February 19, 2011

Sad News About Nick Harbaruk

This is Nick Harbaruk, a hard working forward who played over 500 big league games in the 1970s. Harbaruk was a hard-hitting, defensive winger, specializing on the penalty kill. He often energized his team with his relentless checking.

Interestingly, Harbaruk was born in Drohiczyn, Poland on August 16th, 1943, during World War II. By 1948 his family had moved Toronto to start a new life.

Nick quickly picked up the Canadian game of hockey and turned into a star youth player. Soon enough he was a star with the Toronto Marlies junior team.

The Toronto Maple Leafs owned his rights but placed him in Tulsa, Oklahoma for 5 seasons. The Leafs actually tried to upgrade him from the CPHL to their AHL farm team, but Harbaruk refused to leave. He met his wife there and was earning a degree in economics from the University of Tulsa.

That stand probably cost Harbaruk a chance to ever play with the Leafs. They would have buried him in the minors forever, but NHL expansion in 1967 opened up jobs for many such players. The Pittsburgh Penguins snapped him up.

Harbaruk played four solid seasons in Pittsburgh, and another in St. Louis, before jumping to bigger money with Indianapolis of the WHA. He retired in 1977.

Harbaruk returned to Toronto and started coaching at Seneca College. In 7 seasons Harbaruk found great success, winning 3 Ontario college championships. His legacy there was tainted by an assault charge when a fan behind the bench was struck with a stick.

In 1986 Harbaruk left hockey behind. He and his brother took over their father's sod supply business for local landscapers.

I received terrible news about Mr. Harbaruk today. Personal friend Josie Parks emailed me this note:

"I'm hoping you can help me get an important message out to the hockey-loving public. Nick Harbaruk, who played for Pittsburgh in the early 1970s, is in the late stages of terminal cancer. Rick Kessell, his former teammate, is a dear friend of mine and we're trying to get in touch with some of Nick's other teammates -- Ron Schock, Jean Pronovost, etc.

"If you could help us spread the word and encourage people to show their support for Nick and his wife, Nancy, we'd really appreciate it. Nick is in Scarborough General Hospital in Toronto, Ontario."

If anyone knows how to contact some of Harbaruk's old teammates, please contact Josie Parks and she will get you in touch with Mr. Kessell.

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