Saturday

Barry Beck

During the late 1970s and much of the 1980s, Barry Beck symbolized the New York Rangers.

But he had to survive some trying times as a young kid on the streets of Vancouver. The youngest of three brothers, Barry seemed to have little trouble finding trouble.

"It started when I was about 15," he said. "I really sprouted when I was about 13 or 14, and I was a pretty big kid, so I started going into bars."

One thing led to another, and soon Beck graduated to small theft - car stereos and such.

Then, at age 17, the best thing that could have ever happened to him happened. He was arrested. He was playing with the WHL's New Westminster Bruins at the time, and the arrest really woke up the potential hockey star.

"It could have been a time when I had my visa taken away from me and then I wouldn't have been able to play hockey in the United States. I wouldn't have known how to deal with that. So many thoughts ran through me. I even thought of running away, because I was so much trouble to people."

But with the help of his family and his hockey coach Ernie "Punch" McLean, Beck straightened up.

"I grew up a lot. I matured. All those tight spots I've gotten into help me even now. I had to learn the hard way."

Beck went on to star in the WHL, racking up lots of points and many more penalty minutes, and even helped the Bruins win the Memorial Cup.. By the summer of 1977 he was so highly regarded by the NHL that the Colorado Rockies made him the second overall draft pick in the Entry Draft, behind only Dale McCourt.

The big, aggressive bruiser burst on to the NHL scene with the Colorado Rockies in 1977 with a bang. Though never known really for his offensive upside, he broke Denis Potvin's record for most goals by a rookie defenseman with 22 goals, and tying the point record with 60. More importantly he led the Rockies to their first playoff berth. Despite his impressive season, he finished second in Calder Trophy voting for the league's top rookie, behind Willi Plett of Atlanta.

"There wasn't any pressure on me (in Colorado)," remembers Beck. "For one thing, there was hardly any media coverage, and there weren't very many fans. The first year was great. We'd just party and have a good time. We got to go to all the nice bars, I could buy a nice car, and we had a great apartment (he roomed with Randy Pierce). I think when you are 21 that is about as good as it can get. When we made the playoffs that year, it was even more exciting!"

Beck's second season didn't match the Rocky Mountain high of the first. His goal and point production tailed off and the Rockies missed the playoffs once again. At the same time, Beck requested that management renegotiate his contract after his monstrous rookie season. That didn't endeared him to management.

Early in Beck's third year, he was traded to the Rangers for 5 players - Pat Hickey, Lucien DeBlois, Mike McEwen, Dean Turner and Bobby Crawford.

Rockies coach Don Cherry had to break the news to Barry.

"I remember going to practice one morning. I had heard the rumours of a trade, because I was renegotiating my contract. But I was only 21 years old and I figured a team doesn't trade a guy that's only 21, unless he steps out of line or something, and I was always real quiet, just going my own way.

"So Cherry said to me, 'Congratulations, you're going to be a millionaire!' I couldn't figure out why. I hadn't bought a lottery ticket or anything. Then he told me I was traded to New York."

The move wasn't exactly welcome news to Barry.

"Down deep inside I thought New York was about the last place I ever wanted to go."

The big city intimidated Beck, particularly the unforgiving media, and less forgiving fans.

"My first reaction was that I'd just better watch what I was saying" said Beck, who actually became a media favorite relatively quickly. "I was afraid of people writing things that weren't true, and I wasn't too outspoken."

Coping with the fans was harder Beck learned. The season before Beck's arrival saw the Rangers play in the Stanley Cup finals. In Beck's first season the Rangers took a step back and bowed out of the playoffs quickly. The fans singled out Beck, who the Rangers of course gave up 5 players from their previous roster.

"I didn't know too much about pressure until I came to New York City" said Beck with a bit of a helpless laugh . "These are knowledgeable fans, and they know when you should be playing better. It was hard for me. It was another one of those things that helped me grow."

Beck struggled somewhat under his first Ranger coach - Fred Shero. But he really thrived once the Rangers replaced Shero with Craig Patrick, and later with Herb Brooks. Those two showed great trust in Beck, and even named him team captain. Beck responded well, playing some of the best hockey Ranger fans have ever witnessed.

Beck, who became a devoted health nut as he matured, enjoyed 7 seasons with the Rangers before injuries shortened his career, forcing him to retire in 1986. He tried a one season comeback with Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings in 1989-90, and then retired contently.

The man they called "Bubba" retired with 104 goals, 251 assists and 355 points in 615 NHL games, plus 1016 penalty minutes. He was an upper-echelon defenseman as suggested by his 5 NHL all star game appearances, his 1979 Challenge Cup inclusion, and his 1981 Canada Cup showing.

19 comments:

Anonymous,  3:59 PM  

At a time when most athletes looked like regular guys, Beck looked like Charles Atlas. Fearsome on the ice, Beck was very personable outside the arena.

Anonymous,  6:00 PM  

I wish Barry Beck would home back home to MSG so we can give him a standing ovation!

Paul,  8:20 PM  

When he left the Kings, it was "by mutual agreement." I've never heard of a player leaving a team that way. Either he's released or he retires.

Anonymous,  3:43 PM  

The most exciting time in hockey Beck vs. Potvin shoot the puck Barry shoot the puck...miss that time wish he would come back for a standing ovation....

Anonymous,  9:05 AM  

He was a great player, I think dominant player that never got as much credit as he deserved.

Anonymous,  8:43 AM  

When Herb Brooks coached the Rangers, he was disappointed at Beck's efforts as team captain, and said, "The 'C' on Beck's jersey stands for 'Coward.'"

Bronx Matt,  6:50 PM  

Beck was the rock that the 1980's Rangers was built on. They were exciting, very flawed teams. Beck was the constant. Although he didn't score as much as we wanted him to and he didnt fight as much as we wanted him to Beck's presence in the lineup gave those teams credibility and a force that teams had to recon with. He clearly wanted to be more than a goon. They could have won a championship in another era - but the Islander and Oiler dynasties thwarted him and them. That holds Barry back from being regarded as an all time great defensive defenseman. But he could make any team of any era.

Anonymous,  12:57 PM  

Beck served the early '80s Rangers well as a "policeman" on the ice. I can't remember him losing a fight. He always had a reason for when he fought. He watched over his team and protected them from the opposition's goons. They were a fairly passive club, for a few seasons, back then. Who can forget Barry's hellacious slapshot?

Anonymous,  9:41 PM  

Watching Beck in Hong Kong now as the coach of an amature hockey club.

Anonymous,  11:49 PM  

Barry Beck is indeed in Hong Kong and coaching mini-squirts and squirts. Those kids will only realise later in life what an amazing advantage they had at that early age.

Anonymous,  1:47 AM  

He was so aggressive on ice, but so quiet and nice when he was off ice. I think he is the best player I've ever seen those times.

Ramblin' P,  3:10 PM  

Mike Bossy won the Calder Trophy during Beck's rookie year (1977-78).

Plett won it the previous year, and the Rangers' Don Murdoch finished second...

bill s "swiz",  6:09 PM  

there are not any players in the nhl anything close to barry/it was a joy to watch him play with ron dougay and nick futio.if you ever get the chance to see game highlights,you deserve the team work and professional hockey at it's finest.beck was the very best!

Mike 9:53 AM  

Barry played in a time when it was legal to clear a guy from in front of the goalie and nobody got in Barry Becks crease. He would clean their clock if they tried it.

Anonymous,  8:03 PM  

I remember Barry Beck from my elementary school in east vancouver,he was two years older than me but I remember him and Dan Hucklack (Winnipeg blue bomber) would fight a lot at Adanac park,we were all terrified of both of them they were the toughest guys at Franklin elementary

Anonymous,  6:59 AM  

Yes, I totally agree that our kids are very blessed to have Coach Barry. He made a difference in them on Ice and off the ice.

Anonymous,  9:13 PM  

Barry Beck was my favorite player of all time. He was robbed of a brilliant career by a bad shoulder. I always remember him being a great team mate and always protected his smaller team mates. I'm sure his work in hong kong is great, but I miss him and wish he would home back to the garden for some appreciation!

Anonymous,  8:31 AM  

Barry Beck was one of the greatest Ragers of all time. He played his heart out every night fought anyone any time. Injuries and the fact that he had to play Policeman and Top D-Man did not work. The other team could lure him into a fight and the Rangers Best player would be off the ice for 5-15 minutes.Bottom line Great Player Huge Heart !!

Anonymous,  5:17 PM  

Couldn't agree more with the comments made here. One of the toughest, stay at home defensemen of his time but also had great offensive skills. He didn't fight as much because everyone feared him. The rangers sorely miss a player like Bubba.

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