Obituary: John Barbero / Longtime public address announcer for Penguins
Penguins fans are sure to take with them the sights and sounds of Mellon (nee Civic) Arena, which is just about to be shuttered. That, no doubt, includes the velvety voice of longtime public address announcer John Barbero.
Those who attended home games over a span approaching four decades probably can't envision one of Mario Lemieux's goals without hearing Mr. Barbero's call, stretching out the Hall of Fame center's last name.
"It meant the world to him. He loved the Penguins. There wasn't an away game he didn't watch, either," Mr. Barbero's son, Brady, said.
"He wanted to do them as long as he could. He really wanted to be able to announce in that new arena."
Consol Energy Center won't be graced with his calls. Mr. Barbero, of Roscoe, Washington County, lost his battle with a brain tumor Monday night. He was 65 and also was a retired principal in the Central Greene School District.
"John was a big part of the experience of Penguins hockey," said Tom McMillan, Penguins vice president of communications, who visited Mr. Barbero Sunday.
"Pittsburgh has been unique in that way, to have John Barbero and [late organist] Vince Lascheid at Mellon Arena.
"He was every bit a part of the experience for a whole generation. That's all they knew."
"On behalf of the entire Penguins organization, I want to express our deepest sympathy to John's family," Mr. Lemieux, now a team co-owner, said in a news release.
"John was one of a kind, a true professional, and he always will be remembered as a member of the Penguins family. He will be missed."
Mr. Barbero took the public address microphone in 1972-73. The last game he worked was Game 6 of the 2009 Stanley Cup final, just before the Penguins clinched the Stanley Cup in Game 7 at Detroit. He then went on medical leave at the beginning of last season, with Ryan Mill filling in.
Mr. McMillan said Mr. Barbero was extremely proud when he was awarded a Stanley Cup ring.
"It was a labor of love, and he had such a distinctive voice," Mr. McMillan said. "He wasn't a guy to go overboard, but he knew when to come up with something."
Such as the Lemieux call. Or the way he stretched out the name of former Penguins bad boy Jarkko Ruutu.
"I remember he told me he had something for Ruutu when they signed him," Brady Barbero said. "My brother and myself and my sister would try to get him to give us one 'Ruu-tuuuu,' but he wouldn't do it. He was professional."
Mr. Barbero began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey, working dances and for radio station WESA. He landed the Penguins job in the franchise's fifth season.
He began his teaching career in the Ringgold School District. He retired as a Central Greene principal in 2004.
In addition to his son Brady, of Washington County, Mr. Barbero is survived by a daughter, Melissa Christian of Scottsdale, Ariz., and another son, Brett of Washington County, and three grandchildren.
Arrangements were not complete.
First Published July 27, 2010 12:00 am