Ron ‘Spike’ Huston: A one of a kind player

From the WIHL to the NHL and back: Stories from Cranbrook's hockey heritage

Ron “Spike” Huston suited up for the California Golden Seals

Ron “Spike” Huston suited up for the California Golden Seals

Anthony Dransfeld

T he year was 1965, and the newly formed Cranbrook Royals Hockey Club were in serious need of “instant credibility ” as they entered play in the Western International Hockey League. They found it in an unlikely source — a 151-pound centre from Manitou, Manitoba, named Ron “Spike” Huston, who rolled into Cranbrook on the Greyhound with his Wheat King winger Eddy Mahar.

Thus began a love affair between Huston and a small town in Canada. Spike Huston hit the ice and immediately began scoring goals and assists in bunches. With the mountain air and the generous amount of calories found in Kootenay beer, Huston even began to put on some weight.

Back then the WIHL was a tough place to bring a rookie team. The Spokane Jets paid their players, and averaged 3,800 fans per game. The Trail Smoke Eaters were famous for winning the World Championship, the Nelson Maple Leafs had been around since 1900, and the famed Kimberley Dynamiters, who liked nothing better than to stick it to the fledgling Cranbrook Royals, who had a brush cut rookie named Ron Huston, unfazed to be playing Senior Hockey.

One night in Kimberley, I saw Huston fire in five goals — one while on his knees 20 feet in front of goalie Bob Wardle. The big hitting defencemen of the WIHL — John Thompson, George Talotti, Harry Smith and Hugh Hooker — could never seem to get the big hit on the elusive Huston.

Altogether Spike Huston played six seasons for the Cranbrook Royals, winning the WIHL Most Valuable Player Award three times in a row. That Cranbrook team also had the very talented Herbie Grey-Eyes, Leo Ressler, and tough defencemen in Ray Goss and Wally Chernenko. The Royals’ goalie was the fiery Barry MacKay. Sniper Billy Martin and his winger Ed Legare came to the Royals a bit later.

The Spokane Jets acquired Spike Huston for the Allan Cup Finals of 1970. This proved to be a shrewd move by Spokane Coach Al Rollins — Huston led the Jets in scoring and provided penalty killing with Peter Vipond. Spokane won the Allan Cup, becoming the first American team to do so.

Ron Huston’s hockey career began to accelerate quickly. After a season in Calgary with the Hockey Stampeders, Spike returned to Spokane for the 1971-72 season, leading the WIHL in scoring. After winning the Allan Cup again, Rollins got the coaching gig in Salt Lake City and brought Huston along with him.

After scoring 42 Goals for Salt Lake City Eagles, Spike was named Rookie of the Year in the Western League, and 2nd team All-Star. The parent club California Golden Seals of the NHL took notice, and brought the 28-year-old “rookie” to Oakland the following year, trading Reggie Leach to Philly Flyers. Huston had scored 12 Goals in the NHL by Christmas, but his season was derailed by a severe shoulder separation, but not before a brilliant evening on Hockey Night in Canada, playing the Montreal Canadiens in the old Montreal Forum. Kenny Dryden was in the Habs net, and Spike torched him for two goals, just missing a hat-trick when he rang one off the post in the 3rd period (with a slapshot Montreal announcer Danny Gallivan called “a cannonading blast”).

The Phoenix Road Runners of the newly-formed World Hockey Association gave Spike a two-year contract for some decent money, so it was off to Arizona for a couple of 20 goal seasons.

Huston finished up by leading the Western International Hockey League in scoring in 1977-78, playing for Spokane, and garnering the Most Valuable Player Award for a record fourth time. He ended his illustrious hockey career by becoming Player Coach of the Cranbrook Royals.

Ron Huston and his wife Beckie settled back in Cranbrook after hockey, and Ron went back into electrical.  Beckie works with Delamont Jewellers. Their son Chris Huston lives here  with his wife Kathryn and their two children Kyra and Noah. Dean Huston, the youngest boy resides in Edmonton with his wife Liz, and their youngsters Tyler and Kayley.

AN EXEMPLARY HOCKEY CAREER

• Three-Time MVP of the WIHL for the Cranbrook Royals (consecutive years)

• Two-Time Allan Cup Winner

• Holds the record of 30 goals in Allan Cup Finals

• Over 1,000 Points in his career

• A record  four-time Winner of WIHL Most Valuable Player Award (Howard Anderson Trophy)