He took a sip of his beer. "What do you do to get high?"
Alt, in recounting the story, pauses here to smile, for you cannot deliver this next line with a straight face. "I told him, 'I get high on life,' " she recalls. "And he said, 'That's nice. That really is.' "
Any relationship that can survive that opening scene must be magic. Greschner, for his part, remembers, "I sort of fell in love with her in the first 10 minutes."
"She was just coming out of a relationship with Rex Smith," a friend explains. "He was making a movie in England at the time. Suddenly here's Ron, who's big and affectionate—everything that Rex wasn't—with a certain amount of charisma of his own. He was just what Carol needed."
Both had small-town roots and values, though Greschner's were considerably smaller-town than Alt's, who grew up in East Williston, Long Island, the daughter of a career military man. Greschner hailed from Goodsoil, Saskatchewan (pop: 225), where his father, John, owned a hotel, a car dealership and a construction business. Goodsoil is as close to nowhere as you can get and still get back. It is about 230 miles northwest of Saskatoon and 230 miles northeast of Edmonton, and the closest town, Dorintosh, is 25 miles due east by canoe. Land around there is so flat you can "roll a bowling ball 400 miles," says Greschner.
Rangers general manager Phil Esposito visited Greschner in Goodsoil in 1980, when they were still playing teammates. "I went over the town line, and about ten seconds later I saw a sign reading THANK YOU, COME AGAIN," Esposito recalls. "I said to Ronnie, 'How the hell did you ever get out of here?' "
By playing hockey. Even the smallest towns in Canada have organized teams, and Greschner was lucky enough to have reached his full height—he is 6'2", and now weighs 215 pounds—by his early teens. Coaches noticed him, particularly because there were only seven bantam-aged kids playing for Goodsoil and Greschner was seldom off the ice.
He was drafted by the New Westminster (British Columbia) Bruins junior team, and at 15 he began playing Tier II hockey 1,200 miles from home. Big and rangy, smart with the puck, Greschner became a second-round draft pick of the Rangers in 1974, the 32nd overall.
He played only seven games in the minors before he moved up to the Blueshirts to stay, at 19. Says Dave Maloney, who turned pro with the Rangers at the same time Greschner did and is now a Wall Street stockbroker, "In all his years in New York, Ronnie has never really changed. Sometimes he's a little in awe of the whole thing, but he keeps his own personality. The amazing part to me is that Carol went up to Goodsoil early in their courtship and actually liked the place."
It's true. The big-bucks, high-fashion model from New York felt right at home among the mosquitoes and walleye and farmers. "I love Canadians," she says. "They are the best. They're farm boys, most of them. Very family-oriented. Ronnie's mother told me before we were married that you could tell the way a man would treat his wife by the way he treated his mother. Ronnie was always respectful and gentlemanly. And the entire time he was courting me he was hurting. He was virtually paralyzed the first two years, but he'd still hobble around to open the car door for me."