Born: August 13, 1948
Birthplace: Fort William, Ontario, Canada
Height: 5'11" Weight: 180 lbs.
Seasons with Buffalo: 1972-73, 1973-74
Uniform Numbers: 24, 21
|Ron Busniuk takes a shot against
New York Islanders goaltender Billy Smith
March 3, 1974 at the Aud.
|Growing up in Fort William, Ontario, Ron Busniuk's first taste of championship glory came as a baseball player. In 1964, at the age of 16, Busniuk was a member of the Senior Little League Canadian Champion Fort William Nationals.
Busniuk eventually focused on hockey, joining the Fort William Canadiens of the Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League. In the days before the draft, NHL teams would obtain the rights to players through sponsorship of junior teams. Any players on a junior team that was sponsored by an NHL club would become property of that NHL club. Busniuk's junior team was sponsored by the Montreal Canadiens, therefore Busniuk's professional rights belonged to the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens teams of the late 1960's were packed with future All-Stars. Players in the Canadiens' system often had to spend years in the minor leagues before they had a shot to make the NHL. Busniuk decided that rather than turn pro right out of juniors, he would go to college instead, and delay his minor-league apprenticeship.
|At age 18, Busniuk enrolled in the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In his sophomore year, Busniuk joined the UMD Bulldogs as a defenseman. A solid rear guard during his three years at UMD, Busniuk won many honors. In his senior season of 1969-70, Busniuk was named team Captain. At season's end he was named American Hockey Coaches Association West Division All-American and Western Collegiate Hockey Assiciation First Team All-American.
Busniuk turned pro following his graduation from UMD, and joined the Canadiens' farm club, the Montreal Voyageurs of the American Hockey League. In the AHL, Busniuk was inexplicably moved from defense to forward, playing both right wing and center. Busniuk never developed the scoring touch necessary to succeed as a forward, scoring just 46 points in two years with the Voyageurs. His speed and scrappiness were apparant, however, and earned Busniuk the nickname "Buzzy". Busniuk wasn't afraid to mix it up with opposing players, as evidenced by his 269 penalty minutes in the 1970-71 and 1971-72 seasons. In 1971-72, Busniuk was a member of another championship team, as the Voyaguers, relocated to Nova Scotia in 1971, won the Calder Cup.
On June 18, 1972, Busniuk's rights were purchased from Montreal by the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres, a 1970 expansion club, were by the spring of 1972 one of the up and coming teams in the league. In just two years, Sabres GM Punch Imlach had built a soild core of talented young players and scrappy veterans who were poised to take the more established teams by surprise. New coach Joe Crozier ran a tough training camp, and Busniuk, trying out as a right winger, lost out in his battle for the final roster spot to veteran Larry Mickey. Ironically, the Sabres biggest "need" position coming into the 1972-73 season was at defense, a position at which Busniuk had excelled as a collegiate player.
As training camp came to a close, Busniuk was shipped off to the Sabres' AHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Swords. Buzzy was at his scrappy best during the 1972-73 season, racking up 205 penalty minutes to lead the Swords in that category. He also added 5 goals and 34 assists in 71 games played. Busniuk's 39 points in 1972-73 was his career high as a pro. At the end of the season, Busniuk sipped championship champagne again as the Swords rolled through the playoffs to the 1973 Calder Cup. To date, Busniuk is one of only nine players to win the Calder Cup in back-to-back years. His younger brother Mike (who enjoyed a brief NHL career with the Philadelphia Flyers in the early 1980's) has also accomplished that feat.
Busniuk also made his NHL debut during the 1972-73 season, playing one game with the Buffalo Sabres. Buzzy was held scoreless in the game, but accounted for 9 minutes in penalties.
Busniuk spent the bulk of the 1973-74 season in Cincinnati, scoring 7 goals and 24 assists and again leading the team with 146 penalty minutes in 68 games played. He also spent a 5 game stint in Buffalo, contributing 3 assists in the last action he would see in the NHL. Busniuk was selected First team AHL All-Star for his accomplishments in Cincinnati during the season.
Unable to gain a roster spot during the 1973-74 season, Busniuk was among the players left unprotected by the Sabres in the 1974 Intra-League (waiver) Draft. His rights were lost when he was selected by the Detroit Red Wings on June 10, 1974. Busniuk would never play a game in the Red Wings organization, opting instead to jump to the rival World Hockey Association. Busniuk signed a contract with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA, and joined them for the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons. The Fighting Saints were aptly named as it turned out. In Busniuk's two years there, the Saints finished at the bottom of the league in points and the top of the league in penalty minutes. One of Busniuk's teammates in Minnesota, Gord Gallant, became infamous for punching his own coach in the eye.
Near the end of the 1975-76 season, Busniuk was traded to the New England Whalers. He spent two years in the Whalers organization before being traded again to the Edmonton Oilers. Busniuk was an Assistant Captain for the Oilers in each of his two years there. Following the 1977-78 season, Busniuk retired form professional hockey.
After retirement, Busniuk gained acclaim as a coach, winning championships in both the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons with the Thunder Bay Twins Senior Hockey Team. In 1985, Busniuk was inducted into the Northern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. In 2001, Busniuk was again honored with his induction into the University of Minnesota-Duluth Athletic Hall of Fame.