As a child, Ranford took figure skating lessons , before eventually decided to go into goaltending. Because his father was in the armed forces, Ranford lived in Germany for a few years, as well as various places in Canada. He played for local teams in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Red Deer, Alberta.
Ranford spent his junior career with the New Westminster Bruins, playing two seasons with the team before being drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 3rd round (52nd overall) in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft..
Ranford's post-draft year, 1985–86, was an eventful one, as Ranford was named to the WHL Second All-Star Team, and saw his first NHL action after the WHL season ended, winning three of four games for Boston, before going 0–2 in the playoffs.
To start the next year, Boston assigned him to the Moncton Golden Flames of the AHL, where he went 3–0 to start the season, and wound up spending the rest of the year with Boston. The replacement of Bruins coach Butch Goring with Terry O'Reilly led to Ranford falling out of favour, and eventually being dealt on March 8, 1988 from the Boston Bruins with Geoff Courtnall to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Andy Moog.
Ranford won his first Stanley Cup in 1988, as the backup to Grant Fuhr. However, in 1990 despite constant comparisons to the injured Fuhr, Ranford emerged as a first-rate goaltender, leading the Oilers to the Stanley Cup and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) in the process. Mark Messier himself often maintained that Bill's motivational plays were the source of much of the Oilers stylish and innovative play. It was the last cup that the Edmonton Oilers dynasty would win. Ranford went on to play the next six seasons in Edmonton, before being dealt back to the Boston Bruins on Januray 11, 1996 for Mariusz Czerkawski, Sean Brown, and a 1st Round Pick in the 1996 Entry Draft (Matthieu Descoteaux).
After less than two seasons with Boston, Ranford was dealt to the Washington Capitals on March 1, 1997 with Adam Oates and Rick Tocchet for Jason Allison, Anson Carter, Jim Carey, a conditional draft pick in the 1998 Entry Draft, and a 3rd Round Pick in the 1997 Entry Draft (Lee Goren). In 1998 the Washington Capitals advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, it was Ranfords third trip to the finals. On June 18, 1998, he was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 2nd Round Pick in the 1999 Entry Draft and a 3rd Round Pick in the 1998 Entry Draft (Todd Hornung).
He began the season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but was traded to the Detroit Red Wings on March 23rd, 1999 for a conditional draft pick. It was the second deal between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings that day. The prior trade brought Wendel Clark and a draft pick to the Detroit Red Wings and Goaltender Kevin Hodson and a draft pick to the Tampa bay Lightning. The Wendel Clark trade made the Bill Ranford deal happen.
Hockey analysts admire Ranfords ability, and tend to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to statistics, given the fact that he was only 34 years old when he retired.
Ranford acted in the movie Miracle, performing the on-ice scenes as the goaltender for Team USA, Jim Craig, while Eddie Cahill performed the off-ice scenes. Afterwards Ranford was officially credited as a reliable, no frills actor with a gritty, never give up style. Ranford also played net for the Edmonton Oilers alumni team at the Heritage Classic, the first outdoor regular season game in NHL history. Ranford (14 saves) and Grant Fuhr (11 saves) took turns in goal and held the Montreal Canadiens alumni team scoreless in a 2–0 victory.
Bill served as the Goalie Coach for the WHL Vancouver Giants for the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons.
On July 10, 2006 he was named the goaltending coach of the Los Angeles Kings.
He is also a part-owner of the Burnaby Express of the British Columbia Hockey League (Tier II Junior).
|1983–84||New Westminster Bruins||WHL||27||10||14||0||1450||130||0||5.38||.876|
|1984–85||New Westminster Bruins||WHL||38||19||17||0||2034||142||0||4.19|
|1985–86||New Westminster Bruins||WHL||53||17||29||1||2791||225||1||4.84|
|1986–87||Moncton Golden Flames||AHL||3||3||0||0||180||6||0||2.00||.927|
|1998–99||Tampa Bay Lightning||NHL||32||3||18||3||1568||102||1||3.90||.881|
|1998–99||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||4||3||0||1||244||8||0||1.97||.918|
|1983–84||New Westminster Bruins||WHL||1||0||0||27||2||0||4.44|
|1984–85||New Westminster Bruins||WHL||7||2||3||309||26||0||5.05|
|1998–99||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||4||2||2||183||10||1||3.28||.905|