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May 03, 2016

Ron Chipperfield

Ron Chipperfield is probably best known for being the first NHL captain of the Edmonton Oilers. A veteran of 5 WHA seasons, the last two of which were with the Edmonton Oilers, Chipperfield had never played a game in the NHL and was only 25 years old when he was named the Oilers captain. He and Winnipeg's Lars-Erik Sjoberg - another WHA player merged with the NHL - are the only two players to make their NHL debut as team captains.

The players voted Chipperfield as captain with Lee Fogolin and BJ MacDonald as alternates. Coach/GM Glen Sather was very pleased with the selection, saying "Ron is mature, sensible and will lead by example"

Chipperfield, a junior scoring sensation out of Brandon, Manitoba, was an enthusiastic center who used his speed to dart around the ice and create plays. He was a good scorer at the WHA level, scoring over 30 goals 3 times and over 80 points twice.

In addition to leading by example, Chipperfield was expected to score at a consistent rate. If he did so, he would be taking a lot of pressure off of an 18 year old super rookie Wayne Gretzky. Chipperfield would center the second line and hopefully produce enough to attract some defensive care-taking on behalf of the other team, thus giving Gretzky just a little bit more room.

Gretzky went on to tie Marcel Dionne as the league's leading scorer with 137 points, but Chipperfield didn't help the kid out very much. He struggled throughout the first three months of his first NHL season. At one point he went 17 consecutive games without scoring a single point. By the trading deadline Ron had chipped in with 18 goals and 19 assists, but was one of the Oilers major disappointments of their first season.

Another disappointment was they play of their goaltenders, particularly Dave Dryden. So with those two gaping holes on their roster, Glen Sather went about to fix that. On March 11, 1980 Sather sent the team captain packing to the Quebec Nordiques in exchange for goaltender Ron Low. Low went on to a period of brief success with the Oilers.

Chipperfield played in just 16 more NHL contests. His head and heart might not have been in the right place at the time. He was traded away from Edmonton while on a leave of absence to see his dying mother. She passed away the day after the trade.

Chipperfield disappeared to play hockey professional in Italy. Chipperfield was quite the star in Italy, scoring 175 goals and 132 assists in just 84 games. He would coach and manage in Italy for several years after retiring.


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