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John Barbero: an iconic voice, a greater man


Longtime PA announcer for Penguins home games John Barbero died Monday after a long and spirited battle with a brain tumor. He was 65 and is survived by three children and three grandchildren, but really the lives he touched number in the thousands of students he worked with at Waynesburg High School and the fans who heard him call goals at The Igloo.

My memory of John will be the way he inspired joy at the Mellon Arena press box. He was friends with the off-ice officials, team personnel and most of the old-guard media — and on many game nights I caught myself laughing at the good-natured shots they delivered to one another, with John setting a great example by going with the yucks even when they were at his expense.

John was always kind enough to speak with me, even on the days when I wasn’t popular because of something I had reported. He loved the Penguins dearly, and his contribution to their popularity cannot be overstated. Yes, Mario Lemieux would have delighted home fans with spectacular goals no matter who manned the PA, but credit Barbero for helping Mario’s magic seem magical because of the way Barbero delivered the name: Mar-e-0 Le-muuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

Let’s use this space the next few days to honor John Barbero. I encourage dear readers to share their memories, and that includes the students that John treated like his own children.

Rest well, John. We’ll miss youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.




Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

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