November 13, 2023

Two Sides of Tom Barrasso

The April 5th, 2002 issue of The Hockey News highlighted "The Two Sides of Tom Barrasso" late in the Hall of Fame goalie's career.

Yes, there was temperamental and surly person off the ice, well noted for his disdain of hockey media. Even teammates did not always what to think of the brash, very confident netminder. 

While he may have rubbed a few people the wrong way off the ice, on the ice he was respected for what he should be best remembered for - being a winner. 

“He’s perceived as a winner,” former teammate Garry Valk says in the article. “He’s perceived as a guy that works hard. He’s positive, he’s supportive. He comes to work every day. And that’s all you want. He’s a professional.”

Who can forget Barrasso's debut.

Tom Barrasso entered the NHL in the 1983-84 season as an 18 year old straight from high school. The Buffalo Sabres rookie not only succeeded at what is almost unheard of, he turned in one of the greatest individual seasons in the history of the league.

Barrasso originally planned to play for Providence College in Rhode Island, but after ending his high school season by representing Team USA at the World Championships. That confidence boost convinced the youngster to turn pro. In his rookie NHL season, Barrasso won the Vezina Trophy as the leagues best netminder and the Calder Trophy as the top rookie thanks to a 26-12-3 record and a 2.84 GAA. He was named to the first all star team.

After his spectacular season, Barrasso was being hailed as the best goalie in the world by many. He confirmed his elite status by representing Team USA at the 1984 Canada Cup, and then by improving his second season NHL totals to 25-28-10 and a 2.66 GAA. He shared the Jennings trophy and was named to the second team all stars.

The shine on Barrasso's short but brilliant career began to wear off in the 1985-86 season. Barrasso and Bob Sauve had battled for the starters job much of the previous two seasons, but the Sabres ended the goaltending controversy by trading Sauve and declaring Barrasso as their number one man. Barrasso's playing time increased but his numbers fell. In 60 games played, Barrasso posted a 3.61 GAA, and went 24-29-5. Most importantly the Sabres failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the 1973-74 season.

1986-87 wasn't any better. Barrasso got off to a terrible start, and the Sabres never recovered. The Sabres finished dead last in the NHL.

The Sabres stuck with Barrasso, and he rebounded in 1987-88, posting a 25-18-8 record and leading the Sabres back into the playoffs.

Early in the 1988-89 season, Barrasso was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh's powerful offense, led by Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey, needed some defensive help. Barrasso proved to be that help, as he was an important part of back to back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992.

Barrasso would stay with the Pens through 200, racking up huge win totals. He became the first American born goalie to win 300 career NHL games. He'd have 369 in all, compared to only 277 losses.

In the new century Barrasso ended his career by bouncing around with the Ottawa Senators, Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues for very short stints. He was also named to Team USA for the 2002 Olympics and helped the team capture a silver medal.

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