NHL goalie back home to give back to young goalies and to charity Jason LaBarbera wasn’t happy with his golf game.
His drives went far and hit the fairways and his iron shots stayed straight, but there’s more to golf than that, much to his chagrin.
Not long after the Los Angeles Kings goaltender stepped off the plane in his hometown, he was out on the course at Prince George Golf and Curling Club — watching his putter let him down.
“My golf game’s not bad, but I can’t putt, that’s the problem,” said LaBarbera.
“I played the Golf and Curling Club and I was 45 on the front and 37 on the back. I three-putted three holes and four-putted one on the front, what a waste.”
LaBarbera plans to spend as much time as he can fine-tuning his short game, with less than a week to go before he tees up for the Commonwealth Cup charity golf tournament next Tuesday at Aberdeen Glen Golf Club.
LaBarbera should fetch among the highest bids in the auction for the right to golf with him in the fifth annual event. He’ll join a celebrity lineup that includes former Vancouver Canucks Dennis Kearns, Garry Monahan, Gerry O’Flaherty, John Grisdale and Darcy Rota, the Prince George minor hockey product. Also on celebrity list are ex-Prince George Cougars winger Ronald Petrovicky, back from a season of pro hockey in Switzerland, and Spruce Kings associate coach Stew Malgunas, who spent time playing defence in the NHL with Philadelphia, Washington, Winnipeg, and Calgary.
With 178 golfers signed up, the Commonwealth Cup is believed to be the largest charity golf tournament in northern B.C. Proceeds will go to The Exploration Place Science Centre and Museum and the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.
LaBarbera makes his home in Manhattan Beach, Calif.,and although he’s not a regular golfer, he did get to play one of the most spectacular courses in the world — the Trump National in Rancho Palos Verdes. Built on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean south of Los Angeles, the course has the distinction as one of the most costly in the world to build, at $250 million. Construction costs soared when the 18th hole slumped and tumbled off the cliff.
“It costs $300 bucks a round there but we got it for $50 because our (Kings) strength and coach knows someone there,” said LaBarbera.
LaBarbera is coming off what he describes as an “up and down season” with the Kings. He played well enough early in the season to earn the starting job, but injuries limited his effectiveness at times and he ended the season prematurely when he had to have surgery to repair a sports hernia injury.
His season highlights included a pair of wins at GM Place in Vancouver over the Canucks, his favourite NHL team as boy. He also beat the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. The Rangers were his first NHL team, having picked him in the third round, 66th overall, of the 1998 draft. In 45 games with the Kings last season he complied a 17-23-2 record with a 3.00 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
With Dan Cloutier’s departure, the 28-year-old LaBarbera is the most experienced goalie left on the Kings roster. Erik Ersberg, who played 14 games, is the only other Kings goalie with NHL experience, and junior graduate Jonathan Bernier is waiting in the wings.
Although it has yet to be announced officially, the Ottawa Citizen is reporting that Terry Murray has been hired to replace Marc Crawford as Kings head coach. LaBarbera said it was difficult at times working with Crawford, who was fired after the season.
“He was a tough guy to read, he’s pretty intense and likes things done his way,” said LaBarbera. “Obviously he has a good track record and is a respected coach because he’s won a Stanley Cup but it seemed it never was a good fit having Crow there, with the group of guys we had.”
The Kings were last overall in the NHL and general manager Dean Lombardi has elected to bring on a youth movement. They traded their top winger, Mike Cammalleri, to get another first-rounder in the 2008 draft, after selecting Drew Doughty of the Guelph Storm second overall. They also picked Colten Teubert of the Regina Pats 13th overall.
“I’m sure we’ll have a lot of young guys, but I’ve just been reading (on the Internet) they might trade for (Sens goalie Martin) Gerber, which is interesting,” said LaBarbera. “I’ve pretty much stopped trying to figure everything out a long time ago.”
LaBarbera is one of the guest instructors this week at Tyler Love’s World Pro Goaltending School, going at the Elksentre. Three months after his surgery, he still carrying a little pain.
“I feel it at times, I think it’s more scar tissue than anything, especially this week standing around all day at the goalie camp, but it’s not going to get any worse,” said LaBarbera said.
LaBarbera said he never went through a goaltending hockey school in his minor hockey days, other than the Spruce Kings school, which did not offer goaltending instruction.
“It was target practice basically,” he said. “Now there’s a whole process to it and the kids do what we do (with the Kings) — the same drills and stuff.”
Golf game isn’t going to make LaBarbera famous
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