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Tabby's one caring cat

By Rick Bell - Sun Columnist
August 29, 1996

Rick Tabaracci and I are at Luciano's. A sunny lunch on the patio. You know, life is not too bad.
The popular Flames netminder has a new contract at $800,000 plus a year, he's ready to battle Trevor Kidd for the No. 1 goalie spot and he's waiting for his hero to arrive in Calgary in a couple of hours.
His dad.
Mention his dad, Galliano, who worked 36 hard years as a car painter in Toronto after moving from Italy as a teenager, and Tabby has the tales.
Eating homemade pizza with dad and older brother Mark, watching the Saturday night hockey games and cheering on the Leafs. Or how much his dad and mom Anneli helped him take the first steps in the world of hockey.
"They did everything for me. My dad would be gone to work by 6:30 in the morning and, when I'd have a game at eight at night, he's go straight to the rink from work. Mom would pack him a sandwich and he'd eat it at the game."
Or how his folks were devastated when he left home at 16 to play junior for the Cornwall Royals.
"On a Sunday, they'd drive four and a half hours to Cornwall to watch me play in the afternoon. We'd have dinner together and they'd drive all the way back, get home at two in the morning and get ready for work."
The flashy goalie knows he's got a lot to be thankful for. It shows. Even this summer, in the middle of a contract dispute with the Flames, Tabby was riding a horse in the Stampede parade, showing up at Stampede Kids' Day and was out at a Saddledome in-line skatng event.
This season, he'll be in Calgary schools reading stories to little kids and helping at the Children's Hospital.
But Tabby, why do the community stuff when you didn't even know you'd be signing with Calgary?
"If I stopped, I'd be taking it out on the wrong people and there's no point doing that. It's not my style.
"Just walk through the Children's Hospital. These kids are phenominal role models for me. Some may never get out of the hospital but, when you see the kids, they're happy excited.
"A lot of times, we take things for granted until we can't do them anymore."
And fan support, which Tabby now enjoys in Flame Town, is something he knows you can't take for granted.
"The fans were great last year. Everywhere I've gone this summer, I haven't heard a bad word.
"I don't find signing autographs to be a pain in the butt. You have to try not to lose sight of what it was like for you. Seeing a hockey player and saying: 'Wow! That's Lanny McDonald!'
"Remember these fans are hanging out for hours waiting for you. It just takes a second to do it."
After talk of dad, mom and little kids, the conversation takes a hard-nosed turn.
It's no secret. More than anything, Tabby wants to be the starter.
"Last year, I wanted to get in long enough to prove what I could do. Now I'd like to play as many games as I can."
Tabby doesn't know whether the Flames will alternate the goaltenders or choose a No. 1. But he's ready.
"I'm going to go out and try to sway the coaches decision in training camp, just the same as Trevor and Dwayne Roloson are going to try to do."
His voice is determined.
"And I know this is a great place to play. I'm a Canadian and I want to play in Canada. And Calgary is where I want to be a hockey player."

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