Terry Ruskowski The Captain Mentality

Terry Ruskowski The Captain Mentality

Grew up in a farm town about Three miles outside of Prince Albert. Far enough away from the city, but close enough if you needed something. Saturday nights were spent like every other Canadian kid watching Hockey Night In Canada, and Terry’s dad decided one night about the time when the lad was about eight or nine years old, that he should go and try competitive Hockey.

Terry was a little worried because the farm boys didn’t really get along with the city slickers as they called them. Nevertheless, they went to check it out, but the team for his age group had finished their practice already, but the coach was still hanging around, so he took Terry over to another rink and said they see if he could skate. “He turned left, I turned left, he turned right, I turned right, he stopped, I stopped, he went backward, I went backward, and then he told me I made the team, and to be there Saturday for a game”

Funny part is, I had no idea what the rules were, because I started so late to play the game. I was around 8 or 9 years old by then, so in that first game, I just kind of hung out in the offensive zone, with everyone screaming at me to come back across the blue line to join in. I did score a couple of goals though, and then it was hockey, hockey, and more hockey. I continued to skate on the farm, and then dad would take me into the city, to skate with the older guys always, so I could improve my speed and skills, and it made playing in my own age group a little easier.

The knock on him would always be his size. He wasn’t the fastest skater, didn’t have the hardest shot, but stood up to any one physically, and had a great work ethic. There must be a reason as we’ll learn, why he was the captain, almost every team that he played on.

After being sent to the development squad of the Swift Current Team in Humboldt, which I devastated about by the way, I made the team the following year and went on to a great Junior career, playing on a line with Dave “Tiger” Williams, and Islander legend, Bryan Trottier was on our team for two seasons as well.

As I stated a moment ago, Terry seemed to be captain, everywhere he played, and his attributes that to the following;

  • Unselfish. Loved to make a good pass for someone else’s goal
  • Hated to lose and still does
  • Stuck up for his teammates at all costs
  • Knew how to confront and motivate the superstars
  • Was aware of which players needed a pat on the back to boost their confidence.

Terry spoke about why he chose to play in the WHA (World Hockey Association) versus the NHL (National Hockey League) He was drafted by both, but when it came time to negotiate with Chicago in the NHL, they were only willing to give him a tryout for their minor league affiliate in Dallas, whereas Coach Bill Dinnen, from the Houston Aeros in the WHA, offered him a guaranteed Three year, no cut, no trade contract, and the fact that Gordie Howe, maybe the greatest player of all time, was on that squad, So Terry thought, good enough for Gordie, good enough for me. Another thing that was great, was when they signed his old friend and teammate from Swift Current, Don Larway. Terry was coming from a population of 20,000 to about 2.5 million, and had no idea what to expect of the big city, so having his friend was huge comfort zone. Of course it all worked out, when he got down there, and it proved the best years of his life, he said.

Terry has been around the game for some 5 decades now, as a player or coach, so I asked him what the constants were, throughout all his years, in seeing the successes of the elite players. He talked about work ethic, listening, paying attention, and respecting the coach, doing the little extras, training in private when no one is watching, but then he summed it all up nicely in a couple of great sayings

  • Nothing Ever Good, Comes Easy
  • You can’t play great every game, but you can play hard every game

When I was young, I had issues going to my right, so I practiced twice to the right, once to the left, three times to the right, and twice to the left. Hard work was the only way I knew, and it carried me through a nice career in Hockey.

Having coached in the CHL (Central Hockey League) which is kind of a feeder system to the higher leagues, now for awhile, I asked Coach terry for his insight into the mindset of the players. He made it real simple and told me “I want players, who don’t want to be here, and dream to move on to the next level”

Coach recalled some great memories throughout his career in;

  • Beating the star studded squad of the Edmonton Oilers in the last ever WHA Championship in 1979 was a great accomplishment.
  • While playing with the Chicago Blackhawks, he recalled in the Western Conference Finals, that the Chicago crowd was on their feet cheering and going nuts, the whole warm-up. and then afterwards, as well. He said he was so pumped he told his coach Bob Pulford “ Hey Pully. Put me on the ice, and don’t ever take me off”
  • Back in Houston as a coach, it took till the 12th skater in the home opener against the previous season’s champion Atlanta. and the home crowd went absolutely crazy.
  • Coaching in Laredo, his team was down 3 to 1 in games to Shreveport, won on the road in game 5, came home to win in game 6, and then in front of 8500 fans, and 2500 more outside in the parking lot, watching game 7 on a big screen, see his team win it in overtime.