JACOBER: Remember The “Prof”
There are some tears on the ice in the National Hockey League. Tears of sorrow for the loss of Ronald Caron. The “Professor” as many of us called him, died in his beloved Montreal earlier this week. He was 82.
I know this is Winter Warmup weekend and baseball is on the minds of many here. But, my thoughts this week have been on Mr. Caron.
As we go through life’s journey, there are a few people that touch us in a special way. Ron Caron was one of those. For those who knew him and worked with or around him, he’s one of those people who make your heart dance a little when you think of him.
He came to this midwestern city with a broken hockey team from the vatican of hockey–Montreal. He was hired by a maverick named Harry Ornest. There was a lot not to like about Harry, but he did waltz into our town, unknown to almost everyone, saved the Blues, and kept them from moving. When no one wanted the team, he got it for a song and a few dollars and kept the team here. The best thing he did was hire Caron.
On a limited Ornest budget, Caron was a gambler. Not all of his trades and deals were successful, but he did acquire some of the best players in the teams history including Hall of Famers Al MacInnis, Bernie Federko and Brett Hull. Adam Oates, Brendan Shanahan and Scott Stevens were some of the other terrific players. They made the NHL playoffs EVERY season he was here.
But my memories of Ron were about more than the trades and the players he acquired. It was his fascinating and emotionally charged personality. Hockey and baseball consumed his life. Personally, I looked forward to every Sunday morning when he would join me on KMOX. Every interview began like a blank canvass. Then, he would paint it with his philosophy. It was a blast. His memory about specific games and plays was mind boggling. He was a walking encyclopedia of hockey and his other passion–baseball.
His temper and passion for the game were legendary. For a time, his booth at the old Arena on Oakland Avenue was next to the KMOX broadcast booth. When he was upset with a referee’s call or the way an opposing player treated one of the Blues, we could hear him explode. He might be screaming at an official form high above the ice. He was known to punch the wall. He would stick his head around the wall so we could see and hear him and he would be screaming something like “Bob Probert should be in jail!”
When he would tell me, “the meat is on the burner” a player trade couldn’t be far behind. He had a million such expressions.
And, he could talk. On a road trip when I was working on the broadcasts with Dan Kelly, it was Thanksgiving and we were on the road. Ron took the coaches, broadcasters and writers to dinner in Detroit. Dan asked, “Ronald, who was the best goalie you’ve ever seen?” About 10 minutes later, he was talking about the New York Yankees. Dan yelled at him,”dammit Ron I asked you about a goalie.” Ron said, “I’m getting to it.”
One time in the old Chicago Stadium, he was upset with a penalty on the Blues and went running in the press box and kicked a wall in anger. It was drywall and his foot and leg went through the wall and he got stuck, and had to be pulled out of the wall.
The stories are endless, entertaining and just plain fun.
Anywhere you’d meet him, it would be an event. My wife, Lois, would see him in the grocery story and he would give her an essay on what he was cooking that night and how he was going to do prepare it.
My son, Jeff, is an airline pilot and had a layover in San Jose when the Blues were there. I took him to a morning skate and introduced him to Ron who treated him like someone he’d known for years.
That was Ronald Caron, the professor. He was a brilliant and kind man. I treasure all the time I knew him.
Rest in peace, Prof, rest in peace.