By David Salter
Standing outside a tiny dressing room at a dingy arena in Sackville, N.S., Ron Duguay looks a little out of place.
With long, feathered hair, tanned skin and a bright smile, he could easily pass for movie star or at the very least an understudy for Jon Bon Jovi.
Dressed in his hockey gear from the waist down with a powder-blue, long-sleeve undershirt covering his upper torso, the former New York Ranger appears fit enough to still play in the NHL. But tonight, the 54-year-old is skating with a team of NHL oldtimers touring the Maritimes.
Those who remember Duguay from his days as a Ranger (or from New York City gossip columns, iconic Sasson jeans ads or Studio 54) would likely say, aside from some lines around his eyes, he hasn’t aged.
Handsome doesn’t do him justice. Ron Duguay is pretty. Still pretty. In fact, Duguay is known as much for his hair – permed through the early stages of his career – as he is for his 12-year NHL career, which is unfair. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound winger was an excellent skater and a tenacious forechecker with offensive flair.
In his sophomore season with the Rangers in 1978-79, Duguay played a key role in leading the Blueshirts to an appearance in the Stanley Cup final. Two years later the Sudbury, Ont., native was good enough to crack Team Canada’s roster (which featured 12 future Hall of Famers) as a checker at the 1981 Canada Cup. Duguay calls the latter experience the highlight of his career.
“The Cup run in ’79 was really exciting as an early pro, to get a feel what it’s like to win,” said Duguay, who lives in Florida after a recent stint back in New York. “A lot of it is experiencing it with a good group of guys. I’ve enjoyed playing with some good groups of guys in New York.
“At different times I felt like 1979 was a highlight for me, but really it was making Team Canada, just making that team. Just look at the lineup. Having experienced that was unbelievable.”
Duguay also listed scoring 40 goals as a Ranger and having some good seasons in Detroit alongside Steve Yzerman among his favorite moments.
After Motown, Duguay also had stints with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings, as well as a second tour of duty with the Rangers – all the while helmetless. He contends vanity was not the reason he eschewed headgear, but that helmets were hot, confining and, at the time, unnecessary.
Duguay would be mandated to don a helmet in today’s NHL and suggested he’d even go a step further.
“The way players are reckless, the way they play now and because of the equipment – the elbow pads and shoulder pads being so hard – whenever you get hit it’s like getting hit in the face with a hammer,” said Duguay, who works as a TV analyst for Rangers games. “If I was wearing a helmet, I would go ahead and wear a visor because you want to protect your eyes.”
It’s hard to imagine a helmeted Duguay would have had the same impact on the New York social scene, where he was linked romantically with everyone from Cher to Bianca Jagger. In a 1984 People magazine article, Duguay recounted phone calls from Cheryl Tiegs and Farrah Fawcett the day he was dealt away by New York in 1983.
However, Duguay said the likes of Tiegs are no longer on his speed dial. He’s been married almost 20 years to former model Kim Alexis, with whom he has a son. (He also has two daughters from previous marriages.)
The only celebrity he still sees from his New York glory days is former Studio 54 buddy John McEnroe.
“That’s all behind me,” Duguay said of his playboy lifestyle. “I’ll write a book someday and we can bring it up then.”