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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Lost Rookies: 1988-89 OPC Mario Brunetta

   When I was a child, Mario Brunetta was a favourite of mine.  I used to do mock leagues, with boxscores and trading cards.  I have a notebook or two full of seasons tucked away somewhere in my parent's basement.  What I did find were the trading cards, unfortunately, Brunetta was out of my mock league, the "Super Hockey League" before I started making cards.  

  Brunetta, born in Quebec City, was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in the 8th round, 162nd overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft.  Brunetta played two more seasons in the AHL before turning pro in 1987.  Following a quick audition with the Fredericton Express, going 4-1-0, Brunetta was called up to the NHL.   After losing his first NHL start, 5-4 in overtime, to the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 31, 1987, Mario bounced back in his next start beating the Harford Whalers, 5-3 on November 7th.  Mario was the back-up the majority of the season to incumbent Mario Gosselin, but had a nice ten game run in February to March.  He went 8-2-0, .905 and 2.81 during that stretch, before finishing the season losing 4 straight games, allowing a combined 21 goals.  

  The Nordiques acquired Bob Mason in the 1988 offseason, and along with Ron Tugnutt, pushed the two Marios, Brunetta and Gosselin for creasetime.  After a solid win over the Minnesota North Stars, Brunetta quickly lost ground in the race for the crease, allowing 18 goals in 166 minutes, 6.51 GAA, over the next four games he played.  He was demoted and finished the season with the Halifax Citadels.  

1989-90 OPC Mario Brunetta

 The 1989-90 season was not much better for Brunetta.  He started the season with Halifax but was called up to the Nordiques in November.  As like the previous season, he won his first game, and then things went downhill over the next few.  He was sent back to the AHL after going 1-2-0, .869, and 4.08 in six games.  The Nordiques were historically bad during the 1989-90 season.  They tied the record for least points by an non-expansion team, 31 points, and worst win percentage by a non-expansion team, .194.  The Quebec goalies combined to set a record by most goalies used in a NHL season with 7, since beaten.  Brunetta finished the season, and his North American career, in the AHL.

1990-91 Bowman Mario Brunetta  

  After not finding any appealing offers to stay in North America, Brunetta followed his family roots to Italy.  He played four season in Italy while becoming an Italian citizen.  As a citizen, he represented Italy thrice at the World Hockey Championships, in 1995, 1998 and 2002, and also at the 1998 Winter Olympics.  After playing twelve seasons in Europe, Brunetta retired at age 35.  

  Although he had a few minor league and European cards during his playing days, Mario never had a NHL.  The obvious choice was a 1988-89 card.  I was a huge fan of Brunetta, and fellow Nordique rookie, Jason Lafreniere.  While neither panned out in the NHL, I am pretty sure they were MVPs in my fictional SHL.

1988-89 OPC #275 Mario Brunetta (RC)

1988-89 OPC #275 Mario Brunetta (RC)


  1. Nice Bowman card, there. I was a kid who was just getting into hockey in the late-1980s, so I have no knowledge of Mario Brunetta at all.

    Also, your Super Hockey League must have been a lot of fun. Hope you find those notebooks!

  2. Why were you such a fan of Brunetta?

    1. No idea. I was 9-10 years old then. I was a fan of the Nordiques. He must have had a good game on the sports highlights and I liked the name.