John, like older brother Fred, was stricken with the injury bug. Though he didn’t have the variety or scope of his sibling’s breaks and strains, John’s problem proved to be career-ending. With four seconds to go in a lopsided win over Vancouver in 1987, Barrett, a hard-hitting defender with the Washington Capitals, had a harmless-looking shot hit him in the left leg. The puck found its way between his pads and broke his kneec zap.
He worked hard to recover and, one day before he was scheduled to return to the ice, underwent a stress test to prove his readiness. During the workout he heard a snap — the kneecap was broken again. Part of the joint was removed but Barrett, at age 29, was unable to convince the Capitals — or the Minnesota North Stars after a trade — that he could continue in the NHL.
Strangely, the player Barrett was traded with from Detroit to Washington, Greg Smith, also broke his kneecap shortly after joining the Capitals. He was out of the league in less than two seasons as well.
Defenceman Barrett had been drafted by Detroit in 1978 and after a year and a half of seasoning in the minors was in the Red Wings lineup on a regular basis in 1980-81. He was a mainstay on the blueline for most of six years before going to the Capitals and played one final game, with Minnesota in 1988.