Terry Ruskowski was born and raised just outside of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Learning the game on the frozen ponds on the family farm, he immediately battled the rap that he was too small. After his first season with Humboldt in the Saskatchewan junior league he asked his coach about moving up to the junior A at Swift Current. He was told he would never be big enough, sparking Terry’s characteristic desire work ethic and desire. Nothing would stop him from achieving his dream of playing for the Swift Current Broncos
Terry would have had a hard time in the juniors if he hadn’t decided right away to play the way he did. He wasn’t a speedy skater or a prolific scorer so he chose the gritty and chippy style of play. Or as Terry put it: ” You had to decide on a style. You can’t kid yourself because that’s when the pros are watching. I realized my only chance was to fore-check the best I could and hustle like crazy. ”
This style indeed worked for Ruskowski. After establishing his territory in the league, he developed a playmaker’s vision that would serve him well throughout his career. In three years with the Swift Current Broncos he 273 points in 188 games, including 195 assists. His 556 Pim’s gave a clear indication that he was a guy who never backed down.
This was also acknowledged by the Chicago Blackhawks who selected him in the 4th round, 70th overall in 1974. At the same time WHA’s Houston Aeros also selected him in the 2nd round of a so-called “secret draft”. Terry negotiated with Chicago all summer long and when it was apparent that Chicago’s plans was to ship him to their CHL farm team in Dallas he jumped on Houston’s offer instead. They not only offered him better money but they also seemed more eager to acquire Terry than Chicago.
Terry wound up proudly playing four seasons for Houston between 1974-78, winning the AVCO Cup during the 19 74-75 season alongside the legendary Gordie Howe. Houston was about to fold and sold Terry to Winnipeg in 1978. Terry enjoyed Houston and was sad to leave the town and to leave coach Bill Dineen, who he credited as the most influential coach in his career.
Terry played the 78-79 season for Winnipeg and won another AVCO cup title. Not only did he play in the last WHA game ever but he also recorded 4 assists in that final game. Terry’s WHA stats were a very solid 337 points in 369 games, including 83 goals and 254 assists. He also had 761 PIMs.
Ruskowski was one of the top players in WHA history, and very proud of the league and his Avco Cup championships.
“We cherished that trophy as if it was the Stanley Cup. You want all your life–and you fight all year long–to win a championship. I had won the Avco Cup with the Aeros, but the second time was more meaningful because I participated more. When I won with Houston, I was on the fourth line. I was just a rookie. With the Jets, it was more of a baffle. We had been through league wide changes and coaching changes and trades and everything. This was great.”
At the time of the WHA-NHL merger the four new teams were allowed to protect two players each. The Winnipeg management dreaded having to leave Terry unprotected, but they had little choice. John Ferguson, the Winnipeg GM at that time said: “I’m not only giving up probably the best player in our league, I’m giving up the heart of our hockey club. They have a name for that. It’s called rape.”
Ferguson grabbed Bobby Hull in the Expansion draft from Chicago who had claimed Hull from Winnipeg only four days earlier. Ferguson knew that the Chicago crowd would love to have Hull back in Chicago, so his plan was to trade Hull for Ruskowski, but the Chicago management were not interested in such a deal and nothing happened.
Terry didn’t disappoint in Chicago his first year there and led the team in both scoring and penalty minutes. He was the key on the “RPM Line” together with Rich Preston (31 goals) and Grant Mulvey (39 goals).
The RPM Line was a very close knit trio, both on and off the ice. Ruskowski and Preston had played together in both Houston and Winnipeg, and Mulvey complimented them nicely.
“Grant Mulvey set himself in a position where he could just one-time it. We worked on it a long time; just passing and one timing it. He was a goal scorer. I passed it to him and he put the biscuit in the basket as we say. Preston was great in the corners. He had very strong legs and a strong upper body. He really dug the puck out. So, it was a combination of three people doing what they do best,” explained Ruskowski, who could be favorably compared to Dale Hunter.
Just 12 games into Ruskowski’s NHL career, long time Chicago favourite Keith Magnuson had to retire and Terry Ruskowski was named captain of the team. This wouldn’t be his first stint as a captain for an NHL team. Terry later captained Pittsburgh and Los Angeles as well which clearly shows the great leadership qualities that he had.
A sloppy skater, Ruskowski always admitted that he relied on work ethic over natural talent for his success on the ice. “When you can’t rely on talent – and I’m not really a good skater, a good shooter, a good stick handler – when you can’t depend on talent, you have to depend on working harder. It’s my natural response, reaction; my natural instinct is to try and do the best I can, to do things right. I think I’ve felt that way since I was a kid.”
On October 24, 1982 Terry was traded to Los Angeles where he played three seasons before signing as a free agent with Pittsburgh on October 3, 1985. He often played left wing on Mario Lemieux’s line. After two good years in Pittsburgh Terry signed as a free agent with Minnesota in July 1987 to finish his career there.
Terry retired at the beginning of the 1988-89 season and finished his NHL career with 113 goals, 313 assists and 426 points 630 games. “Roscoe” added 1354 PIMs in a career where he will be remembered by all those who played with him as one of the finest leaders in pro hockey.
Read more at Greatest Hockey Legends : Terry Ruskowski
Category: Jets Biographies