When Bill Ranford was a child, he took figure skating lessons for two years in the hopes of perfecting that form of on-ice performance. But a friend of his father's was a hockey goalie and Ranford loved all the equipment associated with the position. He convinced his dad to take shots on him, and so his love for hockey and goaltending began and figure skating waned accordingly.
Ranford's father was in the armed forces and this meant a life of travel for Bill. Although born in Brandon, Manitoba, he moved to Germany for a while, traveling throughout Europe over the course of a few years. The family then returned to Canada: Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, then Prince Edward Island and finally Red Deer, Alberta. All the time Ranford played hockey with local teams until finally he joined the New Westminster Bruins of the WHL.
It also turned out to be an impromptu tryout. That summer, 1985, Chicago wanted to draft him, but Boston, with the 52nd selection overall, beat the Hawks to it. Ranford's time with the Bruins was brief, in large part because of a coaching change that saw Terry O'Reilly replace Butch Goring as the head coach.
But coach O'Reilly was happy to trade Ranford to Edmonton for another goalie, Andy Moog, during the 1987-88 season. With the Oilers, Ranford faced certain relegation to number two spot behind Grant Fuhr, but it also gave him the chance to apprentice with the best. But at the start of the 1989-90 season, Fuhr was rushed to hospital with appendicitis. He returned later in the season but hurt his shoulder. Ranford wound up playing most of that year, and playing spectacularly at that.
The result was that come playoff time he had earned the starting job. He played in every game, led the team to the Stanley Cup and was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy. Younger than Fuhr by a few years, his play also meant that general manager Glen Sather could comfortably trade Fuhr and keep Ranford as the number one man.
At the start of the 1991-92 season, Ranford was perhaps the finest goalie in the world. He was named Canada's starter for the 1991 Canada Cup, and not only did he lead the team to victory, he was named the outstanding player of the tournament. His standup style was different from most young goalies, but for him it was effective. Midway through the 1995-96 season, he was traded back to Boston, and a series of trades and new teams that hurt his consistency began. After time in Washington, Tampa Bay and Detroit, Ranford signed in the summer of 1999 with the Oilers again as a free agent, hoping to re-ignite his career where it had seen its finest hour. Ranford played only one season with the Oilers before calling it a career at the end of the 1999-2000 season.
Bill Ranford's NHL career lasted 15 seasons and over 600 games with two Stanley Cup wins.