Mike Ramsey grew up at the epicenter of Minnesota's frenzied youth hockey system. He lived right next door to the University of Minnesota where the Golden Gophers, the hottest ticket in the state, performed their magic.
It was inevitable that Ramsay would aspire to skate for the Gophers. He enrolled for classes and on-ice action in 1978-79. But his selection by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1979 Entry Draft and his invitation to play for the U.S. National Team lured him away from the road to academia.
In the end, he turned down a lucrative offer from the Sabres to take a shot at the Olympics before turning pro. Looking back, he can only smile as he reflects upon the "Miracle On Ice" that transpired at Lake Placid. The American squad of upstarts shocked the hockey world by taking the gold medal away from the resident champion Soviets. For Ramsay, winning such a prize in such a politically charged environment was by far his greatest achievement in hockey.
After the Olympics, he stepped onto the Sabres' blueline and quickly discovered that he'd have to adjust his game to survive. NHL men, as he discovered, were bigger, stronger, faster, and meaner than what he had been used to. So the rearguard, who was originally drafted for his offensive ability, had to reinvent himself as a stay-at-home defender -- and he became one of the best in the NHL as Scotty Bowman was quick to point out.
Over the next 14 seasons the words "Sabres blueline" and "Ramsay" became synonomous. He was the foundation of the team with his consistent play. He was rarely flashy but almost always effective.
During the 1992-93 season, Scotty Bowman, then with the Pittsburgh Penguins, brought Ramsay on board to shore up the Pens' defensive corps while making a run for a third-straight Stanley Cup victory. Although the club fell short, Ramsay experienced the thrill of playing with Lemieux, Jagr, and Francis.
In 1994, he hit the road again, this time to Detroit where he was paired with offensive- minded Larry Murphy. The club was on an upward swing that culminated in a loss to the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup finals. Ramsay played one more complete season plus an extra two games in 1996 before finally packing in his well-worn stick and skates.