Hit enter after type your search item
Home / Toronto / News / Consummate Toronto Maple Leaf, Ron Ellis passes away at 79

Consummate Toronto Maple Leaf, Ron Ellis passes away at 79


TORONTO, May 12, 2024 – The hockey world mourns the passing of Ronald John Edward Ellis, a Canadian ice hockey legend who left an indelible mark on the sport. Ellis, who passed away on May 11, 2024, at the age of 79, enjoyed a stellar 16-season career with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a statement, the organization said it was “heartbroken” to learn of his passing.

Ellis’ contributions philanthropically were global and impactful through his work with many charities and mental health initiatives,” the statement said. “He dedicated his life, post hockey, to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and could be found each day smiling while he led guests through the great museum archives proudly.”

Man Of the Year

In February, Ellis was honoured at the NHL all-star game in Toronto with the ‘Man of the Year’ Award for his extensive contributions to both his community and the hockey world. 



Frank Mahovlich, Ellis’s Hall of Fame teammate, praised his skill and character, recalling Ellis as one of the best players he had the privilege to play with. Mahovlich echoed the many plaudits coming in from players and fans.

“He certainly was one of the best,” Mahovlich recalled. “We’d won three Cups (1962-64), but changes had to be made and he was a nice spark plug. A great person and a great team man, exactly what we needed at that time.”

No 6. Unretired.

Mahovlich remembered well that Leafs great Ace Bailey was so impressed with Ellis’ style and dedication that, in 1968, he insisted his retired No. 6 from 34 years earlier be reactivated for Ellis, who switched from No. 8. Ellis would wear it until 1981, hanging up his skates as the fifth-highest in franchise games played, as well as 70 playoff appearances.

“We had two groups in that club — the older ones and young guys such as Ron and myself,” forward Brian Conacher remembered. “But we showed it’s not the best team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best, which (today’s Leafs) are trying to figure out. I had the good fortune to play on a line with Ron and Kelly in that series. In Game 6 (the Cup clincher) he scored the first goal when I was out with him and in Game 5, he was in on a goal on my big night.”

Ron was a terrific player, right out of junior, who fit right in. Almost everyone, other than a guy like Keon, had to go somewhere in the minors first. He was so dependable, not fancy, but that better-than-average (11 seasons with at least 20 goals). He was a Leaf through and through, you knew you’d get an honest night’s work from him. He was loyal and wouldn’t have played anywhere else.

Growing Up Ellis

Born in Lindsay, Ontario, in 1945, Ellis grew up with hockey coursing through his veins. Weekly trips to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children as an infant for foot therapy set the stage for a life dedicated to the game. His father Randy, a former junior Marlies player, instilled a love for hockey in young Ron, who later became a local legend in Ottawa during his teenage years.

The Toronto Marlboros

Ellis’s journey to hockey greatness took off when the Toronto Marlboros recruited him to play junior hockey. His talent shone brightly as he scored 46 goals in the 1963-64 season, helping the Marlboros secure the Memorial Cup.

Becoming A Maple Leaf

In 1964, Ellis made the leap to the NHL, signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. From there, he embarked on an illustrious career, becoming a stalwart in the Leafs lineup for over a decade. Ellis was a key contributor to the Leafs’ 1967 Stanley Cup victory and was a consistent presence in All-Star Games throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Summit Series ’72: Ron Ellis’ Unsung Impact

In the iconic summer of ’72, Ron Ellis entered Team Canada’s camp not as a star, but as part of a pool of 35 players. Behind the likes of Redmond, Cashman, and Goldsworthy, Ellis seemed destined for a supporting role. However, fate had a different plan.

Paired with Henderson and Clarke, Ellis found his stride early in camp. Despite an unfortunate neck injury in the series opener against the Soviet Union, Ellis played a pivotal role in the team’s success, forming what many considered Canada’s most crucial line.

“He was one of the unsung heroes of that team,” remarked Pelyk. “No one got past him on his side of the ice.”

Off The Ice: Battling Beyond the Boards

Ellis’s journey wasn’t just about on-ice glory. In 1975, he faced his toughest opponent yet: mental health issues. After a stellar season with the Leafs, Ellis stunned the hockey world with his retirement announcement, highlighting the silent struggles behind the game.

Despite being at the peak of his career, Ellis’s battle with depression made it impossible to continue, a poignant reminder of the pressures athletes face beyond the rink.

Off The Ice: Battling Demons in the Shadows

In the NHL of the ‘70s, mental health support was virtually nonexistent. Players like Ellis faced personal issues like anxiety and depression alone, without the resources available today.

Back then, the attitude was: don’t talk about it,” Ellis recalled. “And suck it up.”

However, two years after stepping away from the game, Ellis found himself drawn back to the ice. Under the guidance of Roger Neilson, Toronto’s new head coach, Ellis made a triumphant return to the Leafs. In the 1977-78 season, he scored 26 goals in the regular season and played a key role in Toronto’s postseason success, reaching the semifinals for the first time in over a decade.

A Maple Leaf for Life

Ron Ellis’s legacy is etched in the blue and white of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Throughout his illustrious 15-season NHL career, Ellis never donned another jersey, becoming synonymous with Leafs hockey.

Over 1,000 games, Ellis amassed an impressive 640 points, including 332 goals and 308 assists. He stands among an elite group of just five players to reach the 1,000-game milestone with the club. Ellis’s on-ice prowess earned him four All-Star selections and a spot on the last Maple Leafs team to hoist the Stanley Cup in the 1966-67 season.

The Impact Beyond the Ice

Retiring in 1981 didn’t mark the end of Ellis’s impact on the hockey world. He transitioned seamlessly into a role at the Hockey Hall of Fame, where his dedication and passion continued to shine. Bob Stellick, former business manager of the Leafs, emphasized Ellis’s unwavering loyalty to the organization.

“Ron Ellis was the epitome of a loyal Maple Leaf, a true product of the team’s development system,” Stellick remarked. He stayed with the organization throughout his entire career, spanning a bygone era.”

Ellis’s contributions to the Hall went beyond the surface. His firsthand experience as a player brought a unique perspective to honoring the game’s history and its legends. Stellick highlighted Ellis’s impact as an ambassador for the Hall, noting his ability to connect with both staff and visitors.

“He was an outstanding ambassador for the Hall,” Stellick continued. “His dedication and perspective were highly valued, especially in recognizing and honoring older players. The staff adored him.”

Championing Mental Health

In his 2002 book ‘Over the Boards,’ Ellis courageously shared his battle with clinical depression, shedding light on a topic often shrouded in stigma. His openness and willingness to offer support became a beacon for many facing similar struggles.

“He was always there to listen, to offer support and guidance,” expressed his fellow alumni. “His philanthropic efforts touched lives globally through his work with various charities and mental health initiatives.”

Ellis’s commitment extended beyond the Hall, as he dedicated himself to improving mental health awareness and supporting those in need. His infectious smile and deep love for his family were a testament to the man he was, both on and off the ice.

As we bid farewell to a true legend, Ron Ellis’s impact on hockey and humanity will forever be remembered. Rest in peace, Ron Ellis.

  Regular season Playoffs
1960–61Toronto MarlborosOHA-Jr.32130
1961–62Toronto MarlborosOHA-Jr.33171229161265114
1962–63Toronto MarlborosOHA-Jr.3621224381099182
1963–64Toronto MarlborosOHA-Jr.544638842094101410
1963–64Toronto Maple LeafsNHL10000
1963–64Toronto MarlborosMC859146
1964–65Toronto Maple LeafsNHL622316391463032
1965–66Toronto Maple LeafsNHL701923422440002
1966–67Toronto Maple LeafsNHL6722234514122134
1967–68Toronto Maple LeafsNHL742820488
1968–69Toronto Maple LeafsNHL722521461242132
1969–70Toronto Maple LeafsNHL7635195414
1970–71Toronto Maple LeafsNHL782429531061122
1971–72Toronto Maple LeafsNHL782324471751124
1972–73Toronto Maple LeafsNHL7822295122
1973–74Toronto Maple LeafsNHL702325481242130
1974–75Toronto Maple LeafsNHL793229612573032
1977–78Toronto Maple LeafsNHL8026245017133250
1978–79Toronto Maple LeafsNHL631612281061122
1979–80Toronto Maple LeafsNHL59121123630000
1980–81Toronto Maple LeafsNHL272352
NHL totals1,034332308640207701882620

by Myles Shane

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar