Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ross Lonsberry, member of Flyers' Cup champs, dies at 67

Ross Lonsberry, a hard-nosed left winger who helped the Flyers win Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, died Sunday at a California hospital after a long battle with cancer. The Saskatchewan native was 67.

Ross Lonsberry, member of Flyers' Cup champs, dies at 67

Former Flyer Ross Lonsberry. (John Lent/AP file photo)
Former Flyer Ross Lonsberry. (John Lent/AP file photo)

Ross Lonsberry, a hard-nosed left winger who helped the Flyers win Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, died Sunday at a California hospital after a long battle with cancer. The Saskatchewan native was 67.

Mr. Lonsberry's oldest daughter, Heather, said complications from pneumonia and a blood infection contributed to her father's death.

Because of failing health, Mr. Lonsberry was unable to attend the Flyers' reunion in January, celebrating the 40th anniversary of their first Cup.

Mr. Lonsberry was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in a seven-player trade in 1972. Playing on a productive second line with Rick MacLeish and Gary Dornhoefer, he scored 32 goals in 1973-74, and added 13 points in 17 playoff games that season as the Flyers won the franchise's first Stanley Cup.

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"We played together for five years, and that doesn't happen much now with free agency," Dornhoefer said. "He was a very dependable forward, and his strength was his [defensive] coverage and his corner work. He was the glue that kept the line together. Ricky was the goal scorer, and I tried to get in front of the net. Each of us complemented the line and that's why it was so successful."

After the Flyers won the 1974 Cup, coach Fred Shero praised Mr. Lonsberry for his underrated play.

"I knew Lonsberry would be good because I've seen him play for 10 years," Shero said at the time. "But he's been unbelievable this year. He has more stamina than Bobby Clarke, and he's been the key man in a lot of games. He's done everything for us."

The next season, Mr. Lonsberry scored 24 regular-season goals and added four in the playoffs as the Flyers won their second straight Stanley Cup.

Mr. Lonsberry, who stood 5-foot-11 and weighed 185 pounds, spent seven seasons with the Flyers before being dealt to Pittsburgh; he played three seasons with the Penguins and retired after the 1980-81 season.

In 968 career games with four NHL teams, Mr. Lonsberry had 256 goals and 566 points.

When Shero needed a high-scoring opposing forward to be shut down, Dornhoefer said. "Ross was the guy" he called upon.

Nicknamed "Roscoe," Mr. Lonsberry later became a commercial insurance broker in Los Angeles. He and his wife resided in Acton, Calif.

Mr. Lonsberry was self-effacing, said Robert Sheahen, who played in the same Los Angeles-area adult league with the winger long after he had retired from the NHL.

"When I marveled one time that he and his wife had been married for more than 30 years at the time, he said: 'I'm from Saskatchewan. Us prairie boys don't know no better. We keep our word,' " Sheahen said.

Mr. Lonsberry went bald prematurely, and when he broke into the league with Boston, the players didn't believe he was a rookie. "They wondered how a rookie could be bald," Wahnita Lonsberry, who was married to Mr. Lonsberry for 42 years, said as she smiled at the memory.

Dornhoefer said the Flyers used to kid him about it and playfully take slapshots at his toupee, which hung on his locker-room stall because he didn't wear it under his helmet during games.

The Flyers acquired Mr. Lonsberry from Los Angeles with Bill "Cowboy" Flett, Eddie Joyal and Jean Potvin on Jan. 28, 1972, sending Jimmy Johnson, Serge Bernier and Bill Lesuk to the Kings. Flett died in 1999.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Lonsberry is survived by his three grown children: Heather, Kyle, and Alison.


Inquirer Staff Writer
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