John Buccigross

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Tuesday, November 20
Updated: November 21, 1:57 PM ET
Capitalizing on a few of those chances

By John Buccigross
Special to

Cam Neely.

I wanted those to be the first words (you'll soon know why) in what I hope will be a long history of weekly hockey "columns" here on I use quotation marks around column, because what I'm going to do here isn't going to be a "column." I don't know what you would call it. I'm going to throw a bunch of stuff at you and see what sticks -- Q&A's with people in the hockey world (Bob Clarke, what do you do to relax?), illustrations from hockey cartoonist Michael Fischer, where are they now (Bobby Orr, what's the first thing you eat most mornings?), interviews with those in the music world who are hockey fans (Disturbed, Ween, Counting Crows, Five for Fighting), opinions (Why Cam Neely should be in the Hall of Fame. Now. And why I won't debate it), rumors, rankings, news, a weekly update on my backyard rink, your e-mail views, opinions and questions, and weekly Melrose mullet updates.

After all, hockey is about family, friends, fun and rock and roll.

Who knows how this will evolve. I live my life around a James Joyce quote -- Joyce being the Irish writer who died in 1941, never having a chance to utter: "Jarkko Ruutu slew foots Espen Knutsen deep in the Columbus zone."

Instead, he wrote: "Chance furnishes me what I need. I am like a man who stumbles along; my foot strikes something, I bend over and it is exactly what I want."

I don't know how I got here, but here I am. I love hockey. You love hockey. Game on.

HIT THE ICE  by Michael Fischer
Is it live? Or is it...
I think hockey is wonderful on television. Theatrical, personal, and interesting. A great play-by-play man, interesting analysis, good camerawork, and smart production all make it exciting to watch. And while I think the over-used claim that "hockey is better in person," is true, it's also a bit overrated. Injury reports, explanation of rulings, and extreme close ups of Ranger coach Ron Low swearing like Bobby Knight on a hunting trip are must see TV.

That being said, being at a game in the flesh offers other gems. So on Sunday, I popped in the Incubus CD and drove to New York City to see the Rangers play the Thrashers.

Things I wouldn't have been able to fully see or feel had I been sitting in my living room:

  • The FLY Line centers around Eric Lindros, but Theo Fleury and Mike York are making it easier for the Big E to ease his way back into the league. They are fast and gritty and smart. I saw a completely free-wheeling Lindros against Atlanta. He was absolutely flying. If he collides with someone, it comes in times like these, when his confidence is boiling over through his scalp. I hope he escapes the wrath of Adam Foote on Tuesday.

  • The NHL is a better place with No. 88. He owned the building Sunday night, overshadowing everything -- the Olympic-caliber goaltending of Mike Richter, who is obviously healthy; the excellent, and dare I say gritty, play of Vladimir Malakhov on defense; a Norris Trophy-looking Brian Leetch; and so on. Lindros is the NHL's strongest presence. When he revs up with the biscuit in his own end, with those short crossovers, a tsunami of excitement rises in the Garden. Will he score? Will he get flattened? The Rangers crowd was praying when they inhaled and screaming in jubilation when they exhaled.

  • Potvin sucks. I counted. Three times. A sure sign Rangers fans are gaining momentum. The Knicks are awful. The Rangers will own the city this winter.

  • Petr Nedved is useless on this team. Glen Sather would be better off getting the No. 1 pick the Capitals got from Vancouver in the Trevor Linden deal as a starting point of a deal. With Messier's advancing age and Lindros' precarious health, Sather would like depth. But if those two go down, the season is wrecked anyway. Jagr needs a center and Nedved needs to get out of New York. Think of it -- Sather could make a deal with the Caps, then use the pick and a prospect to get a talented scoring winger or the defenseman he needs from somewhere else. Mark Messier-Radek Dvorak-Tony Amonte would be a nice act. From the FLY Line to the MAD Line. Slats needs to double down and let it ride. He has the time. The Rangers schedule sets up will until Christmas. Then, starting Dec. 28, it's 12 games in 26 nights against good teams, with 10 of them on the road.

    Yes, the Big E is back. So is his swagger. His small "accessories" and the resurgent Rangers have me drooling for ESPN's Wednesday Night Hockey on Feb. 6. Rangers at Red Wings.

    The Great Eight
    Ray Ferraro
    Ferraro is still digging for his 400th goal.
    Question: Why eight questions?
    Answer: Cam Neely.

    This week: Ray Ferraro.

    Despite his claims that last season might be his last year, there was little doubt in my mind that he'd be back this season. Not only did he return, but he did so as captain -- you read it here first.

    A little background info: Born on Aug. 23, 1964, Ray's first words were: "Pass me the puck, you idiot. I'm open." Ray's grandfather arrived in Trail, British Columbia, from Italy in 1927. He and his son, Ed (Ray's dad), began a family cement business that Ray and his brother have continued to run since Ed's death in 1994. Hockey wasn't the only sport he played growing up -- he represented Canada in the 1976 Little League World Series.

    In 1983-84, while playing for Brandon in the Western Hockey League, he registered 108 goals and 84 assists for 192 points in 72 games. His first NHL game was on Dec. 19, 1984 as a member of the Hartford Whalers.

    Now, 18 years, one bobblehead doll and countless orders of Chicken Parm later, he's approaching 400 career goals and 1,200 games played.

    No. 1: Do people address you as Chicken Parm more than any other name?
    Ferraro: "Not even close. In airports, I hear Chicken Parm from three gates over. I don't think anyone knows I even play anymore.

    No. 2: You had your knee scoped before the season and your back went out a couple of weeks ago. How are you feeling?
    Ferraro: The back is better than the knee. The knee is going to be a struggle for a couple months until it, and the muscles around it, strengthen.

    No. 3: Who is your favorite player in the NHL?
    Ferraro: Mike Modano.

    No. 4: Word is the Tooth Fairy filed for Chapter 11 after Ilya Kovalchuk had nine teeth pulled in October -- obviously an NHL rookie record. I'm sure he feels more at home at Willie Nelson concerts, but can he still eat?
    Ferraro: Oh, yeah. The oddest thing is that his mother is a dentist, which raises questions on the validity of the dentistry field in Russia. But, he's a good kid. He speaks pretty good English one-on-one. Like a lot of 18-year-olds, he's into cars. He's been talking about getting a Viper, which he needs like a hole in the head.

    Yeah, he's got nine fresh ones already.

    Dany Heatley
    No. 5:
    What's up with Dany Heatley's hair?
    Ferraro: If you put up a split screen, he looks like Biff from Back to the Future. He has the potential to grow an Oscar Gamble like afro.

    No. 6: What music is dominating the Thrashers dressing room?
    Ferraro: Tragically, country. Bob Corkum is in control of the CD player and he has the support of Jeff Odgers. Who will complain to him?

    No. 7: If you could travel to one place in the world, where would you go?
    Ferraro: Italy. I'd like to go see where my parents are from and I'm really interested in the lifestyle and the wine and the history. I'll go there someday.

    No. 8: Last year, you finished the season with 394 career goals, yet the NHL still sent you a commorative trophy in honor of our 400th, as they do for all players who reach the milestone. Where is it?
    Ferraro: I had to give it back. It is no longer in my possession. The Atlanta P.R. department asked me to give it back and they in turn sent it back to the NHL. I would like to think I will get a couple more goals and reach 400. If I don't I really should retire.

    The high five
    The NHL2Night operation includes a bank of television sets that enable us to watch every game at the same time. But that's just Tuesday through Saturday. At home, I have the NHL Center Ice package on my digital cable, which I watch on my days off. In fact, I watch so much hockey, I know Matt Cooke's moves by heart. I'm clinically ill.

    I don't watch regular television. That's not really true. The last couple of years, I would spend one hour on Monday nights watching "Ally McBeal." I don't know how it happened. I must have fallen asleep on the couch, woke up, saw Portia De Rossi and stayed for two years. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the show stinks like the Mighty Ducks' power play. I watched my last show on Nov. 12.

    Now that it's all hockey, all the time on my TV, the validity of the following rankings should stand up to scrutiny. Once a month, the top five players in the top five NHL award categories will be listed. No Lady Byngs allowed. In fact the NHL should cease and desist handing out the award. Players must be embarrassed to win it on its name alone. And while the Frank J. Selke Award is admirable and important, the anti-Pavel Bure Award just doesn't get the juices flowing. Not many barroom fights in Winnipeg began over the line: "I'M TELLING YOU TROY MURRAY SHOULD HAVE WON THE SELKE AGAIN IN 1987!!"

    Jack Adams Award
    Scotty Bowman
    1. Scotty Bowman, Detroit: The Red Wings added players at every position, changed systems and are operating as if they've played together for 20 years.

    2. Brian Sutter, Chicago: They added very little from last year, yet are snapping at the Wings' heels. Tony Robbins tapes running on a continuous loop couldn't inspire Alex Zhamnov in the past, but Sutter has gotten to him.

    3. Peter Laviolette, N.Y. Islanders: Bowman is in his 30th year of coaching, Sutter in his 11th. Laviolette stepped in and the 36-year-old coached the Islanders to their best start in franchise history.

    4. Greg Gilbert, Calgary: He's Mr. Heat Miser, he's Mr. Sun. He's Mr. Green Christmas, he's Mr. Hundred and One. As in 101 points? His team plays with energy every night.

    5. Rick Kehoe, Pittsburgh: Of course, when you follow a coach who spent intermissions chain smoking outside the arena near the TV production trucks, making an impression is pretty simple. But if the Penguins keep playing Kehoe's system as their talent continues to return, they will be playoff dangerous.

    Vezina Trophy
    Patrick Roy
    1. Patrick Roy, Colorado: He's been unbelievable on a team that is suddenly the Minnesota Wild of a year ago. He'll will his 500th career game sometime around the New Year.

    2. Tommy Salo, Edmonton: The most underrated, understated goaltender of all time. He's seen over 500 shots and only about seven percent get by him. With Ryan Smyth out for 2-3 months, more pressure will call on the eight-year vet.

    3. Roman Turek, Calgary: Considering the spanking he took in the St. Louis media, you would think Turek was a virus-carrying mosquito. Entering this year, his record was 82-36-22. Last year was only his second year of playoff experience. The Blues, convinced they were going to get Dominik Hasek, traded Turek in June. They then watched as Detroit swooped in and nabbed Hasek eight days later. did that happen?

    4. Chris Osgood, N.Y. Islanders: Ozzie was 111 games over .500 for his career and was left exposed in the waiver draft. He's been aided by an offense that's off to a good start. As the season wears on, he'll need to steal games himself.

    5. Sean Burke, Phoenix: A likely Olympian. 34 years old. He's 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, but looks like he's 6-8, 390 in net. If the Coyotes make the playoffs, he wins the Vezina. St. Louis should offer Gretzky the moon to get him.

    Calder Memorial Trophy
    Kristian Huselius
    1. Kristian Huselius, Florida: Barring injury, he's a lock to win Rookie of the Year. He's 23 and is the first player to lead the Swedish Elite League in six major offensive categories (goals, assists, points, power-play goals, shorthanded goals and game-winning goals).

    2. Dany Heatley, Atlanta: Turns 21 in January. Plays an older game. Great along the boards and smart.

    3. Jeff Jillson, San Jose: Born in Rhode Island. 21 years old. He's getting a lot of minutes and is a key part of this team. I have a good feeling about this team for some reason.

    4. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta: "Look, Mom! No teeth!" When he gets the puck in the neutral zone and cranks it up, there is no one more exciting.

    5. Mark Bell, Chicago: He played 13 games last year for the Hawks and registered only one assist. Great attitude and gritty. He's a fresh piece of clay for Sutter's molding.

    James Norris Memorial Trophy
    Nicklas Lidstrom
    1. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit: Finally won his first Norris last season. He might end up with five when he's done playing.

    2. Al MacInnis, St. Louis: Even at 38, he's one of the few solid aspects of a Blues team still trying to get things together.

    3. Brian Leetch, N.Y. Rangers: Still skating and scoring...and after four straight seasons as a minus, is finally on the plus side.

    4. Kim Johnsson, Philadelphia: Bobby Clarke demanded him in any Lindros trade with the Rangers, and you can see why. He's been the Flyers' best defenseman.

    5. Dmitry Yushkevich, Toronto: He's having the best year of his career and is a big reason why the Leafs have gotten off to a good start.

    Hart Memorial Trophy
    Steve Yzerman
    1. Steve Yzerman, Detroit: He's never won an MVP, but he's everything an MVP is. He's the centerpiece of one of the best teams of all time. Eight Hall of Famers, the Gretzky of coaches, and the fulcrum of is all is a man who is 5-10, 180. What Bono is to U2, Yzerman is to the Red Wings.

    2. Jarome Iginla, Calgary: He doesn't have seven Hall-of-Fame teammates like Yzerman (in fact, he has none), but everything hinges on him. At 24,he's in the first year of his prime as a power forward. Enjoy the next 6-8 years.

    3. Patrik Elias, New Jersey: In the summer of 2000, I was playing in an NHL charity golf tournament with the Blues' Jamal Mayers and ESPN The Mag's E.J. Hradek. Placing my tee in the ground on the seventh, I said: "Patrik Elias gets 50 this year." I don't mean to point fingers, but Jason Arnott's hold out messed up my candidacy for Nostradamus of the Year. This year, he'll get his 50 and might even win the scoring title.

    4. Alexei Kovalev, Pittsburgh: They may have Mario, but Kovalev is the most important and best player on the Penguins. No one is better one-on-one in the league. He's dripping with talent and now is adding responsibility and resolve. He's even entering the realm of captain material.

    5. Eric Lindros, N.Y. Rangers: It's not all about statistics. It's early and he's still finding his way. But for all his off-ice soap operas, he's a lightning rod on the ice. He's beginning to electrify his team and his city. And if he keeps his head up, this time next year he'll be captain.

    The last minute of play

  • Next week will feature "What's up with...", a look at retired NHL players and what they're doing now, as well as a feature on rock stars who are hockey fans.

  • The Nashville Predators will debut their third jersey on Wednesday against the Blackhawks. It's a great looking sweater. Can't tune in to the game? Barry Melrose and I will offer a sneak preview during Tuesday's NHL2Night.

  • In case you missed it: Last week, Darren Pang reported on NHL2Night that the Hawks took their latest offer to Tony Amonte off the table. It was for three years and in the neighborhood of $15 million.

  • Besides a bigger ice surface and no center red line, NHL players will have to readjust to a one-referee system at the Olympics.

  • Expect the Capitals to use the No. 1 pick they got from Vancouver for Trevor Linden to lure a center for Jaromir Jagr. He's as useless as Russell Crowe in "Mystery, Alaska" right now.

  • Separated at birth: Montreal's Brian Savage and Colorado's Milan Hejduk. It's scary -- in hockey helmets, anyway -- how much they look alike.

    Until next time, peace. Happy Thanksgiving.

    John Buccigross is the host of NHL2Night, which airs Tuesday-Saturday on ESPN2. His e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross checks -- is

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