Skip to main content

Gene Ubriaco

"From the day I put on my skates, I knew I wanted to play in the NHL," said Gene Ubriaco, a man who may be better known in hockey circles as a coach.

But, indeed, he did play in the NHL, too. 177 career games, to be exact. That followed nearly a decade of surviving in the minor leagues. Surviving being the key word. Early in his career he took a slap shot to his helmetless head resulting in a scary skull fracture.

"I never gave up the dream of playing in the NHL," he said. "I wanted it so badly. Had I not made it, I would have been distraught."

Ubriaco grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, home of the Esposito brothers, Phil and Tony. But Ubriaco grew up idolizing the legendary Gordie Howe. Not that Ubriaco played they same way. At 5 foot 8 and 160 pounds he thrived on the ice as a speedster and finesse player.

"I was a scorer," Ubriaco told Brad Kurtzberg in his book Shorthanded: The Untold Story of the Seals. "Back checking, well, I did my share, but I was not known for it. I went hard to the net despite being a smaller guy. I feel good about what I did."

After graduating from Toronto's St. Mikes junior system in 1958, Ubriaco found himself stuck in the minor leagues during last decade of the Original Six. With only six franchises and about 120 jobs in the NHL, a lot of very good players never got their chance to play in the NHL until the league doubled in size with expansion in 1967.

Ubriaco would emerge as a 18-20 goal threat in two seasons with the expansion Pittsburgh Penguins. He would also play parts of two seasons in Oakland and half a season in Chicago before retiring in 1970.

Ubriaco would go on to become a long time coach in the minor leagues. But, thanks to general manager Tony Esposito, he returned to the NHL and to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1988 for 106 games.

"I had one good season in Pittsburgh. Mario (Lemieux) only had 199 points." he quipped.

Ubriaco would also coach Team Italy at the 1992 Winter Olympics before returning to the minor leagues as a coach and manager.


Ken Myers said…
Coached several years in Baltimore for the Skipjacks when they were a Penguins affiliate. Also played for the Hershey Bears in the AHL.

Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M