DALLAS – Brendan Ranford led the Dallas Stars onto the ice for warmups before a 5-2 loss against the San Jose Sharks.
Ranford took a half lap by himself before the rest of the team joined him for warmups. It’s become a common site at American Airlines Center this season — Texas Stars making their NHL debut and going through the rookie hazing of taking a solo lap.
Ranford was the fifth player to take that rookie lap after John Klingberg, Curtis McKenzie, Brett Ritchie, and Jyrki Jokipakka.
The other four are Dallas draft picks and were expected to possibly see NHL time this season. Ranford doesn’t fit into that category and it was a bit of a shocker when the recall was announced Thursday.
To be fair, the 22-year-old forward was just as surprised.
“Oh, for sure I was,” Ranford said. “I was just getting ready for the game against Utica and (Texas Stars general manager) Scott (White) just pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re going up,’ and I was in shock.”
After the news Ranford had to take a creative route to Dallas — there aren’t any direct flights from Utica, NY to North Texas.
Ranford had a car service drive him to the Syracuse’ Hancock International Airport and then flew to Chicago before catching a connecting flight to Dallas.
Ranford didn’t mind the multi-stop trip. In fact, it replicated the roundabout path to his NHL debut.
He was drafted in the seventh round, 209th overall, in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. Philadelphia never signed the 5-foot-10, 190-pound winger and Ranford finished his productive junior career with Kamloops Blazers without an NHL contract.
Thanks to a connection to Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi, who also owns Kamloops, Ranford signed a professional tryout contract with the Texas Stars before the 2013-14 season and didn’t know if he would make the team out of training camp.
It turned out to be a beneficial signing for Ranford and the Stars.
In the past 18 months Ranford has picked up his first standard AHL contract, a Calder Cup Championship, his first NHL contract, and his first NHL game on Thursday — where he logged nine minutes, 19 seconds of ice time, dished out two hits, and had a pair of attempted shots.
“I liked Ranford’s game,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. “I thought he showed some good composure with the puck.”
Before the season, no one would have expected Ruff would be commenting on Ranford’s play in mid-February.
“No. It’s just all surreal. It’s a surprise,” Ranford said. “I wouldn’t have thought at the start of last year (that) I would have got this opportunity.”
While Ranford is pleasantly surprised at his success, Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill said it’s a story that other players can work toward.
“It’s a good story and example for younger players,” Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill said. “It doesn’t’ matter where your drafted, or if your drafted, that you can create your own opportunity.”