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Monday, May 6
Updated: May 15, 10:17 AM ET
Finding the heart of many matters

By John Buccigross
Special to

As I mentioned in last week's column, I was going to attempt to qualify for this year's United States Open Golf Championship, which will be played Father's Day weekend at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. Well, it's Monday, and I just returned from the qualifier held at Ellington Country Club in Ellington, Conn.

My tee time was 9:30 a.m., which was just about perfect. After working on NHL 2Night the evening before with Barry Melrose and Keith Jones, I got to sleep around 1 a.m. I woke up at 8 a.m., showered, ate a banana, and had a bowl of Rice Krispies.

I was contemplating using the Titleist 77 that Bourque gave me ... I decided it would be a mistake -- I would be too distracted by the defacing of this pristine, unique orb, and I would be PETRIFIED OF LOSING IT.
Prior to the start of the playoffs, I hosted a Fighting Blindness charity playoff draft in New York City. For my part as draft host, the NHL sent me a black golf shirt with the league logo on it and "Events & Entertainment" underneath. I decided to wear that to the Open qualifier. I like playing in a new shirt on special occasions. You always feel a little new and improved in new duds. It's never the same after you wear them once. They are never as soft and never smell as good. I went with dark gray pants and black shoes, so I looked like a 6-foot-4 version of Gary Player with a lot less game.

As I wrote in my golfing with Ray Bourque story a couple columns ago, I mark my golf balls with a hockey player's name. Last week, I was pretty sure I was going to write IGINLA on the side of my Titleist. My pick for MVP. Sunday night, I started having a change of heart. First, I was contemplating using the Titleist 77 that Bourque gave me on the fourth hole of our round at Wampanoag Golf Club during the first week of the playoffs. I decided it would be a mistake -- I would be too distracted by the defacing of this pristine, unique orb, and I would be PETRIFIED OF LOSING IT. So, I decided to go back to a Titleist Pro V1 No. 3.

Now, what hockey player's name to put on it? Again, I was having second thoughts on IGINLA. I decided to go with the player who at this moment is inspiring me more than any other. The U.S. Open, whether it be the championship or a qualifier, is about perseverance, smarts, guts and heart. You can't do anything stupid and you can't give in. Ever. Even if you have less talent or hit a bad shot or have a bad hole. No one comes closer to playing hockey like you have to play a U.S. Open right now than Steve Yzerman. His will, heart, talent, smarts and passion kept his teammates afloat until they could find their playoff "A" games. With 79 players competing for five spots, I would need all those qualities -- and a little luck -- to advance to the next stage of qualifying in early June.

I arrived at the course at 9 a.m. I'm not a big practice guy. I'm getting better at enjoying practice and understanding its importance to improving, but I've always enjoyed playing a lot more. I hit about 10 putts on the putting green and about 20 balls on the range and headed to the first tee. I took out my red Sharpie and wrote on the side of my ball YZERMAN. It was my first U.S. Open qualifier, I haven't played much spring, and I was playing with a bunch of good players, a lot of them professionals. My expectations were very low. I just wanted to break 80.

I was the first to tee off in my threesome and I puréed my 3-wood on the 378-yard par-4 leaving me 105 yards out for my second shot. The pin was tucked right and I attacked it with my sand wedge. I was a little pumped up and hit over the green by a couple feet. I completed my first U.S. Open qualifying hole by chipping in for birdie.

Ellington Ridge Country Club is a Geoffrey Cornish track built in 1959. I like Cornish courses, and this one is no different. We were playing the championship tip tees, which played at about 7,100 yards, and almost every pin was tucked in the most difficult spot on the green. And while it was sunny and warm, it was breezy. It was a tough test of golf -- as it should be.

If you asked if I would take a 74, I would have said 'yes.' However, no one asked.
I finished my first nine with a nice par on the 456-yard, par-4. Out in 38. I only hit two fairways and four greens, but with YZERMAN as my inspiration, I never gave up on any hole. My ball striking was pathetic, but I was in the game. Even par would likely qualify and I had that in my sights. I started my second nine with a birdie on 10 to move to 1-over. I had 10 feet for birdie on the 11th and it lipped out. My 20-foot birdie putt on 12 just missed as well. After a skanky front nine of ball striking, I was starting to play well and was 1-over with six holes to go. If you asked if I would take a 74, I would have said yes. However, no one asked. I bogeyed the 13th and 14th, and got up and down from the bunker on 15 to stand at 3-over. Par in for a 75. Maybe a spot in the playoff.

The last three holes are brutal -- a 445-yard, par-4; a 245-yard, par-3; and a 475-yard up hill par-4 with a wind that was picking up. My chances pretty much ended on No. 16. I bombed a drive almost 300 yards to leave me with 150 yards and my favorite club, an 8-iron. I hit it so far left it almost ended up in Joe Thornton's back yard in London, Ontario. That just about sealed it. But, with YZERMAN staring up at me I gutted out a bogey and moved on. I finished bogey-bogey to go out in 40 and finished with a 78.

I'm not a good loser. I tend to beat myself up, and get short-term depression when I don't do well. But, all things considered, it was a good day and I got to watch hockey at home that night. I hit just six of 14 fairways and nine of 18 greens, and shot 78 on a long, breezy golf course. If I was a little smarter and a little better, 72 could have been mine and I could have advanced.

We all need inspiration. Someone and some things to lift us toward our dreams. I have dreams and you have dreams and since we both spend way too much time assuming they will never come true, I suggest you watch these NHL playoffs and closely inspect the desperation, courage and perseverance the players show every night. For me, Steve Yzerman inspired me to never give up no matter what during my long day on the golf course. You might connect with a different player. Whomever it is and whatever you wish for, you will likely find the keys to achieving in the eyes of your player or players. Smarts, sacrifice, patience, enthusiasm, and a will to JUST GET IT DONE.

When I watch Yzerman on TV and when I saw his name on my golf ball it reminded me of Tennyson:

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


The e-mails have poured in from Mingo Junction, Ohio, to Kapulua, Maui, Hawaii. What in Derek Sanderson's name, happened to Barry Melrose's hair? The mullet is gone and you are concerned.

Well, after an extensive search of North American Chevy IROC's and any male who bought The Marshall Tucker Band's "Southern Spirit" CD in 1990, Melrose's mullet has been found at Gold's Gym in Venice Beach, Calif., doing it's normal workout: 33 sets of bench presses and no legs. After a shampoo and blow dry, we asked Melrose's mullet eight questions. Afterwards he left for a new hideout, presumably, somewhere in Florida.

HIT THE ICE by Michael Fischer
No. 1: Why did you decide to secede from the head of Barry Melrose?
Mainly musical differences. I'm into Winger, Krokus, Whitesnake, W.A.S.P. and Journey. Barry is almost exclusively country -- George Strait, Toby Keith, and Garth Brooks. Those three-hour car rides to Glens Falls, N.Y., were brutal, dude.

No. 2: Do you realize you have disrupted the entire equilibrium of hockey with your departure?
I understand that some people can no longer look directly at Melrose anymore since I am no longer a part of his skull. My suggestion is to stare at his implausibly white false teeth. There, too, one will find hockey knowledge.

No. 3: Are there any plans to return to Melrose?
I don't think until next season. I need some time away from that barbaric laugh of his. It's like Gengas Kahn meets Fran Drescher.

No. 4: Some speculate that you are the reason why Melrose has never been hired for another coaching position. Do you think that is true?
Listen, as a head coach, Melrose has won a Memorial Cup, a Calder Cup, and came within an illegal stick of likely winning a Stanley Cup. I shouldn't be the reason why he isn't a head coach in the NHL. We could have had the Chicago job a few years back, but Bill Wirtz wanted to pay Melrose $36,500 and ended the interview by asking Barry, 'HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO MOW MY LAWN? HMMM? HMMM? HMMMM?'"

No. 5: Did sitting next to Ray Bourque on the set of NHL 2Night intimidate you into bolting?
Just because Bourque is immensely talented, a Stanley Cup champion, a future Hall of Famer and has a Mike Wallace quality head of hair that will never go bald, doesn't scare me one bit!!! ARE YOU SAYING I PICKED THE WRONG DEFENSEMAN'S HEAD!!!!!!!

No. 6: What active player are you dying to attach yourself to? What hockey player is MULLET FRIENDLY?
Not even close. Dany Heatley was born to have a mullet. When I see him, I think of how great it would be to latch myself on to a young, millionaire hockey player still years from his prime. Just think of the places I would go and the sights I would see! (cough) Like the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rushmore. THOSE kinds of sights.

No. 7: Will the mullet ever return to the NHL?
One thing we can all agree on is that mullets never die. They are a powerful statement of manhood that will never lose their relevancy. That's why I picked Melrose as my primary residence. I always knew he had a future in TV. He's now the most televised hockey personality in the world. I could have jumped on the bandwagons of Perry Turnbull, Pat Boutette or Luc Dufour, but I knew Melrose was the guy that would give me the most legs. It's only a matter of time. It's all marketing nowadays. Well, ball bearings and marketing.

No. 8: What have you learned in your time away from Melrose?
I needed to get back to my roots, what makes me happy. For me, there is nothing like driving in my IROC with Def Leppard's 'POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME' cranking. It gives me time to think of the peaceful things in life that make me truly happy, like smokeless tobacco and torn acid-washed jeans. That's the core of life. Its essence. Me and Melrose need some time apart. I think I'll make my way to Homestead, Fla., and find me a landscaper with a sleeveless t-shirt and a farmer's tan. I think it's best for me. And Melrose.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are about heart. You can lose with it, but you can't win without it. Vancouver had heart but lost. The Boston Bruins slowly lost their heart and lost their series. Playoff performers are about heart and guts. Conn Smythes are won by men with heart. These are the top five so far:

Steve Yzerman
1. Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings: He won the Conn Smythe in 1998, and the way things are going this playoff season he is on his way to No. 2. Ten points in his first eight playoff games. I've been told by someone who used similar doctors as Yzerman that his knee is in horrible shape. He will need major off season surgery and will almost certainly miss the first portion of next season. As I've said here before, I wonder if this is Yzerman's last stand if the Wings win the Cup. He turns 37 this week. He'll run the Red Wings one day as president.

2. Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche: He was the leading scorer in the playoffs when the week began. He spreads everything out for them. As the games get bigger, he will elevate his play. No one sees the ice like him in the NHL. The game's best passer.

3. Patrick Lalime, Ottawa Senators: He has a .976 save percentage when the week began. In the first seven playoff games, he gave up five goals. I'm still not convinced, however. He played against a dead Flyers team and is playing against a Leafs team without much firepower. His heart hasn't truly been tested yet. But, there are no teams in the East with firepower, so Lalime can lead the Senators to the final. Then he'll get pulverized.

4. Jose Theodore, Montreal Canadiens: He's getting better and more comfortable in the playoffs. Remember, he only appeared in five playoff games before this postseason. He's the best goalie left in the East who has just started playing his best, and that's why Montreal could reach the finals. Ottawa has the best chance to beat him because they have more talented forwards.

5. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators: I believe Ottawa will emerge from the East because they have the best player of the four remaining teams. Alfredsson does little things and he does big things. I think Ottawa will eliminate Toronto by next Friday or Sunday because of this guy. If the Senators don't bid the Leafs adieu, then I guarantee you Curtis Joseph will be on this list next week.

Adam Duritz has heart.

Three winters ago, I drove to New York City with ESPN anchor -- and my official concert companion -- David Lloyd to see Counting Crows in concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom on West 34th St. As with most cool things in my life the past four years, the opportunity was via an NHL fan. Doug Redler is a huge hockey fan and heard me give out a Counting Crows analogy to a Mathieu Schneider goal on NHL 2Night. Doug tours with the Crows, supplying musician support. One of his tasks is tuning the next guitar to be used after an instrument change. The Hammerstein is a great place to see a show. Cozy like the late Chicago Stadium and Boston Garden. David and I hung with Doug right next to the stage. After the show, we met the band. Whenever I get chance to meet musicians I bring along a CD booklet (is that what you call those things?) to get autographed. On this night I brought the Crows debut CD "August and Everything After," which I'm listening to as I type this. ("Anna Begins" just began. It's one of my top five Crow tunes.) After a few minutes talking about hockey and Jennifer Aniston's trapezius muscles, I asked Adam if he would sign my CD booklet. Without asking him what to sign, he wrote with the black Sharpie I handed him: "What I am to CC, John is to NHL 2Nite. Adam Duritz."

I talked with Adam while he rode on his tour bus somewhere between Mobile and Birmingham, Ala.

Introduction to the NHL: "The first game I ever went to was a California Golden Seals game against the Rangers. The Seals destroyed them and I labored for years under the misconception that the Seals were actually a good team. Of course they eventually left and I no longer had a hockey team to grow up with."

The Oakland/California Golden Seals were in the NHL from the 1967-68 season through the 1975-76 season. They moved to Cleveland and became the Cleveland Barons and played two seasons in Northeast Ohio before merging with Minnesota and becoming the North Stars until the 1992-93 season when Minnesota moved to Dallas where they reside today.

Re-introduction to the NHL: "I didn't go to games for a long time, but when I came to New York I met former Ranger GM Neil Smith, who worked out at the same gym. A friend of mine had Neil's tickets, so we had great seats right at center ice. I used to go to a lot of games in New York, and met Mathieu Schneider one summer. He was playing for the Leafs, and when I would go through Toronto we would hook up. When he got traded to New York, I saw him a lot more and eventually met all of the Rangers through Matt."

Why does Adam Duritz love hockey? "I really love the game. I played soccer my whole childhood and it reminds me of that a lot. It's about controlling areas of the ice and passing and the geometry of open men. Soccer, chess, and hockey is about controlling the middle of the field. The teams that do the basic things over a period of a game are going to win most of the games. You can still lose, since goals can happen out of nowhere and one goal can win a game, but mostly it's about the slow buildup of controlling the game."

Do you skate? "I skated as a kid a little, but I was never very good. Mathieu tries to get me to do it now so I can play celebrity hockey games, but I'm not much for the celebrity sporting events."

Most memorable game you've seen in person: "The comeback by the Kings against the Red Wings last playoff season blew my mind."

What's up with the Crows?: "The new CD comes out June 25th. It's called 'Hard Candy.' We're on tour now. We started out at Jazz Fest in New Orleans and now we're doing some southern stuff. We're heading over to Europe with Santana to open for them for most of May and some of June. Then we're coming back at the end of June for the release of the record and then go on tour with The Who. Apparently, we're the only band who is getting a leg of the tour. We got the western leg. Robert Plant is getting the rest. It came out of the blue."

The new record: "I talked with Paul McCartney at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a couple of years ago and for some reason it stuck with me. So when we went to make this record, I really wanted to write songs with a lot of melody so you couldn't get them out of your head. We went the extra mile putting tons of harmonies on things and horns and strings. We really went into it with a high level of detail."

Hey John,
My friend bet me that you aren't wearing pants during NHL 2Night. However, I caught a glimpse of your sans-a-belt waistband and recognized the pants as a pair worn by Fred Shero during the 1974 playoffs vs. Buffalo. I believe they were given to him by Noddy Holder of Slade. Who wins?
Out West

Guilty as charged. Although you must have caught me on a Tuesday. The rest of the week rotates between a wrestling singlet and a kilt.

How come you guys on NHL 2Night aren't sporting your playoff beards?
Steve Kushner

Melrose sports playoff back hair and I have hair between my toes. THANKS FOR REMINDING ME OF MY LIVING HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!

El Buccigrosso,
Here in the Republic of Ireland, where I live, the only NHL I can get is from the web. The only sports showing on TV here is Gaelic games and Snooker. Man, those are some weird sports. And can you believe this? There is no ice rink in the Republic of Ireland!! Only up north in Belfast, they have one. As a native Swede, and hockey born and bred Matador, I have a tough time coping when the best time of the year is upon us.
Mats Ajnesjo

All my relatives on my mom's side are Irish. My only advice is to use their recipe to combat boredom: Drink a lot and put up paneling.

Drop whatever you're doing and go buy the new Paul Westerberg disk. The king is back!

I have lived my one credo: ADHERE PETE.

Last night, I had a dream that you were my calculus professor at my college. Instead of learning math stuff, all we did was talk about hockey. It was the greatest class ever. Could you ask Chicken Parm if he'd teach my chemistry class? You should check out the Pete Yorn album if you haven't already. Love the show.
Jason Quinn
Healdsburg, Calif.

I dream of the naval jewelry worn by those Carolina Hurricane cheerleaders.

What's the best theme song for our second round matchups? If anyone can assign appropriate soundtracks, you can.
Erin Betters
Boulder, Colo.

"Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" by The White Stripes.

I was on vacation at Club Med Turks & Caicos in 1999. While I was there Mark Messier and another player came by the resort to play some street hockey with us. Well, I could never think of the other guys name until you did your little piece on Glenn Anderson.
James White

You become more and more Melrosesque with your "quit on the coach" Flyers comment Thursday night on NHL 2Night. If Barber had a system in place the last two or three months instead of telling players to "stop making suggestions" or to "just work harder," you and everyone else would have seen tons more than just two goals in five games. I watch you with your pretty little haircut, makeup and choir boy suits and I wonder who in their right mind hired you. Flyers fans such as myself don't like our team when they lose. We will on the other hand stand up for our team when some know nothing pencil neck ******* feels like trashing them.
Jeff Forgette

You booed Santa Claus and I didn't.

The next time that Barry Melrose, Bob McKenzie or anyone else evokes the Habs' '93 Stanley Cup run when discussing this year's Habs team, please mention that the '93 Habs had 102 points and were 5th overall in the NHL.
Erik Fasano

I am not sure how many times in your life you have made a husband jealous, but you have made mine very jealous and envious.
Paula Moulton

The line is long and it moves quickly.

John Buccigross is the host of NHL 2Night, which airs Tuesday-Saturday on ESPN2. His e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is


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