Thursday, September 15, 2011

Do You Remember... Part 2: Tom Barrasso

It was the first playoff edition of the Battle Of Ontario and it was the year 2000.

The first goalie to flip out was the Leafs' Curtis Joseph in Game 3 when referee Mick McGeough failed to call an interference penalty on Sens winger Daniel Alfredsson as Rob Zamuner slipped the winning goal past a distracted Joseph. As the Senators celebrated, Joseph went ballistic and charged out of his crease, screaming and pointing towards a disbeleiving McGeough. It ended with Joseph bowling McGeough over and landing on top of the helmetless ref while stunned Ottawa fans watched in awe.

Turns out Joseph simply tripped and collided with McGeough (or so he claims). There was no suspension and Ottawa fans claimed it was the league taking it easy on the Leafs.

But then newly acquired Senators goalie Tom Barrasso stole the show from Joseph after a Game 4 win that tied the series, by going on live national television and telling CBC reporter Scott Oake that he "really couldn't give a shit what you people have to say." Cue the uproar.

He was, of course, referring to the media with which he had always had a combative relationship dating back to his days in Buffalo and Pittsburgh. He once admonished a reporter by snapping at a question with "What? You want me to stop the ones going wide too?"

 Clippings from the Ottawa Sun (Click on pictures for bigger size.)

Just as an aside, Barrasso and Joseph weren't the only goalies getting into trouble that year. Remember Dallas Star Eddie Belfour trying to bribe cops with a "a billion dollars" to let him go?

But let's get back to Barrasso for a minute. The Senators traded beloved goalie Ron Tugnutt and solid defenseman Janne Laukkanen to the Penguins in March 2000 for the two-time Stanley Cup winner in an effort to shake up the team and give it an edge going into the post-season. Barrasso was considered one of the grumpiest and non-communicative players in the entire NHL but Ottawa felt it was worth a gamble after getting beaten in their last two playoff series by elite goalies in Olaf Kolzig (Washington 1998) and Dominik Hasek (1999).

Barrasso had crossed paths with remaining Ottawa goalie Patrick Lalime when they were both in Pittsburgh in 1997, and if the caption in this clipping is accurate, their relationship was a tad icy.

The move didn't work out for the Senators. They met the Leafs in the first round, quickly went down two games in Toronto, stormed back to tie the series in Ottawa, watched Barrasso steal the spotlight by bringing a flame-thrower to a live interview, and then lost their next two games to start the summer early (and start a bad trend of losing to the Pat Quinn-era Leafs when it mattered the most).

Meanwhile, over in Pittsburgh, Ron Tugnutt turned into a hero as the Penguins beat the Washington Capitals in the first round. They lost to Philly in the second but Tugnutt was embraced by the fans in Steeltown and Janne Laukkanen stayed with the Penguins for another two and a half seasons before finishing his career with a brief sting in Tampa Bay.

Barrasso didn't re-sign with Ottawa in the summer of 2000. Instead the much friendlier Lalime took over the number one job and didn't relinquish it until .... well, you guessed it.... when he imploded against those very same Pat Quinn led Toronto Maple Leafs in a first round Game 7 in 2004.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jeremy, great historical write up that brought back a flood of memories of better days in our organization. Even though we lost to the Leafs, the games were so much fun to watch because of the intensity and the hatred between the two clubs and their fans. The Barrasso move didn't work out, but it was a valiant attempt to find the missing piece of the puzzle and he certainly brought the right competitive mindset to the rink.

Anonymous said...

Barrasso was awesome, one of the few this franchise has had with the hardware, ability and swagger to give a big EFF YOU to the media throng.

Miss the guy, miss his swagger, miss is disposition. Team has been too nice forever.