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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.

Comments

  1. Joe says:

    A class gentlemen who will be remembered with the likes of Myron Cope & Bob Prince. I will always remember his voice being the first to introduce me to the sport of Penguin hockey in the Civic Arena. The city of Pittsburgh hockey fans missed you this year and will never forget you, John. God Bless you & your family and thanks for the many cherished announcements over the many years! Youuuuu were the BEST!

  2. Zach Roscoe says:

    As a Pens fan, and former student of Mr. Barbaro (he’ll always be my principal), I’m deeply saddened by the loss of such a legend. Mr. Barbaro was not only a legend in Pittsburgh, but also in Waynesburg, where he treated every student like his own child. I will never forget how many lives Mr. Barbaro has touched, and what an impact he made on my life. I’ll also never forget how excited my mom was when she first met Mr. Barbaro at a parent teacher conference, because she was a fan of his since his early days of broadcasting during her college years. She would recall his radio persona with so much delight. The world has lost not only a great announcer, principal, DJ, and educator, but also a great friend.
    To the Barbaro family, I offer my condolences. To the millions who delighted in hearing his every call at the Igloo, I share your loss. I think it is fitting that the Pens start next season in a different arena, because the Igloo could never be the same without Mr. Barbaro.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  3. Robert L. Eric Robinson says:

    Years ago I was coaching Squirt B hockey and our team got the chance to play in one of the couple-minute scrimmages between periods during a Pens game. It was a very cool experience for all of us but especially for the kids. Well, our boys scored twice and John actually announced their goals over the PA. It was great to see the guys’ faces when they heard their names announced by “the same guy that announces Mario’s goals.” He will be dearly missed by all of us fans.

  4. Ron Jesso says:

    As a former School Director In the Central Greene School District.I knew the educator sideof the Doctor .John did his job with great passion and grace.He will surley be missed.

  5. Judy Lomago says:

    I remember Mr. Barbero as one of the greatest English teachers ever!! I had him when he taught at Carroll Jr High in the early 70′s ~ he always inspired us to try our best . . . by setting the best example for his students. He will be missed!

  6. Dan Haught says:

    I had Mr. Barbero as a High School principal at Waynesburg. When he did announcements at school it was like being at a game. I am also a Pens fan and missed his announcing at the games last season. Not that the guy doing it now does a bad job I was just accustomed to Mr. Barbero. I watched an interview that someone did with him and he said “He wan’t going to retire until the Pens won a Stanley Cup at home.” I wish he could have done that before he passed away. There should be a banner or plaque at the new arena for Mr. Barbero. I was sad by the news and was hoping to hear him annouce again.

  7. KBell says:

    In a world where a novel idea at one arena is soon duplicated ad nauseum at every other venue, I always admired the unique delivery of John Barbero. While most other teams have an announcer that shouts and growls his way through his banter, John spoke with class and dignity. His oh-so-recognizable voice got you excited about the game earnestly, not by using forced melodramatic antics and animal noises. And you could actually understand what he was saying, unlike many others who seem to think *they* are the entertainment you paid to see. With John at the mic and Vince at the arena organ, the Civic Arena set a standard that no other arena could match. He will be missed, but always remembered.

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