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Double OT: Despite being a jerk, Tom Barrasso belongs in Hockey Hall of Fame

Tom Barrasso won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins during his career. (Glenn Cratty /Allsport)

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Tom Barrasso won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins during his career. (Glenn Cratty /Allsport)

It is popular this time of year to point out the shortcomings and errors of the ways of the men in charge of inducting newcomers into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

This is not one of those columns. Well, not entirely.

You see, I understand why the guy I think should have been inducted yesterday has not been named to the Hall.

He is goaltender Tom Barrasso.

I think the Tom Barrasso story, particularly the early years, is one of the great stories in league history. It is the tale of a teenager who made the jump from an American high school hockey team to the Buffalo Sabres and in his first NHL season won both the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie and the Vezina as best goalie.

Barrasso was a first team all-star once and second team member twice. He shared the Jennings Trophy for lowest goals-against average with Bob Sauve in 1985, won a silver medal with Team USA at the 2002 Olympics, won the second most games ever by an American-born NHL goalie, 369, and holds the NHL record for career assists (48) and points (48) by a goaltender.

Most importantly, he helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.

And yet, in a year when it was pretty much wide open for players who have been passed over before to get in, he didn’t get so much as a sniff.

The reason?

It is because when most people describe Tom Barrasso, they defer to the fifth, sixth and seventh letters in his surname.

Barrasso was a surly, abrasive and rude man.

I got a little taste of his rudeness first hand a number of years ago when I phoned him to write a complimentary story about his return to form after a time when it looked like he was done.

“Hi Tom.”

“Who is this?”

“Mike Brophy from The Hockey News.”

“How did you get my phone number?”

“You gave it to me.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes you did.”

“I did not and I am going to spend the rest of my life trying to find out how you got it. Goodbye.”

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My thoughts afterwards? What an ass!

And yet I sit here today thinking he should be in the Hall of Fame. I think he earned the honor despite personality flaws that must eat away at him like we’ll never know.

If he is ever going to get in, it likely won’t be for a long, long time. Up for consideration next year are Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Brian Leetch, Alexander Mogilny, Dave Andreychuk, Peter Bondra, Keith Primeau and Ziggy Palffy. Yzerman and Hull are a lock to get in and those who don’t get inducted will receive strong consideration over the next few years.

Also coming up for consideration soon are Eric Lindros, Joe Nieuwendyk, John LeClair and Pierre Turgeon.

Barrasso was not the best goalie who ever played in the NHL. He wouldn’t even crack the top 10. But for a long enough period of time, he was one of the most dominant players at his position. He came out of nowhere and he was an instant star.

Barrasso has the numbers, the awards, the all-star team votes and the Cups.

It’s time to forgive Tom Barrasso for being Tom Barrasso and acknowledge his greatness. One hundred years from now no one will remember how he treated people and no one will question his inclusion in the Hall. 

Mike Brophy, the co-author of the book Walking with Legends, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor on THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and his column, Double OT, appears Wednesday.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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