She’s a regular guest on KFAN, with her own nickname: “Pronger with a Ponytail.” She DJs on the weekends for the country music station, K102.
She’s won two national hockey titles with the Gophers and was a first-team All-America pick last year. Twice she’s been named the WCHA’s defensive player of the year.
Rachel Ramsey has a famous father, and some have suggested that’s the main reason she’s gotten so many opportunities. But by charting her own course, she’s making quite a name for herself.
Mike Ramsey played one season for the Gophers before becoming the youngest member of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team. He became a four-time NHL All-Star and a longtime assistant coach for the Wild.
Rachel Ramsey loves her father. She’s proud of his accomplishments, but she never pursued her own Olympic glory. She withdrew her name from consideration for Team USA leading up to 2014 Winter Games and said her competitive hockey career will end after this month’s NCAA tournament.
“It’s just not my goal,” Ramsey said of the Olympics. “I’m ready, once this year is done, to hopefully fall in love with a career path or something else as much as I have the sport of hockey for the past 15 years.”
The end could come as soon as Saturday, when the Gophers play host to RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) in the NCAA quarterfinals. The winner advances to next weekend’s Women’s Frozen Four, also at Ridder Arena. Ramsey and the top-seeded Gophers (31-3-4) are determined to get there, of course. But they’ll need to rebound from last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Bemidji State in the WCHA semifinals.
That was one of only 10 defeats Ramsey and her fellow seniors have suffered in four seasons at Minnesota.
“She came in with high expectations because of her last name,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “She’s developed into a fantastic leader for us. She brings offense, she brings defense. She brings size, skill, patience. I mean, you name it, she’s got it in her game.”
Mike and Jill Ramsey have three kids. Rachel is the oldest, Hannah is a junior at St. Thomas and Jack will be a Gophers freshman next fall after spending the past two years playing Canadian junior hockey in Penticton, British Columbia.
As kids, Rachel and Jack spent countless hours skating at Xcel Energy Center before and after Wild practices. Former coach Jacques Lemaire gave them pointers. Their dad’s advice usually fell on deaf ears.
When Rachel was about 8, she insisted on taping her shin pads right at the knees.
“She couldn’t bend her knees; she could hardly walk,” Mike said. “I told her and told her. I don’t know how long she did it. Then one day she came home from practice and said, ‘Coach told me not to tape around my knees.’ Both my wife and I just rolled our eyes and shook our heads.’”
The memory still makes Rachel laugh.
“I probably never gave my dad the credit he deserved,” she said. “When people ask, ‘What’s it like having him be your dad?’ I say, ‘He could have been an accountant, telling me how to play hockey.’ I wasn’t going to listen, no matter what his career was.”
Mike Ramsey retired from coaching in 2010 so he wouldn’t miss so many of his kids’ activities. He saw Rachel win a state championship at Minnetonka before heading to the University of Minnesota.
“I remember when I committed to the Gophers, you’d hear other teams say, ‘You’re only playing for the ‘U’ because your last name’s Ramsey,’ ” she said. “Last year, being named All-American, was finally the realization that I really belonged here, and it’s not all the name.”
But Rachel Ramsey knows the name helped open some doors at KFAN. She started as an intern two years ago, and now makes weekly appearances as a hockey analyst with Paul Allen. He coined her nickname, comparing her to NHL defenseman Chris Pronger, with the way she uses her 6-foot frame to be a force.
Last fall, she started getting regular weekend shifts as a DJ on K102. She can’t be paid for her appearances, under NCAA rules, but she’s getting experience. She’ll graduate in May and has an internship lined up with a Minneapolis advertising agency. She plans to keep doing radio, too.
It’s been a dream for Mike Ramsey, watching Rachel thrive with the Gophers. He’s also a big fan of her other pursuits.
“When I hear her on the radio,” he said, “I’m in awe that that’s my daughter.”