Southern California native took his lumps when he started playing as a 12-year-old
St. John’s IceCaps’ defenceman Travis Ramsey (right) tries to keep Hamilton Bulldogs’ forward Brian Willsie from screening IceCaps’ goalie David Aebischer during an AHL game in Hamilton on Dec. 28. — Hamilton Bulldogs photo
Once Travis Ramsey began playing ice hockey, he couldn’t stop. Literally. A native of Lakewood, Calif., near Long Beach, Ramsey began his love affair with the sport through the roller hockey craze that swept southern California after Wayne Gretzky arrived to play for the Los Angeles Kings.
Gretzky-mania eventually led to a boom in the construction of ice rinks in the region, and one of them happened to be in Ramsey’s neighbourhood.
“They built one right down my street,” said the 28-year-old St. John’s IceCaps defencemen, who was 12 when he laced on his first pair of skates.
“It took me a long time to learn how to stop,” he recalled. “It was a lot different than roller hockey ... in a lot of ways. In roller hockey, there are four (skaters) as opposed to five and there’s no hitting. The game isn’t the same at all, really.
“But the first big adjustment for me was stopping. So I was on the ice a lot.”
The latter statement refers to the numerous tumbles taken in the early going. But it could have another meaning, because those falls never led the young Ramsey to quit, only made him try harder to improve. He was constantly at the rink, and his dedication caught the attention of former King forward Vic Venasky, who was a hockey coach at the facility and whose son was an acquaintance of Ramsey.
“He had try-outs for a team ... I tried out and made it,” said Ramsey. “He (Venasky) didn’t think I’d get too much playing time, but he liked that I was there a lot and trying to get better.”
Ramsey did get better. And he found his late introduction to ice hockey made his passion for the game that much deeper.
“A lot of guys on my team who had been playing ice hockey most of their lives, by the time they hit high school, they were more interested in partying, chasing girls and stuff. They caught tired of the game and most of them gave it up.
“But probably because it was still kind of new to me, I got more serious about hockey and put it ahead of baseball and the other sports I was playing.”
With the moral and sometimes not-easy-to-come-by financial support of his parents, Ramsey would go on to play on SoCal rep teams that travelled throughout the western United States. Then, in his senior year of high school, he moved to Montana to join a junior team in Butte. He would wind up his junior career in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, from where he was recruited to play for the University of Maine.
There had been a time when Ramsey — who thoroughly enjoys the sun and beaches of his native California — couldn’t envision spending winters in Maine, but his years in Montana made him appreciate how nippy weather added to the hockey experience.
“It gets you in the mood. It makes you feel right,” said Ramsey, who spent four years on the Maine campus in Orono, a suburb of Bangor.
“I didn’t think I could get any further away from California to play hockey than to go to Orono ... until I came here,” he said with a chuckle.
THE RAMSEY FILE
Born May 16, 1983 in Lakewood, Calif. ... Six-foot-five, 225 pounds ... Played four seasons at the University of Maine, where his teammates included St. John’s native Teddy Purcell and Andrew Sweetland of Bonavista .. His earliest hockey hero was Noah Clarke, the first southern California native to play for the Los Angeles Kings ...
Favourite pre-game meal: Chicken, rice and veggies
Must-see TV shows: NFL games, Pawn Stars
Favourite hockey player growing up and why: Chris Chelios, U.S.-born physical D-man
If you weren’t a hockey player, what would you be: Real estate agent
Favourite off-season pursuits: Golf and the beach
Favourite part of being a hockey player: Travelling, (time) with teammates in the locker room
Oldest piece of hockey equipment owned: End plug on stick (four years old)
Favourite ice cream flavour: Oreo
What people don’t know about the life of a pro: Constant moving and not having a set home for a long period of time
Song, band or performer played the most on your iPod: Foster The People
Favourite song to sing karaoke to: Oyo Como Va (Santana)
First real job: Pool locker-room attendant