The sport of hockey has exploded in the United States and the talent has been getting better and better. From the “Miracle on Ice” days to the silver medal in Vancouver, there is no doubt that the United States has become a hockey superpower. This emergence of American talent has also led to an increase in the number of goalies born in the USA.
This is my list of the top 10 American-born goalies in history.
Almost everyone in hockey has heard of Jimmy Craig, but you will be hard pressed to find someone who knows Jack McCarten. Jimmy Craig was the goalie on the 1980 USA Olympic Team and McCarten was the goalie for the 1960 team. Each goalie backstopped their team to the gold medal, but Jimmy Craig is the one who got to be played by Eddie Cahill in a feature length film.
Neither goalie ever amounted to anything in the NHL, but it would be a crime to not honor them on this list.
Dunham started his NHL career in the 1996-1997 season with the Devils backing up Martin Brodeur. Dunham was one of the few American goalies to win the Jennings Trophy (with only minor help by the future Hall of Famer Brodeur sarcasm oozing) and won 141 games during his career.
Guy Hebert was part of 90s’ emergence of the United States as a hockey superpower. He is best known for his time as a Mighty Duck but has also spent time with the Rangers and Blues. Guy Hebert won over 190 games during his career and represented the Ducks in the 1997 NHL All-Star game. Guy Hebert was a solid goalie that always seemed to play for struggling teams.
Tim Thomas seemed to come out of nowhere during the Bruins’ 2005-2006 season and since then has won over 160 games. Tim Thomas was the backup to Ryan Miller during the Vancouver Olympics (which earned him a Silver Medal) and holds the NHL Record for save percentage in a single season (.938). Thomas is one of only six American goalies to ever win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie.
John Vanbiesbrouck has more wins than any other American goalie with 374. Though he started his career with the Rangers, many remember his run to the Stanley Cup Finals with the 1995-1996 Florida Panthers. Vanbiesbrouck’s stellar play as a Panther earned him the spot on the cover of NHL 97. John Vanbiesbrouck also shares the record for most shutouts by an American goalie with 40. “The Beezer” played in multiple All-Star Games and is one of only six American goalies to ever win the Vezina Trophy.
Ryan Miller will likely finish his career as the top American-born goalie ever, even if he never wins the Cup. Miller has won over 220 games in his career and will likely play another nine seasons. He backstopped Team USA to the Silver Medal in his MVP performance at the Vancouver Olympics and has been voted as an All-Star in the NHL, AHL and NCAA. Ryan Miller is also one of only six American goalies to ever win the Vezina Trophy.
Miller has also been seen commercials with Shaq…that’s got to count for something.
Mike Richer is a tough goalie to discuss, because he could have been better. A career littered with injuries prevented him from being legendary, but there is no doubting his talent. Richter has a Stanley Cup ring, an Olympic Silver Medal and a World Cup of Hockey Gold Medal. He participated in the NHL All-Star Game on several occasions and was even the MVP in 1994. Mike Richter was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame and has had his number retired by the Rangers. Even though his career was limited by injuries, Richter was still able to earn over 300 wins.
Frank “Mr. Zero” Brimsek was an American legend in goaltending. He played most of his career with the Bruins but spent one season with the Blackhawks. Brimsek amassed 252 wins in his career and shares the American Goalie shutout record (40) with John Vanbiesbrouck. He was also an All-Star on eight separate occasions.
“Mr. Zero” is the only American goalie to win the Vezina on two separate occasions (1939 and 1942) and was the first American goalie to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The number one choice on this list is an easy one: Tom Barrasso. He began his career with a Calder Cup and ended it with 369 wins and an induction into the US Hockey Hall of Fame. Though many associate him with the Penguins, he actually began his career with the Buffalo Sabres in a tenure that would also see him win the Jennings trophy with Bob Sauve. Tom Barrasso won two Stanley Cups and is also one of only six American goalies to ever win the Vezina Trophy.