In 1985, Cliff Ronning was showered with accolades as he wrapped up his two-year career with the New Westminster Bruins of the WHL. He won the league's scoring race and was voted the WHL's MVP and selected as a First-Team All-Star.
But when the NHL draft was held, the diminutive centreman didn't stand tall enough to rate very highly in the minds of the NHL's brass. Instead, it would be up to Ronning to prove himself all over again, this time, at the NHL level.
He was eventually picked up in the sixth round by the St. Louis Blues. But Ronning had a strong relationship with Canada's Olympic program. His flashy style, mobility, and scoring touch were well-suited to an international style of hockey. So, he skated for Team Canada for the bulk to the 1985-86 campaign. He then joined the Blues for the playoffs of that year and picked up his first two NHL points.
The following season, he split his campaign between Team Canada and the Blues. Time spent in both camps seemed indicative of an absence of a defined role for Ronning with the Blues. He did have one strong season in 1988-89 when he netted 59 points in 79 games. Nonetheless, a year later, he left the NHL to play in Italy for a year.
Upon his return in 1990-91, he rejoined the Blues for a short time but was then traded to the Vancouver Canucks. Once his NHL season came to an end, Ronning joined Canada's National Team at the 1991 World Championships.
Closer to home in Vancouver, Ronning's big-league career finally began to take shape. In his first three seasons with the club, he was able to wheel in an offensive mode. His numbers became predictably solid each year and he always kept his defensive game reigned in on a fairly tight string.
In 1996, at age 31, Ronning became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Phoenix Coyotes. He lasted for just over two seasons in the desert before being sent to the fledgling Nashville Predators. There, Ronning's veteran presence and consistent scoring punch helped prevent the Preds from becoming an expansion doormat.
After parts of four seasons in Nashville, Ronning was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings in the latte stages of the 2001-02 season. Ronning would play only 14 games with the Kings before he was traded to the Minnesota Wild in the summer of 2002. During the 2002-03 season Ronning surpassed the 800-point plateau and was a key player in Minnesota's run to the 2003 post season.
In 2003-04, Ronning signed as a free-agent with the New York Islanders where he would appear in 40 games with the club. Following a lock out year, Ronning announced his retirement from NHL on February 15. 2006