John Vanbiesbrouck

John Vanbiesbrouck

Infobox Ice Hockey Player

image_size = 200px
position = Goaltender
played_for = New York Rangers
Florida Panthers
Philadelphia Flyers
New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils
caught = Left
height_ft = 5
height_in = 9
weight_lb = 176
nationality = USA
birth_date = Birth date and age|1963|9|4|mf=y
birth_place = Detroit, MI, U.S.
draft = 72nd overall
draft_year = 1981
draft_team = New York Rangers
career_start = 1981
career_end = 2002

John Vanbiesbrouck (born September 4, 1963 in Detroit, Michigan) is a retired American professional ice hockey goaltender, who was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007. He's played for the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, and New Jersey Devils.

Vanbiesbrouck is known for his consistency in winning, although often falling barely short of the traditional benchmarks synonymous with greatness. During his National Hockey League career, Vanbiesbrouck compiled a record of 374 wins, 346 losses, 119 ties, and 40 shutouts. He is considered one of the best American goaltenders in the history of hockey. He won the Vezina Trophy in 1986, was selected to the NHL All-Star Team in 1986, 1994, 1996, and 1997, played in the 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1989 IIHF World Championships, along with the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups, was selected for the 1996 World Cup of Hockey which was won by the Americans, twice went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, and 2001, and was the back-up goaltender for the United States in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

Early life

John Vanbiesbrouck grew up in Detroit. His father was a Belgian immigrant and his mother was of Italian descent. He was unclaimed in the Midget Draft as a 15 year old, so his father drove him to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to try out with the Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. Vanbiesbrouck made the team, and for three years he was the number one goalie in the Soo. By the time he was eligible for the NHL Entry Draft, there was no doubt that he would be selected. In 1981 the Rangers chose him in the 4th round (72nd overall), and just a few months later he made his professional debut with the Blueshirts as an emergency call-up.

Playing career

New York Rangers

On December 5, 1981, he beat the Colorado Rockies 2–1, at 18 years of age. The Rangers then returned him to the Soo to develop. For two years he played goal for the United States at the World Championships, and in the CHL. In 1982, he won the Terry Sawchuk Award (with Ron Scott) for Best Goalie. The following year in 1983, he was awarded the Ivan Trophy as the CHL’s Most Valuable Player. In the fall of 1984 he made the Rangers full time. But the New Yorkers were eliminated quickly from the playoffs in the spring of 1985, and Vanbiesbrouck gladly accepted an invitation to represent the U.S. team at the World Championships in Prague. In 1986, he had his first 30 win season, where he finished the year netting 31 victories for New York.

He stayed the Rangers' number one goalie until Mike Richter arrived on Broadway and established himself as an equal but younger talent. The two became one of the best duos in the game, but Beezer was left exposed in the Expansion Draft in 1993 by Vancouver after the Rangers had traded him to the Canucks for future considerations (Doug Lidster). Because of this, he would miss the Rangers' 1994 President's Trophy and Stanley Cup winning year.

Florida Panthers

However, his career exploded during his years with the Panthers. During the 1994 season, John played in nearly 60 games, and ended the year with the 2nd best save percentage in the league. The following year, Vanbiesbrouck played a key role in Florida staying in the playoff hunt until the end of the 1994–1995 season. He recorded 33 victories and his performance earned him the runner-up to the Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy. In 1996, he backstopped the Panthers to the first, and only, Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history, upsetting the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins before losing in a four game sweep to the Colorado Avalanche. He finished third in voting for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

In 1997, Vanbiesbrouck recorded his 300th career victory, and tied his career high for longest undefeated streak at nine games. However, a long Panthers losing streak caused him to be booed off the ice later in the 1997–1998 season.

Philadelphia Flyers

Before the start of the 1998–1999 season, Vanbiesbrouck signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. His first season with Philadelphia was very successful. He posted a 2.18 GAA, and notched 6 shutouts before rotating the starting goaltending job with Ron Hextall and then Brian Boucher.

New York Islanders & New Jersey Devils

On Draft Day in 2000, John was traded to the New York Islanders, who brought him aboard to groom rookie netminder Rick DiPietro. But he didn't finish the season with the Islanders. In March, he was traded to the New Jersey Devils for Chris Terreri, where he became the backup netminder for Martin Brodeur. He recorded his 40th shutout, and won every game he appeared in with New Jersey. During the 2000–01 season, the Devils advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second year in a row. This was Vanbiesbrouck's second trip to the finals, though he played only a total of four minutes this time. The Devils played the Colorado Avalanche and lost in seven games. Vanbiesbrouck promptly retired on June 9, 2001 after the game had ended. John could not stay away from hockey long. On February 4, 2002, he agreed to terms with the Devils to come out of retirement. He was the back-up for the rest of the season, and then retired for good from professional hockey on May 25, 2002.


Internationally, he played in the 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1989 World Championships. He participated in both the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups for the U.S. team. Although he didn't play in the inaugural 1996 World Cup due to shoulder surgery, it should be noted that he was selected as one of the goaltenders for the U.S. team. He teamed again with Mike Richter at the Nagano Olympics in Japan in 1998 when the NHL shut down to allow all its pros to participate. However, the U.S. sixth-place finish was considered a disappointment. On October 12, 2007 Vanbiesbrouck was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame along with Aaron Broten, Bobby Carpenter and Michigan Tech NCAA Coach John MacInnes. He currently resides in Michigan with his family, and is an analyst for The NHL on Versus as well as hockey broadcasts on HDNet. He has two charities he participates in, The Paralysis Fund, and The ADD Foundation he started for Attention Deficit Disorder.

Post playing career

When he retired from the NHL, he took the position of head coach, and general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. There, he admitted he used a racial slur to describe a black player, Greyhounds captain Trevor Daley (now plays with the Dallas Stars). Daley quit the Ontario Hockey League team and returned home to Toronto after being told that Vanbiesbrouck used the slur while talking to other players. Vanbiesbrouck apologized and resigned his positions as coach and general manager, saying that he would sell his 25% ownership stake in the team immediately.


*Holds New York Rangers all-time franchise record for most assists in a single season by a goaltender (5).
*Holds New York Rangers all-time franchise record for most career assists by a goaltender (25).
*Holds Florida Panthers all-time franchise record for most games played by a goaltender (268).
*Holds New Jersey Devils all-time franchise record for best GAA by a goaltender (1.75).
*Holds NHL all-time record for most victories as an American born goaltender (374).
*Holds NHL all-time record for most shutouts as an American born goaltender (40).


* Became the 15th, and only the 2nd American, goaltender in NHL history to record 300 career wins when he defeated the New York Islanders 6–2, December 27, 1997
* Inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in October 2007 cite web|url=|title=U.S Hall of Fame to induct Vanbiesbrouck, Broten, Carpenter, MacInnes|accessdate=2007-08-17||year=2007]
*Last New York Rangers Goaltender to have won the Vezina Trophy.
*Tallied 402 total victories as a player ("including" playoff wins).
*Vanbiesbrouck played through two NHL lockouts.


External links

* [ Hockey Goalies bio]
* [ Audio Life Story & Transcript]

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