Saturday, February 19, 2011

Nick Harbaruk

This is Nick Harbaruk, a hard working forward who played over 500 big league games in the 1970s. Harbaruk was a hard-hitting, defensive winger, specializing on the penalty kill. He often energized his team with his relentless checking.

Interestingly, Harbaruk was born in Drohiczyn, Poland on August 16th, 1943, during World War II. By 1948 his family had moved Toronto to start a new life.

Nick quickly picked up the Canadian game of hockey and turned into a star youth player. Soon enough he was a star with the Toronto Marlies junior team.

The Toronto Maple Leafs owned his rights but placed him in Tulsa, Oklahoma for 5 seasons. The Leafs actually tried to upgrade him from the CPHL to their AHL farm team, but Harbaruk refused to leave. He met his wife there and was earning a degree in economics from the University of Tulsa.

That stand probably cost Harbaruk a chance to ever play with the Leafs. They would have buried him in the minors forever, but NHL expansion in 1967 opened up jobs for many such players. The Pittsburgh Penguins snapped him up.

Harbaruk played four solid seasons in Pittsburgh, and another in St. Louis, before jumping to bigger money with Indianapolis of the WHA. He retired in 1977.

Harbaruk returned to Toronto and started coaching at Seneca College. In 7 seasons Harbaruk found great success, winning 3 Ontario college championships. His legacy there was tainted by an assault charge when a fan behind the bench was struck with a stick. The charge was later dropped.

In 1986 Harbaruk left hockey behind. He and his brother took over their father's sod supply business for local landscapers.

Nick Harbaruk passed away in the early morning hours of March 11th, 2011.

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