Monday, May 05, 2014

Lonsberry, member of two Stanley Cup teams, dies of cancer

One of the core members of the franchise's two Stanley Cup winners, a player who many long-time fans probably couldn't remember or pick out of a lineup given the chance, has died.

Ross Lonsberry, a 15-year NHL veteran who spent almost seven seasons in the prime of his career with the Orange and Black, passed away from cancer at the age of 67, the club confirmed on Monday.

Lonsberry was a low-key presence on the wing for the franchise from the time he was acquired from the LA Kings in January of 1972 through the end of the 1977-78 campaign, helping the club win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1974 and '75. He totaled 144 goals and 170 assists over 497 regular-season games with Philadelphia, adding 19 goals and 41 points in 83 playoff appearances.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to Ross' wife, Juanita, and the Lonsberry family," Flyers chairman Ed Snider said in a statement issued shortly after the announcement. "Ross played six and a half seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, including our Stanley Cup teams. He was a hard-hitting, two-way player who contributed greatly to our success. I have very fond memories of Ross as a player and a friend, and he will sorely be missed."

The native of Saskatchewan began his NHL career with the Boston Bruins during the 1966-67 campaign, then moved onto Los Angeles for just under three seasons. He finished his career in Pittsburgh, from 1978-81.

Over 968 career games in 15 NHL seasons, Lonsberry compiled 256 goals and 566
points along with 806 penalty minutes.

In Philadelphia, Lonsberry was at the peak of his powers as a scrappy second-line scoring presence at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, alongside Rick MacLeish and Gary Dornhoefer. A four-time 20-goal scorer here, Lonsberry ended up potting a career-best 32 goals in 1973-74 and set a career-high in points with 55 during the 1976-77 season. A player consistently in the minus column with Kings teams which played fast and loose defensively even with moderately-offensive clubs, he also set a high with a plus-42 in '77 and followed up with a plus-41 one year later.

The left-handed shooter managed to record three hat tricks in his Flyers tenure, in a 9-0 thrashing of Vancouver on March 22, 1973, a 12-2 beatdown of the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 2, 1974 and during a 6-2 decision over Doug Favell and the Rockies on Mar. 12, 1978.

One of the few players on the team and of the era to wear a helmet, Lonsberry did it for practical reasons i.e. to hide a prematurely bald pate. That didn't stop his toupee from being wrenched off his head at times during his career. 

Lonsberry rolled out a unique stat line in the postseason as well, tallying exactly four goals in each of his first four forays with the Flyers. His 13 points during the seminal '74 run to the championship was third only to MacLeish (22) and Bobby Clarke (16).

Even after his departure, in the Summer of 1978 to Pittsburgh, Lonsberry proved his worth as one of the give-backs in the deal (along with Orest Kindrachuk and Tom Bladon) with the Penguins was first-round draft pick that turned into rugged winger/defenseman Behn Wilson.

"Ross was among the most underrated players in hockey," Kindrachuk said. "He understood every aspect of the game. Knew where to be, what to do. He played me with me and Rick Kehoe in Pittsburgh, and that might have been one of the best lines I ever played on because Ross was reliable."

After retiring from the game, Lonsberry chose the sunny skies of Southern California over Philly, and was a successful commercial insurance broker for many years.

He joins Keith Allen, Gene Hart, Fred Shero, "Cowboy" Bill Flett, Barry Ashbee, Wayne Stephenson as major players from the Stanley Cup era who have gathered in hockey heaven.

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