Monday, May 14, 2012
As a rookie in junior hockey during the 1975-76 season, Steve Tambellini loudly announced his presence with 38 goals and 97 points in 72 games with the Lethbridge Broncos, earning WCHL Rookie of the Year honors. He reaffirmed his talent by raising his goal total the following season to 42, despite playing in 17 less games!
In his final season of junior hockey, Tambellini, born on this date in 1958, finished third in the league in scoring with a team leading 155 points from 75 goals and 80 assists in 66 games. During the season, he would make his international debut for Canada with 2 goals and 2 assists on his way to earning a bronze medal at the 1978 World Junior Tournament. Following the season, Tambellini was drafted in the first round by the New York Islanders in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft.
He would spend the following season with the Fort Worth Texans of the CHL, notching 25 goals and 52 points. He also made his NHL debut with a single game with the Islanders.
In 1978-80, Tambellini spent the entire season with the Islanders, but saw the ice in only 45 games in a limited role, but was able to score his first 5 NHL goals as well as 8 assists. While he did not play in any games in the playoffs, the powerful Islanders would go on to win their first Stanley Cup, and Tambellini's name was engraved on the cup based on his regular season contributions.
After playing 61 games with the Islanders in 1980-81, Tambellini, deemed expendable due to the incredible depth and scoring ability of the Islanders roster in the early stages of it's Stanley Cup dynasty, was sent westward, along with goaltender Chico Resch, to the Colorado Rockies, where he added 6 goals to his season total to record his first 20 goal season with 25 in all. After scoring 18 points in 13 games with Colorado, Tambellini joined Team Canada for the 1981 World Championships.
Playing a much larger role with the offensively challenged Rockies, Tambellini scored 29 goals and 59 points, good for second place on the club while playing on a line with veteran Lanny McDonald and Paul Gagne.
Tambellini was headed back east for the 1982-83 season when the Rockies franchise relocated to New Jersey, where they were renamed the Devils. There, the center registered his third consecutive season of at least 25 goals and his second consecutive season of leading the club in goals.
During the off season, it was once more back west, as Tambellini was involved in a deal which sent him to the Calgary Flames. After his first season of 73 games, he would be limited to just 47 games the second season.
He then moved even further west, signing a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks for the 1985-86 season, but was limited to 48 games with a knee injury and later a broken thumb. He bounced back with 72 games in 1986-87.
His final NHL season saw him still with the Canucks, but he also took the uncommon for then step of playing for Canada during the 1988 Olympics, which were held in Canada while the NHL regular season was still in progress, scoring a goal and three assists.
Not quite done with playing hockey, Tambellini played 10 games in Switzerland for Zurcher SC in Swiss second division in 1988-89 and a full season with EC Villacher SV in Austria, where he went out in style, scoring 44 goals and 81 points in 38 games to close out his playing career.
In all, he scored 160 NHL goals and 310 points in 553 games.
He has since remained in the game as a member of first the Canucks front office, rising to the level of Assistant General Manager. He would also serve as Director of Player Personnel for Team Canada at the 2002 Olympics, the 2003 World Juniors and 2004 World Cup of Hockey and has since been named General Manager for the Edmonton Oilers.
Today's featured jersey is a 1982-83 New Jersey Devils Steve Tambellini jersey from the Devils first season after relocating from Colorado when Tambellini led the club in goals. The Devils would wear these red and green jerseys for their first 10 seasons before changing their colors to red and black, finally escaping the endless comparisons to having "Christmas colors".
The only two patches ever worn on this style came in the jerseys final season of 1991-92 when they wore the NHL 75th Anniversary patch on their left chest and a discreet Devils 10th Anniversary patch on the rear hem of their jerseys next to the CCM branding, perhaps the smallest patch ever worn on an NHL jersey.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1988 Team Canada Steve Tambellini jersey as worn during the 1988 Olympics held in Calgary. While all the teams were contractually obligated to wear Tackla jerseys for the Olympics, Canada chose to wear their Canadian manufactured CCM jerseys for the Games, which resulted in them receiving a $100,000 fine despite covering up the CCM logo on the rear hem with a piece of twill.
Photo courtesy of Classic Auctions