In 1965, Cranbrook had three gas stations: Guidos, Patton’s, and the Husky. There was no “strip” and the Husky was considered “way out of town”. There was also only one hockey rink — the Cranbrook Memorial Arena — but folks were packed in like sardines when the town’s premiere sports club, the senior men’s AAA Cranbrook Royals, played home games.
It was there that we first got to know “Spike”.
Most deserving and long overdue, Ron “Spike” Huston had his NHL California Golden Seals jersey mounted on the ‘Wall of Fame’ at Western Financial Place last Thursday afternoon, forever ingraining his legacy in the city in which he first rose to prominence.
Huston began his hockey career in 1965, playing for the newly formed Royals of the Western International Hockey League. After earning three consecutive league MVP awards with Cranbrook, he headed to the Spokane Jets for two years, where he won the Allan Cup — the national senior amateur men’s ice hockey championship trophy — twice.
Huston left his mark as the all-time leading goal scorer in Allan Cup history with 34 before turning professional with the Western Hockey League’s Salt Lake City Golden Eagles in 1972. In his freshman year, Spike scored 42 goals, picked up 42 assists, and was named Rookie of the Year at age 28.
In his sophomore campaign, the NHL’s California Golden Seals took notice of Huston and purchased his contract. In 1974, his sojourn into the world’s top league was highlighted by an unbelievable effort on a Saturday night in Montreal against the Canadiens in a game that was broadcast on Hockey Night in Canada.
Huston scored twice on Ken Dryden and was just barely denied a hat-trick as he hit a post in the third period.
“Who is that guy? Where did he come from?”
CBC colour commentator Howie Meeker couldn’t believe the performance Huston had delivered. Spike was named the contest’s first star, just ahead of Guy Lafleur. Not bad for a guy coming out of senior hockey in Cranbrook.
Unfortunately, Spike stepped on a broken stick during a game against the Vancouver Canucks in 1974-75, separating his shoulder and ending his promising season in which he had scored 12 goals before Christmas.
Golden Seals owner Charlie Finley soon sold Huston to the Phoenix Road Runners of the upstart World Hockey Association. After a number of pro seasons, Ron moved back to Cranbrook with his wife Beckie and worked as an electrician.
When asked to describe the player that Huston was, local hockey historian Richard Neil said he “called him spectacular Spike” and that he was a phenomenal presence on the ice.
Neil watched Huston play over 100 times and called the Western International Hockey League “our own little NHL.” Frank Spring Jr. and Ted McAneeley were the only Cranbrook players to precede Huston into the NHL. Bobby Murdoch entered the league two years later.
Huston’s jersey mounting was a true community effort which was made possible by numerous people including project coordinator Peter Leiman, Dee and Derek at North Star Motors, Billy Scheller, George Stambulic, Len Bouquette, Greg Pascuzzo and the entire Cranbrook Colonel Hockey Club, Don Kasner, Cranbrook Glass, Kenny Bridge of Bridge Interiors, Mike at Fabrite Company, Wally and Jane Chernenko, Owen and Mary Mailly, Jimmy Miller, Larry and Nonia Gould of Mardis Sawmill in Skookumchuck, Terry Segarty, Bob Cartier of A&W, Dave Kaiser of McDonald’s, Chris Callen and Kenny Manson, Billy DeLuca (Cranbrook Royals Trainer), Marvin Ferg, George “Gibby” Gibson, Eddie Le Gare, Wall of Fame’ curators Charlie and Bob, and all of Spike’s friends.
The Thursday unveiling was a surprise ceremony for Spike, which was no easy task in a town like Cranbrook.
As someone so succinctly said at the A&W recently “I would like to see Ron Huston shoot the puck with the new 600 buck graphite hockey stick they have now and put him in a 1000 dollar set of modern skates.” For those who did not see him play, Huston had an incredible slap shot to go along with his superb skating ability.
Spike may have been born in Manitou, Manitoba, and raised in Brandon, but there is nowhere in this country that he is more revered as a hockey player and a citizen than in this city. His jersey on the wall may say ‘Seals’ on the crest, but it truly symbolizes his place as Cranbrook hockey royalty.