John Vanbiesbrouck
John Vanbiesbrouck.jpg
Born September 4, 1963 (1963-09-04) (age 55)
Detroit, Michigan
Height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Weight 175 lb (79 kg; 12 st 7 lb)
Position Goaltender
Catches Left
Played for New York Rangers
Florida Panthers
Philadelphia Flyers
New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils
National team Flag of the United States.svg United States
NHL Draft 72nd overall, 1981
New York Rangers
Playing career 1981–2002

John Vanbiesbrouck (born September 4, 1963) is an American professional ice hockey executive and former goaltender who played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.

He worked as a broadcaster and in hockey-related businesses. In 2013, he was named the general manager of the United States Hockey League's Muskegon Lumberjacks.

Playing CareerEdit

Junior and minor leaguesEdit

While playing midget level hockey, John joined the Little Caesars hockey club, a travel ice hockey team in Detroit. During a tournament in Toronto, he lost his jersey and was forced to wear a teammate's uniform. He played well in the tournament with junior scouts in attendance.

Since John wore another player's jersey he went undrafted in the midget draft, while the player whose jersey he wore was drafted in the fourth round.

After being unclaimed in the draft, John was offered a try-out with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, members of the Ontario Major Junior Hockey League, later becoming the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). At the try-out, he made the team, winning a spot over several other players and became the starting goalie for the Greyhounds.

He played in 56 games and compiled a 31–16–1 record during his first season in Sault Ste. Marie.

Following the 1980–81 season, John was drafted in the 4th round, 72nd overall of the NHL Draft by the New York Rangers.

On December 5, 1981, just months after being drafted, John made his professional debut with the Rangers as an emergency call-up where he defeated the Colorado Rockies 2–1. Despite only allowing one goal and earning his first NHL win, the Rangers decided to return him to Sault Ste. Marie (a move intended to aid his development).

John finished the year with a 12–12–2 record for the Greyhounds and made his first international appearance, representing the United States at the 1982 World Junior Championships. He played one more season for the Greyhounds, playing 62 games, winning 39 of them and being named to OHL Second All-Star Team.

Following his career with the Greyhounds, John moved on to the minor leagues joining the Central Hockey League's (CHL) Tulsa Oilers. During the 1983-84 season, his first with the Oilers, the ownership group was unable to sustain the team.

The team went bankrupt, were taken over by the league and forced to play their remaining games on the road. After losing their home rink, the team was housed in Denver, Colorado where they shared a practice facility with the University of Denver and fellow CHL team the Colorado Flames.

The lack of ice time often forced the Oilers to practice in a mall where they were not allowed to shoot pucks and for extra practice, John had tennis balls hit at him in the parking lot.Despite all the adversity, the Oilers won the Adams Cup as league champions.

Meanwhile, John won the Terry Sawchuk Award, with back-up Ron Scott, for fewest goals against in the league and shared CHL MVP honors with Bruce Affleck by winning the Tommy Ivan Trophy.


John made the Rangers full-time in the 1984–85 season, playing in 42 games and posted a 4.20 goals against average (GAA). The following year, he enjoyed a breakout season, playing in 61 games, winning a career high 31 The 31 victories accounted for all but 5 of the Rangers' regular season total.

John's success continued over to the post-season, where he led the Rangers to an upset over the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round. He then followed it by beating a Washington Capitals team that registered 107 points in the regular season.

The Rangers lost in the Conference Finals to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens.

In the off season Vanbiesbrouck was named a First Team NHL All-Star, won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender and signed a new three-year contract with the Rangers.[15] He was unable to repeat his success in the next season, winning 18 games in 50 games played while losing 20 contests.

Prior to the 1987–88 season, he was hit by a puck under his mask in practice which caused a non-displaced fracture of his lower jaw and a broken tooth. Fortunately for him, the injury did not require his jaw to be wired shut and he was able to return to practice the next day. He showed no ill effects from the injury, playing in 56 games, winning 27.

On June 13, 1988, John suffered nerve damage to his left wrist after a glass coffee table he was sitting on collapsed and broken glass lacerated his ulnar nerve and three tendons. He was sitting on the table, assembling video equipment in anticipation of the birth of his first child. The glass broke beneath him and as he braced for the fall, his wrist was cut by the glass.

John required five hours of microsurgery to remove glass from his wrist and repair the nerve and tendon damage. He was initially expected to miss 4–6 months, but he recovered in time to attend the Rangers pre-season training camp just 3 months later. Again, he played in 56 games and increased his win total to 28.

He began the 1989-90 season as the Rangers' starting goaltender, but after the Rangers struggled in early January, he began to share the duties with the recently called up Mike Richter.

During the playoffs, head coach Roger Neilson employed a rotation system between the two goaltenders. The Rangers won their first round match-up against the Islanders, but lost to the Capitals in the second round. For his part, John posted a 2–3 record with a 3.02 GAA and a .902 save percentage.

The following season, the two goaltenders formed the best duo in the NHL. The duo remained together even after John had a chance to leave via free agency in 1992. A new collective bargaining agreement established him as a group 2 free agent, allowing the Rangers to match any offer from another team or to claim draft choices as compensation if he were to sign with another team.

After not receiving much interest from other clubs, John re-signed with the Rangers, signing a two-year deal with an option for the third averaging $1 million per season. At the end of the 1992–93 season, the decision was made to trade him.

With the upcoming expansion draft, the Rangers would only be able to protect one goaltender.

Faced with the prospect of losing one of their two goaltenders, the Rangers traded John to the Vancouver Canucks for future considerations (Doug Lidster). Vancouver made the trade not with the intention of keeping John, but rather in an attempt to keep other players on their roster from being drafted.

The rules of the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft allowed teams to protect one goaltender, nine forwards and five defensemen. Additional rules stated that teams could only lose one goaltender in the draft and prevented teams from losing both a defenseman and a goaltender.

Prior to the draft, Florida Panthers general manager Bobby Clarke won a coin-toss giving them the first pick in the draft. Thus with their first selection, the Panthers picked Vanbiesbrouck to be the number one goalie for their team.

Upon his arrival in Florida, John went on a "mall tour" to help elevate the visibility of the franchise and made an informative video explaining ice hockey terms for Blockbuster, (then owners of the franchise).

In January 1994, he made his return to Madison Square Garden. In his first game back to his former home venue, he made 51 saves ultimately losing the game 3–2 to his former team.

During the season, he was also named to the All-Star game as the Panthers' sole representative. In the game, John played the third period, made six saves and was credited with the win.

At the end of his first season in Florida, he played in 57 games posting a 21–25–11 record, registering a 2.53 GAA and his career best save percentage of .924 ranked him second in the league.

John was named a Second Team NHL All-Star and was shortlisted for the Hart and Vezina Trophies. His 21 wins tied the Minnesota North Stars' Cesare Maniago's record for the most by an expansion goaltender. The record was later passed by Ron Tugnutt during the Columbus Blue Jackets inaugural season.

The Panthers finished the season with 83 points, one point behind the New York Islanders, for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The following season was shortened due to the 1994-95 NHL lockout.

As a result, John played in just 37 games registering a 14–15–4 record. He lowered his GAA from the previous year to 2.47 and increased his shutout total from one to four, but his save percentage dropped to .914. The Panthers again fell a point short of making the playoffs.

In the 1995–96 season, he was named to the All-Star Game. In the game, he played the second period and gave up three goals on seven shots.

The Panthers were in playoff position for more than half of the season, but faltered late in the season and were close to falling out of the playoff race. Late in the season, John shutout the New Jersey Devils putting Florida into the playoffs.

At the end of the regular season, he played in 57 games posting a 21–25–11 with 2 shutouts. His games played ranked him tenth in the league while his GAA of 2.68 was ninth.

In the first round, Florida defeated the Boston Bruins in five games. Their second round match-up was against the heavily favored Philadelphia Flyers. John posted a shutout in the first game of the series, the third post season shutout of his career and the first in Panthers playoff history.

During the series, John held the Flyers scoreless for 116:46 straight minutes, as Florida upset Philadelphia winning four games to two.

In the Conference Finals, the Panthers were again huge underdogs to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that featured the leagues two top scorers in Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. The Penguins took a 3–2 series lead, but the Panthers won game six 4–3 to force game seven.

In game 7, John made 39 saves in a 3–1 Panthers victory, winning the Eastern Conference and putting them in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Panthers fell behind the Colorado Avalanche 3–0 in the series. Game four was considered one of the classic games in finals' history.

The game was a 0–0 tie entering the third overtime period. Early in the period, a long shot from Colorado's Uwe Krupp eluded John giving the Avalanche a 1–0 win and the Stanley Cup. He made 55 saves in the loss and finished third in voting for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

During the 1996–97 season he was elected by the fans to the All-Star Game as the starting goaltender. John's 200,457 votes led the Eastern Conference.

By the season's end, John finished in the top ten in the NHL for save percentage (6), GAA (5) and tied for 11 in wins (27). The Panthers finished fourth in the Eastern conference and faced the Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

John made 34 saves in game one, shutting out the Rangers 3–0. It was the only game the Panthers won as the Rangers defeated them 4–1 in the series.

The following season, reached a personal milestone. On December 27, 1997, the Panthers defeated the New York Islanders 6–2 at Nassau Coliseum. The win marked the 300th of John's career, making him the 15th goaltender (and second American) in NHL history to reach the mark.

Despite his personal milestone, he suffered through his worst statistical season with the Panthers. The team fared no better as they finished the season in 12th place in the Eastern conference and out of the playoffs.

During the off-season, John signed a two-year $7.25 million contract with an option for a third year, with the Philadelphia Flyers.

His first season with Philadelphia was successful, he posted a career best 2.18 GAA, notching 6 shutouts, playing in a career high 62 games and registering a 27–18–15 record, but he struggled in the playoffs.

Despite posting good individual numbers, John let in "soft" goals that cost the Flyers games. Philadelphia was eliminated in the first round by the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games. He continued to be "shaky" at the beginning of the 1999–2000 season. As a result, rookie Brian Boucher began playing more.

John reached another milestone during the season, becoming the 8th goaltender in NHL history to play in 800 games. He played in 50 games during the season registering a 25–15–9 record, but in the playoff the Flyers went with Boucher.

During the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Philadelphia traded him to the New York Islanders for a fourth-round draft pick.

The Islanders made the trade with the intention of having John mentor first overall draft pick Rick DiPietro. He played in 44 games for the Islanders winning 10 of them and recording a shutout.

On the eve of the NHL trade deadline, the Islanders traded John to the New Jersey Devils for Chris Terreri and a ninth-round pick. New Jersey made the deal with the intent to give starting goaltender Martin Brodeur some rest prior to the playoffs.

With Terreri struggling, they felt it best to bring in someone who had played regularly throughout the year.

John played in 4 games for the Devils, winning them all, and recorded his 40th career shutout. The shutout tied him with Frank Brimsek for the most shutouts by an American-born goaltender in NHL history.

John did not play during the playoffs, but the Devils advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Devils played the Colorado Avalanche and lost in seven games.

John retired immediately after game seven on June 10, 2001. He stated that "it's time" and he wanted to leave the game healthy. He was retired for only eight months before agreeing to terms with the Devils to come out of retirement. He posted a 2–3–0 record as the Devils back up, finishing his career with 374 wins.

John's win total is the most by an American born goaltender in NHL history. He again did not play in the playoffs as the Devils were eliminated in the first round by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Carolina Hurricanes. He retired for the second and final time on May 24, 2002.

Following his playing career, John earned several accolades. The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds retired his number (1). The NHL named him the best player to wear jersey number 344.

On October 12, 2007, he was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. He is fifteenth in NHL history in wins & also sixth all-time in losses.

Coaching CareerEdit

After retiring from the NHL, John took over as the head coach and director of hockey operations for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. In February 2003, the team had a record of 18-24-4-3.

A month later on March 7, 2003, the Greyhounds lost 6–1 to the Guelph Storm. After the game, John used a racial slur in expressing his anger with Trevor Daley (now with the Pittsburgh Penguins), a black player and Greyhounds' team captain at the time to two of Daley's white teammates.

Daley was told of the remarks by his teammates and was advised to leave the team by his agent Bobby Orr. He returned home to Toronto and informed the commissioner of the OHL about the remarks. The day after Daley left the team, John resigned his positions as the coach & general manager and sold his ownership stake in the team.

In his apology, John stated:

"I used the 'N' word instead of calling him Trevor, I used it just not thinking. It's a mistake and consequences have to be paid by me, I've embarrassed everybody and my family by this one comment. It's not what they represent and it's not what the Sault Greyhounds organization represents."

He added, "I told Trev this is an old wound with me, I grew up with it. I'm as sorry as anybody that it's stuck with me."

Daley returned to the team three days after leaving, but John would never returned to a coaching position.

Career StatisticsEdit

Regular seasonEdit

Season Team League GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1980–81 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 56 31 16 1 2941 203 0 4.14
1981–82 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 31 12 12 2 1686 102 0 3.62
1981–82 New York Rangers NHL 1 1 0 0 60 1 0 1.00 .967
1982–83 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 62 39 21 1 3471 209 0 3.61
1983–84 Tulsa Oilers CHL 37 20 13 2 2153 124 3 3.46
1983–84 New York Rangers NHL 3 2 1 0 179 10 0 3.33 .882
1984–85 New York Rangers NHL 42 12 24 3 2371 166 1 4.20 .877
1985–86 New York Rangers NHL 61 31 21 5 3322 184 3 3.32 .887
1986–87 New York Rangers NHL 50 18 20 5 2652 161 0 3.64 .882
1987–88 New York Rangers NHL 56 27 22 7 3315 187 2 3.38 .890
1988–89 New York Rangers NHL 56 28 21 4 3207 197 0 3.69 .881
1989–90 New York Rangers NHL 47 19 19 7 2734 154 1 3.38 .887
1990–91 New York Rangers NHL 40 15 18 6 2257 126 3 3.35 .891
1991–92 New York Rangers NHL 45 27 13 3 2526 120 2 2.85 .910
1992–93 New York Rangers NHL 48 20 18 7 2757 152 4 3.31 .900
1993–94 Florida Panthers NHL 57 21 25 11 3440 145 1 2.53 .924
1994–95 Florida Panthers NHL 37 14 15 4 2087 86 4 2.47 .914
1995–96 Florida Panthers NHL 57 26 20 7 3178 142 2 2.68 .904
1996–97 Florida Panthers NHL 57 27 19 10 3347 128 2 2.29 .919
1997–98 Florida Panthers NHL 60 18 29 11 3451 165 4 2.87 .899
1998–99 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 62 27 18 15 3712 135 6 2.18 .902
1999–00 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 50 25 15 9 2950 108 3 2.20 .906
2000–01 New York Islanders NHL 44 10 25 5 2390 120 1 3.01 .898
2000–01 New Jersey Devils NHL 4 4 0 0 240 6 1 1.50 .935
2001–02 New Jersey Devils NHL 5 2 3 0 300 10 0 2.00 .915
NHL totals 882 374 346 119 50,475 2503 40 2.98 .899

Post seasonEdit

Season Team League GP W L MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1980–81 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 11 3 3 457 24 1 3.15
1981–82 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 7 1 4 276 20 0 4.35
1982–83 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 16 7 6 944 56 1 3.56
1983–84 Tulsa Oilers CHL 4 4 0 240 10 0 2.50
1983–84 New York Rangers NHL 1 0 0 1 0 0 0.00 .000
1984–85 New York Rangers NHL 1 0 0 20 0 0 0.00 1.000
1985–86 New York Rangers NHL 16 8 8 897 49 1 3.38 .897
1986–87 New York Rangers NHL 4 1 3 195 11 1 3.38 .900
1988–89 New York Rangers NHL 2 0 1 107 6 0 3.37 .889
1989–90 New York Rangers NHL 6 2 3 298 15 0 3.02 .902
1990–91 New York Rangers NHL 1 0 0 52 1 0 1.16 .955
1991–92 New York Rangers NHL 7 2 5 368 23 0 3.75 .872
1995–96 Florida Panthers NHL 22 12 10 1332 50 1 2.25 .932
1996–97 Florida Panthers NHL 5 1 4 328 13 1 2.38 .929
1998–99 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 6 2 4 369 9 1 1.46 .938
NHL totals 71 28 38 3965 177 5 2.68 .915


Year Team Event   GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA
1982 United States WJC 5 1 3 0 200 19 0 5.70
1983 United States WJC 5 0 280 17 0 3.64
1985 United States WC 9 6 3 0 492 46 0 5.64
1987 United States WC 7 2 5 0 419 28 0 4.01
1987 United States Can-Cup 4 2 2 0 240 9 0 2.00
1989 United States WC 5 1 2 1 265 20 0 4.53
1991 United States WC 10 3 4 2 526 41 0 4.67
1991 United States Can-Cup 1 1 0 0 60 3 0 3.00
1998 United States Oly 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0.00
Junior int'l totals 10 1 3 0 480 36 0 4.50
Senior int'l totals 37 15 16 3 2003 147 0 4.40

International PlayEdit

Medal record
Competitor for Flag of the United States.svg United States
Men's Ice hockey
Canada Cup
Silver 1991 Canada

John made his international debut in 1982 representing the United States at the World Junior Championship. In five games, he posted a 1–3–0 record with a 5.70 GAA, as the Americans finished in sixth place.

The next year, he again participated in the World Junior Championship. He appeared in five games and lowered his GAA to 3.64, helping the American team improve to fifth place.

In 1985, John played for Team USA at the IIHF World Championships where he posted a 6–3–0 record, defeating three of three top ranked teams in the world (Canada, Czech Republic and Sweden). He later noted that those three victories gave him the confidence to be successful at the NHL level.

The Americans were the second seed following the preliminary round, but they failed to win a single game in the championship round and finished the tournament in fourth place. Individually Vanbiesbrouck was named to the Second All-Star team.

Two years later he played in his second World Championship. He was unable to duplicate his prior success posting a 2–5–0 record, as Team USA finished in seventh place one position away from being relegated to Division I.

During 1987, John also participated in the Canada Cup, registering a 2–2–0 record with a 2.25 GAA. He registered the lowest GAA in the tournament, but the United States finished in fifth place.

He played in two more World Championships in 1989 and 1991 going 1–2–1 and 3–4–2 respectively, as the US improved to sixth place in 1989 and finished just short of winning a medal in 1991 placing fourth.

John was named to the Canada Cup team in 1991, but spent the tournament as Mike Richter's back-up. He played only one game in the tournament defeating Finland 4–3. The United States finished the Canada Cup in second place losing the best of three championship to Canada 2–0.

He was named to the 1996 World Cup of Hockey team, but missed the Americans' victory due to a small cartilage tear in his right shoulder that required off-season surgery to repair.

Prior to the 1998 Winter Olympics, an announcement was made that the NHL would shut down for two and a half weeks to allow its players to participate in the international tournament for the first time.

John was named to the United States team, but spent the majority of the tournament on the bench, playing in one game for only one minute. As a team, the Americans finished in a "disappointing" sixth place.


  • F. W. "Dinty" Moore Trophy (OHL – best rookie goals against average) winner in 1981
  • Selected to the OHL Second All-Star team in 1983
  • Selected to the CHL First All-Star Team in 1984
  • Terry Sawchuk Trophy winner in 1984 (shared with Ron Scott)
  • Tommy Ivan Trophy (CHL Most valuable Player) winner in 1984 (shared with Bruce Affleck).
  • Selected to the NHL First All-Star Team in 1986
  • Vezina Trophy Winner in 1986.
  • Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award winner in 1990 (shared with Kelly Kisio).
  • Selected to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1994
  • Played in 1994, 1996, and 1997 NHL All-Star Games
  • Became the 15th, and only the 2nd American, goaltender in NHL history to record 300 career wins
  • Inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in October 2007
  • Ranked #31 on the all-time list of New York Rangers in the book "100 Ranger Greats"
  • Appears on the NHL 97 cover


  • Holds New York Rangers all-time franchise record for most assists in a single season by a goaltender (5) (shared)
  • Holds New York Rangers all-time franchise record for most career assists by a goaltender (25)
  • Holds NHL all-time record for most Victories among American born goaltenders (374)

Playing StyleEdit

John was a hybrid goaltender who combined the butterfly style and the more traditional stand-up style. He was strong at playing his angles and challenged shooters well.

Small for a goaltender, standing only 5' 8", he relied on his quickness to regain his feet after making saves or to make additional saves in goalmouth scrambles.

John was aggressive when it came to playing the puck which helped him tie the Rangers single season record for assists by a goaltender and set the Rangers career record as well.

Broadcasting & Management CareerEdit

After leaving the Greyhounds, John spent some time as a broadcaster, working as an analyst for Versus network as well as hockey broadcasts on HDNet.

In 2010, he formed the broadcast team for Westwood One's radio coverage of the Winter Olympic hockey games along with Steve Goldstein.

In 2013, John was named the general manager and director of hockey operations for the United States Hockey League's (USHL) Muskegon Lumberjacks.

Personal LifeEdit

John grew up as the youngest of three brothers.

His oldest brother, Frank, was a goaltender who played three seasons of junior-A hockey from 1974 until 1977. His other brother, Julian played left wing for the University of Michigan and briefly played in the International Hockey League as a member of the Toledo Goaldiggers.

When John was with the Rangers, his brother Frank showed signs of severe depression and suicidal tendencies. During this time, he attempted to reach out to Frank, occasionally flying separately from the team on road trips to check in on his brother and talked to him every day, but despite his efforts, Frank committed suicide in 1993.

John called Frank's death "devastating" and that he "felt very empty" when he died, adding that his Christian faith and the Bible helped him through the difficult time.

While playing with the Flyers, John and his family lived in Moorestown Township, New Jersey. He and his wife, Rosalinde, have four sons: Ian, Ben, Nicholas and Daniel. Ian was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) when he was 5 years old.

As a result, he started the Vanbiesbrouck Foundation for children with Attention Deficit Disorder to increase awareness of and raise money for children with ADD, but when he left Florida via free agency, the foundation was dissolved and the mission of the program went into an information service based in South Florida.

John is also the celebrity sponsor of a golf event in support of "The Alan T. Brown Foundation to Cure Paralysis". He returned to his home state of Michigan following his playing days.

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