Seven years later, Romano makes winning look easy

ON THE NHL

January 11, 1994|By SANDRA McKEE

The Pittsburgh Penguins' Roberto Romano is giving NHL goalies a bad name -- not to mention what he is doing to goal scorers.

Until nine days ago, Romano, 31, had not played an NHL game in seven years. Not since Feb. 25, 1987. Instead, he has been playing in Bolzano, Merano and Milano of the Italian League.

Romano is 1-0-1 with a 1.44 goals-against average. Makes one wonder, how hard this game can be? Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek's 1.88 GAA suddenly looks realistic.

"Hey, it's only two games," said Romano, laughing, from his home in Pittsburgh. "Dominik has been playing great. It's just a fun turn of events. Two games, against Ottawa and Calgary, that's all. I could go out next time, give up seven goals and that goals-against would balloon."

Romano's name should be familiar to longtime Baltimore Skipjacks fans. For two seasons in the early 1980s, he was the Skipjacks' No. 1 goalie. Then he moved up to the Penguins for the better part of three seasons before being traded to Boston in 1987.

"The years I had in Baltimore were the most fun I've ever had in hockey," Romano said. "I was -- what? -- 21-22 years old and having a good time. But by the time I got to Boston, I wasn't enjoying it any more. That's why I left for Europe."

Asked the biggest difference between being in the NHL then and now, he immediately points to his team.

"When I was here the last time, we were fighting just to make the playoffs," he said. "Now we're fighting to win a Stanley Cup. It's a lot easier to play goalie with this team than it ever was with the other one. Heck, if I'd have had this team in front of me, I might never have left."

He decided it was time to come home from Europe after he and his wife, Julie, had a daughter, Chloe, 18 months ago. He thought he would come home, retire from hockey and get a 9-to-5 job "like everyone else."

The NHL Official Guide and Record Book already lists him as retired, but Romano has never sent an official letter advising the league of that.

"But after seven years, I guess they figured I must be," he said.

But then came a call from Gilles Meloche, the Penguins' goalie coach, asking if he'd like to come there as the third goalie to be used in emergency situations.

It has been more than he had expected. With Tom Barrasso able to play only 16 games this season because of a series of injuries, Romano has spent most of the season with the Penguins instead of their Cleveland farm team.

"The only way it could be topped is if they keep me up here, or send me down to Cleveland and then recall me to be on the roster in the playoffs," he said. "If we won the Stanley Cup, that would be a dream. After being out so long, can you imagine? Just to be a part of it, just to be part of the organization, even if JTC you didn't get to play a minute. That would be something."

Calling Ciccarelli fans

The man Washington Capitals fans love, Detroit right wing Dino Ciccarelli, joined the NHL's prestigious 500-goal club Saturday, and he did it in style.

Ciccarelli, who played for the Capitals from 1988-89 through 1991-92, flew his father, Ed, to the game in Los Angeles just because he "had a feeling" he'd get the goal against the Kings and wanted to share the moment with his dad.

Ciccarelli's coach, Scotty Bowman, was impressed by the gesture. "It was a gutsy move to fly him in and showed a lot of confidence," Bowman said.

Detroit visits USAir Arena Jan. 30. There are 5,400 tickets available. Which begs the question: Where are all the fans who are still lamenting Dino's departure?

Just a stat? Yeah, right

It was just a little stat that came from the Kings' public relations office and showed up in a league release. It indicated Wayne Gretzky loves to play against Capitals goalie Don Beaupre more than any other active goalie.

Gretzky has scored 29 times against retired Richard Brodeur, who played nine seasons with the New York Islanders, Vancouver and Hartford, and Mike Liut, who played 13 seasons with St. Louis, Hartford and Washington.

Beaupre has allowed Gretzky 21 goals through 13 seasons with Minnesota and Washington.

"It's a stupid stat," said Beaupre. "If you look up Richard Brodeur, it's probably because he played against him the most. But this stat doesn't say Gretzky scored more goals against Vancouver than any other team. It doesn't say anything about the team play. A lot of different things go into giving up goals."

Did he feel better after venting his feelings?

"Yes," he said.

He also would probably feel a lot better if someone else's name led the active list.

Funny, isn't it?

The league is cracking down on violence. But since crime fighter Brian Burke has been handing out suspensions, fighting has gone up.

Isn't it funny that the longest suspension handed out by the league -- aside from the 21 games given to Dale Hunter at the end of last season by commissioner Gary Bettman -- was leveled on the Islanders' Mick Vukota, who gets an automatic boot for 10 games because he left the bench during an altercation?

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