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Guy Behind the Guy: Barrasso Returns

Sunday, 10.3.2010 / 3:40 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Mike Sundheim
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Guy Behind the Guy: Barrasso Returns
It was December 1982. Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. Yuri Andropov was the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, having succeeded Leonid Brezhnev after Brezhnev’s death a month prior. The Cold War was in full swing.

Mike Sundheim
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Tom Barrasso was 17 years old, a high school senior from Acton-Boxborough High School. He was standing in a net in Leningrad, USSR (St. Petersburg was known as Leningrad at that time), preparing to face a team with CCCP across their sweaters. The Soviets were on home ice, hosting the 1983 World Junior Championships. As much as that goaltender would achieve in his career, it was at 17 that he faced be the ultimate road challenge.

Today, Barrasso, now an assistant coach for the Carolina Hurricanes, returned to the scene of that game.

“It was not a friendly environment to be in at that time,” Barrasso said today, standing in Jubilee Arena. “The Soviet Union was a vastly different place than Russia is today. It was truly the height of the Cold War.”

It goes without saying that not many Americans were traveling to the Soviet Union in 1982. So even just being in Leningrad at that time, let alone playing a game here against the home team, was a truly unique experience.

“We considered it a tremendous opportunity, just to be here,” Barrasso said. “We got to see what it was really like, and to go home and tell stories about the entire experience.”

It was also a serious opportunity to make an impression, hockey-wise. The 1983 World Junior Championships were a star-studded affair. Players on the Canadian team included Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Mike Vernon, Dave Andreychuk, Pat Verbeek and Sylvain Turgeon. And they finished third.

The Americans ultimately finished fifth. But they gave the hosts all they could handle in a 2-1 loss in Leningrad. Barrasso allowed just two goals to a Soviet team that scored 50 (yes, 50) goals in seven games in the tournament, en route to the gold medal. The USSR allowed just 15 goals.

“They were really, really good,” Barrasso recalled. “We were totally outmatched; their depth was just too strong. And obviously they were somewhat motivated, playing on home ice.

“We had a handful of guys that ultimately played professionally, but we couldn’t match them player-for-player.”

After the tournament, teams from the United States, Canada and Finland actually shared a plane leaving the Soviet Union, flying to Finland before heading to their respective homes.

Back home, Barrasso had more than just memories to share with his friends and family. His performance against the USSR throughout the tournament had made an impression on NHL scouts. Four months later, he was selected by the Buffalo Sabres fifth overall at the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. 

The following year he would win the Vezina and Calder Trophies, as the NHL’s top goaltender and top rookie. He remains the youngest player to win the Vezina.

“That game against the Soviets is the one that really put me on the map for the draft,” he said. “To play here at that time, in that atmosphere, was truly special.”

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  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
K. Versteeg 63 11 22 -6 33
E. Staal 63 10 23 -3 33
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81