Ron Steedle, cornerstone of Shaler hockey community, dies at age 69

Tuesday, July 9, 2024 | 9:41 PM

When Ron Steedle was promoted to lead Shaler’s ice hockey team in 1988, few could predict how his influence would shape a program that has since amassed more than 500 wins.

Like any good mentor, his impact extended beyond practices and games. Steedle went to birthday and graduation parties, wedding receptions and funerals. When his players needed him, he was there. Steedle knew their friends and girlfriends. He knew their families, priests and teachers. He knew the kids he coached.

Steedle died suddenly July 4 at the age of 69 after more than 50 years of coaching, including 29 at Shaler, where he had multiple stints as the Titans head coach. Affectionately known as “Flame” due to his once-flowing red hair, Steedle’s passion for working with young people was undeniable.

“Ron helped hundreds of young people become men,” longtime friend and assistant coach Bob Justus said. “It really cannot be measured.”

Steedle left his legacy throughout Western Pennsylvania hockey. He helped Jeff Mauro form a coaches association and was a driving force in the 1999 unification of the PIHL and WPIAL hockey leagues.

Steedle’s coaching career began in 1978 with the North Hills Amateur Hockey Association. He spent time in North Allegheny and Fox Chapel’s programs before joining the Titans as an assistant in 1983. Prior to the merger, Steedle’s Shaler teams won five PIHL league championships and nine division titles. He and Mauro coached the area’s all-stars at the Keystone State Games, where they won back-to-back gold medals in 1999 and 2000.

“Ron’s greatest achievement was the development and mentoring of countless players, coaches and administrators,” said Mauro, Director of the PA Hockey Association. “He made them into difference-makers.”

Steedle’s connection to Shaler had ups and downs. The program presented him with a plaque after his 200th victory in a win over Fox Chapel. When the organization replaced him following a rough two-year stretch in the mid-2000s, Steedle continued to advocate for the program. He recruited young talent and convinced travel players to play for the Titans. He celebrated in the stands when Shaler secured a 3-2 overtime win against Seneca Valley in the 2009 WPIAL championship.

He rejoined the Titans under Matt Ranallo in 2016 and continued to coach when Steve Stayduhar took over the following year. He also coached at Upper St. Clair and for the Butler Valley Dawgs.

“Ron was able to see the good in people no matter what,” Stayduhar said. “He even found good that was hidden beneath the surface. He never gave up on anyone. He just continued to try and bring the good out.”

Luke Hentschel met Steedle during his final season playing for Butler Valley. Like many before him, Hentschel found himself learning from Steedle, who encouraged him to coach. The two became “best friends” and spent a year behind the bench together.

“I admired that he didn’t have a stake in coaching except for wanting to make the kids better,” Hentschel said. “He cared more about his players as humans than as hockey players. I thought that was really cool.”

A mainstay at Pirates, Steelers and Penguins games, Steedle was a season ticket holder for all three teams. If a Pittsburgh sports team was playing, Steedle was there, keeping score, making friends and mentoring the players he brought with him.

“Ron was a magnet for conversation,” said Dave Fryer, Commissioner of College Hockey East. “He was one of those people who always had something to say. Everyone looked forward to seeing him.”

Fryer estimates he and Steedle attended 1,000 sporting events during a friendship that exceeded 15 years. He said that Steedle befriended both familiar faces and those often overlooked.

When news of Steedle’s death spread, Fryer made a point to tell those who may not hear.

“The Clemente Bridge saxophone player, Reggie, burst into tears,” he said. “Is there anything more Pittsburgh than that? Ron was a friend to the friendless.”

Steedle never sacrificed time with his family or faith, Fryer said. A devout Catholic, he was a frequent confirmation sponsor and regular parishioner of St. Matthew’s Parish. He was particularly proud to be an uncle to his 11 nieces and nephews and 16 great nieces and nephews. He found time to coach their sports teams.

“The world needs more Ron Steedles,” Fryer said. “But there was only one.”


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