By Mark Miller
Calgary Sun - December 12, 1997
Dinner at La Casa Tabaracci.
You'd expect maybe a little pasta primavera, maybe tortellini, a little red wine.
Not last night.
Dinner was newspaper column ala crow, and a somewhat bitter whine.
Tabaracci fed this writer a little alphabet soup as the appetizer, beginning with the Nov. 7 Sun headline 'Shabby Tabby.'
Gulp. Shabby is, of course, now Not So Shabby.
Last night's cuisine of dangling participles, adjectives and split infinitives came courtesy of a player proving a writer wrong.
The headline and column drew an immediate and bitter response from Tabaracci, made very clear in a private 20-minute session in a quickly emptied dressing room.
At the time, Tabaracci's record stood at 1-7-1, his GAA 3.34 and save percentage a brutal .858.
Since then, he has been the catalyst for the team's slow but steady turnaround.
He is last month's Sun Sports Flame of the month and coming off two outstanding performances in leading the team to its first back-to-back road wins in 10 months.
He's been consistently good in his last dozen starts.
But Tabaracci's anger after the Shabby column was that he continues to be perceived as a career back-up.
"Obviously they moved someone (Trevor Kidd) to make room for me. What frustrated me, is that you know what you are capable of and all you want is the opportunity to prove it," said Tabaracci from his modest northwest home.
"I've had that the last few years and I don't think I've let people down.
"My first reaction was I was upset with you for the article because, after three years, you want to believe someone has more faith and you are looked at as more than a headline for the day.
"I don't hide in the corner. I wasn't as good as I could be at the beginning of the year. Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew and try too hard, but those are the kind of players you want.
"I want to give this team an opportunity to win every night. I can't score goals, but what I can do is help our young defence and try to stop the puck."
Since his shabby start, Tabaracci has improved his GAA to a respectable 2.87 and his save percentage is close to .900.
"The stats are different, but I haven't changed a lot. We have played better as a team. We were scoring one or two goals a game and so your goaltender let in one goal you didn't like, is he why you lost? I don't think you can point a finger at someone where every mistake shows up on the scoreboard. We're all guilty of mistakes.
"Now we have an understanding we will be a hard-working team that is responsible defensively.
"Good goaltending is usually what helps turn any team around. You can be instrumental in helping build confidence for everybody. If anything, over the last while we've been able to grow and become better players, and that's true for me, too.
"I'm playing better because (we)are playing better and I'm not allowing those second shots in because there are no second shots. It all translates into team success."
Team success is still a long ways off for these Flames.
But Tabaracci has done his job in allowing this team the opportunity to win games. That's his job and he's been anything but shabby.
"I think I've established a pretty good reputation. I don't think one article that says Shabby Tabby will tear that apart," said Tabaracci.
But serving up a little revenge obviously agrees with the ever game Tabaracci.
You could say that last night I got my just desserts.
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