September 25, 2015

Jim Camazzola

Jim Camazzola and Cliff Ronning's hockey career kept crossing paths. While Ronning went on to a popular long time NHLer, Camazzola only played in three NHL games.

With both being born in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, Camazzola and Ronning played with and against each other all through youth hockey. They arrived on the hockey radar in 1980-81 when the played together for the famed Burnaby Winter Club.

From there both buddies went on to the Western Hockey League. Camazzola moved north to play first with the Penticton Knights and then with the Kamloops Oilers, where he found great chemistry with another undersized BC hockey legend in Dean Evason.

Ronning, meanwhile, was lighting up the WHL with the New Westminster Bruins. Camazzola would join Ronning in New West in 1984-85.

Despite both players putting up some impressive offensive numbers, neither player ranked high with NHL scouts. Ronning, because of his size, wasn't even drafted until 1984, and even then he went 134th overall by St. Louis. Camazzola went two years earlier, 196th overall to Chicago.

Camazzola turned pro in 1985 and struggled in three seasons in the minor leagues, though he did get called up to Chicago for three games. He played one season in the Boston Bruins organization but never played with the Bruins.

By 1988 Camazzola opted to go over to Italy where his family originated from. He would play in Europe until 2002, with a few seasons also in Germany late in his career. Camazzola's highlight was securing his Italian citizenship which allowed him to play for Team Italy at the 1992 and 1994 Olympic games.

In 1989 Ronning followed Camazzola to Italy, playing with him for Asiago. It was an unlikely route back to the NHL for Ronning, but he went over and dominated with 74 goals and 135 points in just 42 games! With numbers like that he returned to the NHL and starred for years.

Camazzola never did get another shot at the NHL, but he never regretted his long European career. He did return to Burnaby eventually and became a hockey coach at Simon Fraser University.

Jim's brother Tony Camazzola also played three games in the National Hockey League - all with Washington in the 1981-82 season. He continued to toil in the minor leagues and never followed Jim to Europe.

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