|Tuesday, November 20
Updated: November 21, 1:57 PM ET
Capitalizing on a few of those chances
By John Buccigross
Special to ESPN.com
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 ESPN.com. 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 www.toonsonice.com 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.
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:
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
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?
No. 2: You had your knee scoped before the season and your back went out a couple of weeks ago. How are you feeling?
No. 3: Who is your favorite player in the NHL?
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?
Yeah, he's got nine fresh ones already.
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?
No. 7: If you could travel to one place in the world, where would you go?
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?
The high five
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
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.
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. Hmmm...how 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
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.