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Weird Islanders: The Podcast! - Episode 39 - Cliff Ronning (with guest Travis Flynn, aka North Dakota Red Eagle)

It still doesn’t compute that this guy was an Islander even when you watch highlights showing it actually happened.

Joined by longtime Lighthouse Hockey contributor Travis Flynn, a.k.a. North Dakota Red Eagle, Mike and Dan remember Cliff Ronning, a star player who, against all odds, ended up an Islander for half a season.

Thanks to great seasons in Vancouver, Phoenix, Nashville and a number of other cities (and one iconic video game), Ronning had built a cult following around his speedy, shifty game and knack for big goals. But after a run to the conference finals with the Minnesota Wild in 2003, Ronning found himself without a team. So after practicing with local men’s league teams, he got the call from Mike Milbury that brought him to Long Island, where he spent his final NHL season.

Mike, Dan and Travis talk about Ronning’s reputation before he came to the Islanders and surprising production while in the blue-and-orange. They give Milbury some (very rare) praise for grabbing a free former All Star when the team suffered a series of serious injuries to their forward corps. And Travis tells us the personal story about his connection to Ronning and a friend who discovered the magic of hockey during a game in that still unbelievable half season.

Thanks again to Travis for coming on. Fun Fact: This was the first episode we recorded for this season way back in September! LHH wouldn’t be what it is without Travis, one of the smartest Islanders fans we know. If you’re on Twitter and not following him at @NDRedEagle, you’re doing it wrong.

Merry Christmas to all of you from all of us.


  • Injuries to Alexei Yashin and Mark Parrish spurred GM Mike Milbury to reach out to Ronning, who was at home after turning down an offer to re-sign with the Wild in the summer of 2003:
  • Ronning kept in shape with a weekly beer league game, where some players thought he was “Cliff Ronning’s brother or something.” He signed with the Islanders for $400,000.
  • He was happy to come to the Islanders, where Steve Stirling wanted to start him slowly.
  • He scored his first goal in his third game as an Islander, which was also his 1,100th point in the NHL.
  • Shortly after signing with the Islanders in January of 2004, Ronning scored two goals in a win over Ottawa, including No. 300. The same video contains an interview with Ronning where he talks about the strange circumstances that led him to Long Island:
  • This video includes the February 3, 2004 Canucks-Islanders game that Travis talks about extensively:

What makes a “Weird Islander?”

We’re always open to suggestions about other Weird Islanders to discuss. Remember the criteria. Candidates must fulfill one of the two of the following:

  • Played one (1) season or less for the Islanders or very short stints over multiple seasons.
  • Be a veteran NHLer who is not generally associated with his time on Islanders.

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  • Theme song: “Knuckles” by Björn Falk. Hear more of his music on Spotify and at Bandcamp.
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