John Vanbiesbrouck:

Spring hockey in New York

As told to: Steve Matthes

In 1985-86, goalie John Vanbiesbrouck won the Vezina trophy and was a part of the New York Rangers’ run to the conference final. 

In 1986, we ended up two games under .500 but finished the season very strong. Back then we had some good young players: Kelly Miller was coming on as were Mike Ridley and George McPhee. Our coach was Ted Sator and he had us committed to defence. If you weren’t going to play away from the puck, you weren’t playing with him.

One of our vets, Pierre Larouche, was called up from the minors late that year. I think he scored like 10 goals in his first 15 and ended up with 20 in 28. Two years previous he had 48. He would have been the first player in the history of the National Hockey League to score 50 goals with three different teams if he had gotten two more.

One of the things from that season that gets kind of lost is how I won the Vezina that year and it has a little bit of a message to it. The Flyers’ goalie, Pelle Lindbergh, died that year in a car accident. So a guy had to die for me to gain something. Think about that. Pelle, God rest his soul, was probably on his way to win his second consecutive Vezina.

In the first round, we went into Philly and beat the Flyers in the first game and they were kind of stunned because they were the number one team in the conference. We pulled off a shocker. Take nothing away from their goalie, Bob Froese, and the rest of those guys, but we just flat out beat them.

We played Montreal in the semi-finals and I talk about that probably more than any other series. For me, it was probably the first time in my career that people in the game said, “Hey, this guy legitimately can play.” They had great players coming through: a young Claude Lemieux and Stephane Richer in combination with veteran leadership from their old guys like Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson.

Patrick Roy came on the scene that year and just competed his way to the Cup. If you think about it, Montreal’s always had that knack of calling the guy up from the minors and having him shine whether it was Ken Dryden or Steve Penny. We fought hard but lost and they went on to win the Cup that year.

We kind of snuck up on everybody, so New Yorkers got really excited for that month. The city was surprised because New York thinks it knows just about everything. We surprised them with a little bit of New York Rangers hockey that spring.

(This was an excerpt from the Pulp Hockey Podcast with John Vanbiesbrouck. For the full show, visit or subscribe to the show on iTunes/Stitcher)



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *