Living with Leon: Stanley Cup final extra special for Ring family

Submitted Photo Leon Draisaitl and Carole Ring pose for a photo.

It was a humble beginning for Leon Draisaitl’s hockey journey in North America.

Before he was putting up 100 plus point campaigns in the NHL for the Edmonton Oilers, the Koln, Germany product was selected by the Prince Albert Raiders with the second overall pick in the 2012 CHL Import Draft.

Carole Ring was a billet for the Prince Albert Raiders for more than 30 years and received the phone call from then Raider general manager Bruno Campese about welcoming the then 16-year-old Draisaitl into her home.

Ring’s husband Ralph passed away in 2006 and her two sons Martin and Stephen had since moved out, so she was living alone with her billets when Draisaitl was playing with the Raiders.

Draisaitl arrived in Prince Albert before the majority of his teammates that summer and Ring recalls her initial impressions of the future NHL superstar.

“Well, I remember a big boy. He’s built strong, as thick as he’s wide.” Ring says. “He could speak English. He was very understandable, but he had quite an accent.

“He came a little bit earlier than the rest of the team did. There were a couple of local boys who kind of took him under their wings. But other than that, it was me and him. He was good, he has a grandmother that he’s close to so he didn’t mind somebody who was his grandmother’s age to live with. It was just him and I for a couple weeks until the other players started to come in.”

Draisaitl was one of three players living at the Ring house in his first season. Shane Danyluk and Carson Perreaux were in the house along with Draisaitl and Ring.

The bedroom that Draisaitl stayed in while he lived at the Ring household has gained notoriety because of the lengthy resume of future NHL players who have spent time there.

“The first kid I had who was an NHL player was Mike Modano.” Ring explains. “He had the larger bedroom on the third level of our four-level split house. When he left and went into the NHL, Dean McAmmond moved in and he had that room for the four years that he played and he ended up in the NHL. After that, we didn’t have any players for a number of years. There were a few players in between and then Leon moved in, he got drafted to the NHL. Cole Fonstad who moved in (later on), and Cole said he would like to have the NHL room, so the name stuck.”

Serving as a billet for the Raiders for more than 30 years, Ring says the most rewarding aspect of the billet experience is the connection made with the players and their families.
“I think the main thing is the relationships that you’ll end up with, both with the players and their parents. Most of the parents are just glad that their kid is being taken care of and that he’s happy. I billeted for about 35 of the 50 years that the Raiders were in existence until I retired from it. We’ve formed relationships with these players that are just super. They become part of your family and my family becomes what’s important to them as well. The relationships with the parents are very, very important. They rely on you to be the parent for the kid.”

Having hosted several players as billets throughout the years, Ring says Draisaitl stood out because of the work ethic he brought and how mature he was at a young age.

“His focus, he was going to get to the NHL come hell or high water. He was just so determined and he was very mature. At the age of 16, for him to ask, why don’t you worry about having a 16-year-old strange kid come to live with you? You’re by yourself. You give us a key to the house. We can come and go and we please, that I would trust that they would behave themselves when I wasn’t home. I thought for a 16-year -old to think like that is pretty mature and he’s always been a really good thinker.”

In his second season in Prince Albert, Draisaitl would post 38 goals and 67 points in 64 games for the Raiders. As a result, he was selected 3rd overall by the Oilers in 2014. Draisaitl is the last Raider to score 100 points in a season.

The following season, Draisaitl would be dealt to the Kelowna Rockets, where he would get the chance to play in the Memorial Cup. Despite not living with Ring for more than a decade, he still keeps in close contact with his former billet.

“The first year he was away, there was a lot of contact.” Ring says. “It’s usually texting. He would text from where he was in Spain for a holiday with his parents. But whenever I feel like texting him, I know I’m going to get a reply within a half hour. It’s really good that way. Usually, we try to get to Edmonton. I’ve gone by myself or I’ve gone with one of my sons. I have a brother there, so we visit my brother and we visit with Leon and we go to a game. I think we missed one year and COVID really did a number to all of that. It’s usually once a year we try to get there.”

The last time a Canadian team won a Stanley Cup was when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings back in 1993.

Ring says she is hoping Draisaitl and the Oilers can bring the most coveted trophy in hockey back north of the border for the first time in over 30 years.

“It’s such an emotional thing to watch him play at this level and to think that he may be on the team that wins the Stanley Cup for Canada for a change. It’s just thrilling.”

Game 1 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final is on Saturday night between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers. Puck drops at 8 p.m.