have a story idea for Jeffrey? Reach him at jeff@londonontariosports.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office https://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com. Sports journalist since 1980.

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