Tabby the stray is thrilled to have a home where he's the top cat and he's ready to scratch and fight for his team
By Mark Miller - Calgary Sun
September 27, 1997
One year ago, Calgary gave up on Rick Tabaracci.
They were prepared to cut him loose for free in the waiver draft.
What a difference a year makes.
As this year's waiver draft is about to be held, the same Tabaracci sits in the same stall in Calgary.
Only this year, he's the starter.
"Where was I last year on this day?" repeats Tabaracci. "I was a goaltender who was put up on waivers. Oh yeah, I remember."
Last year, Tabaracci was a victim of a numbers game. But he was also almost lost to an organization that simply made a mistake in giving up on the goaltender they should have been protecting.
In the end, Tabaracci's subsequent mid-season-trade to Tampa and then reacquisition in another deal proved positive dividends for the Flames -- they added young centre Aaron Gavey for virtually nothing. Some may call that good mangement. In truth, it was mostly luck.
It was one of the lowest moments in Tabaracci's nomadic career. He played well enough here to stay. He was a fan favorite on a team losing its fan base.
"Even when I left, I had the feeling for some reason I might be back in the organization but certainly nowhere near that quick," said Tabaracci, who detailed those feelings with this columnist last season.
Neither one of us knew then how prophetic his comment would be.
"It's funny to stand back now and really look at things," he says.
"I understood the reasons surrounding it, which made it a little easier to swallow and I thought I was going to get picked up last year.
"I went from not being selected at all to five teams calling Phil Esposito (Tampa GM) at the trade deadline about me. It's all about timing.
"But yeah, it wasn't a great feeling being the guy on the outside."
In one year, Tabaracci, 28, has gone from that low, to perhaps his first legitimate No. 1 role in nine NHL seasons.
His last chance at the No 1 job came in 1993-94 in Washington where he was handed the job, only to wreck his knee and miss much of the season.
"Being the No. 1 guy, you just treat it the same," he said. "We have three of five good goaltenders in our system -- all who would like to be sitting in this stall. You don't change your philosophy.
"It's not a question of No. 1 or No. 2. I've got a partner across the room in Rollie (Dwayne Roloson) and we're good friends and that makes it easier. At the same time, he's going to want to play as many games as he can and I have to respect his ability and he has to respect mine."
Tabaracci isn't worried that the Saddledome has become a house of horrors for previous No. 1 goalies.
"I'm not going to deal with that - I'm not a negative person. When you've reached the age I'm at, I feel better and better and have more confidence than ever on the ice. I feel I could play as many games as they want to give me and know that every night I'm going to give this team an opportunity to win the game.
"That probably wasn't there four or five years ago. It takes proving to yourself and everyone else that you can get in there and do it and that's the biggest thing that has happened to me in the last five years.
"I don't feel I've achieved the level I'm going to top out. This is going to be my best season yet."
Calgary may have given up on him a year ago.
But Tabaracci never gave up on himself.
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