Barry Goers received a lot of compliments during his exit interview with the coaching staff at the end of last season, but he wasn’t sure if it was enough for the Penguins to bring him back.
Goers signed a one-year AHL deal with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Tuesday, and the veteran defenseman was relieved and excited to return to the place that he considers home.
“It means a lot that they really wanted me to come back,” Goers said. “Wilkes-Barre has been true to how I like to approach the game and life. I’ve played in a lot of different places, and Wilkes-Barre is the place I feel at home.”
It’s also the place where Goers established himself as an AHL player. During his first four seasons as a pro, Goers, 28, bounced between the ECHL and AHL. In 2014, after beginning the season in Wheeling, Goers came up to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and proved he could play consistently at the AHL level. His 23-game stint that year earned Goers another one-year deal for last season – his first in the AHL, and nine points in 51 games as one of the team’s most reliable blueliners.
“I’ve ingrained myself with the culture here and I want to work to maintain that,” Goers said. “I’ve improved as a player here, especially offensively which was a big growing point for me.”
The native of Ivyland, Pa., Goers has also ingrained himself in the Wilkes-Barre community. At the end of last season Goers was named the Penguins’ IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year for his work in the community.
It’s an aspect that Goers, who has also travelled to Guatemala to raise money for a new school, looks forward to continuing this season.
“Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has really reached out and established a good name in the community and I have a great time with that work,” Goers said. “It’s a privilege being a professional hockey player so anytime I can make an impact with kids or the community, I always look forward to that.”
While Goers has become a familiar face in the Wilkes-Barre community, he joins a Penguins team that is in the process of undergoing several big changes with the coaching staff with the hiring of John Hynes by the New Jersey Devils.
Goers said Hynes was the best coach he’s ever played for and he’s happy to see him get an NHL opportunity, and the next Penguins coach will come to a team with its identity and culture in place.
“Having Tom Kostopoulos coming back will help maintain that identity, but the challenge for any new coach coming in is keeping the success that we’ve had here going, if not make it better,” Goers said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”