10 things to remember about 2002-03

And so there I was, at Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final, shaking the hand of Mike Myers. Not the 33-year-old situational lefty reliever for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but the 40-year-old comedic Canadian who created the Austin Powers trilogy and is a bona fide hero to me. Here's a quote of his. It's the kind of quote you cut out and stick somewhere in your cubicle at work:

Austin Powers was born out of trying to celebrate my father's life. My father's favorites were mine -- Peter Sellers, Monty Python, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore ... My dad was a guy who loved to be silly; he had a highly prized sense of humor. When I would bring friends home to play table hockey in the basement, if my dad didn't think they were funny, he wouldn't let them in the house. 'They can't come around,' he'd say. 'They're not bloody funny!'"
--Biography, June 1999

As we were introduced, I leaned in and said, "Every time I talk to my 3-year-old son Jackson on the phone, the first thing he says is 'SHHMOKE AND A PANCAKE?' He has 'Goldmember' memorized."

Myers replied sheepishly: "I'm sorry."

I asked him to sign the back of my press credential and he incredulously replied: "Really?!"

"Cha!!!" I said.

He signed: "You Rock, Mike Myers."

I know he didn't know who I was, but he made me feel important. In fact, every person he signed an autograph for while leaning out of the suite he was in, he made feel important. Even the fans who take pictures of people even though there are plenty of high quality pictures of Mike Myers available. It's one thing to take a picture of someone with you in the picture, but to just have them pose and smile seems strange to me. And it's awkward for the person who is getting their picture taken. That usually only happens if one is getting incarcerated. But, even then, Mike Myers smiled and gave a big thumbs up. He was, as my mom would say, a prince.

I was about to tell Myers that every time I say "How 'bout Nooooooooooo!" Jackson replies: "You crazy Fat Bastard!" It's actually Dutch Bastard, but his error and hearing a 3-year-old say fat bastard is comedy at its purest. If he says it when he's 5 I'll pour anti-bacterial soap in his piehole. As I was about to bore Myers with that little vignette, cameras from ESPN and CBC barged into the suite in Anaheim looking for interviews. Apparently thinking I was going to be conducting one of the interviews, Myers stepped over and stood next to me in standard interview formation. At that point I wondered, "Does he know I host a hockey show? ... Has he perhaps stumbled upon NHL 2Night while channel surfing with his wife Robin, the woman he met at a hockey game in 1987 after she got hit by a puck? ... Do I just look like a reporter?"

Either way, for 1.2 seconds I was touched, honored, flabbergasted, inspired and filled with a rush of adrenaline. Fat Bastard was right next to me. And to think all this was going on with Meg Ryan also in the suite. While everyone else was looking at Meg Ryan, I couldn't stop looking at Mike Myers.

But after my thrilling 1.2 seconds, I told Mike, "I'm not the one doing the interviews."

Scott Oake of CBC and Samantha Ryan of ESPN/ABC would be conducting the interviews. I moved aside and that's the last I ever saw or will probably ever see of Mike Myers, one of my comic heroes along side George Carlin, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Jackson, and my high school buddies Don Goodpaster and Mike Pizzoferrato.

My Mike Myers moment kind of sums up another hockey season. It's here, it's exhilarating, and then, poof! It's ends. Just like that. You wake up the next day and there is no hockey and all that comes with it. For me, that's NHL 2 Night, Barry Melrose's laugh, Chicken Parm's companionship, and this column.

So, as we all begin our three-and-a-half month break until the start of another NHL season, here are 10 things I will take away from this season in no particular order.

1. Jean-Sebastien Giguere
There are some people who I just like to listen to. I used to watch Bob Costas's "Later" show at 1:30 a.m. just to hear Costas talk. George Carlin and Michael Stipe are two others. I just like to look at their eyes, read their lips and listen to them talk. Giguere has that quality. He's a man of action who is a great talker. The words he chooses, how he arranges them, his thoughts and how he times them are more impressive to me than his save percentage. It's why he is the real deal and why Anaheim will enjoy more success in the next 10 years. He reminds me of Tom Seaver. Smarts, heart and details.

2. The Collective Bargaining Agreement
I could fill a Hefty Trash Bag with vomit every time I hear those four words. When I think of a union, I think of workers who need a body of support and protection from immoral corporations. I don't think of workers with an average salary over $1 million for seven months of work, or if you are a New York Ranger, six-and-a-half months. That being said, if there is a work stoppage it will be both sides' fault. There needs to be a partnership that doesn't currently exist. It should be simple to split the revenues and lower the ticket prices. But, the players don't trust the owners and the owners are sick of losing money because of the implausibly high salary structure that they created.

3. Rule Changes
I get so many suggestions and opinions on rule changes that two things come to mind off the bat. 1) People love this game. 2) If so many people have so many suggestions so much of the time, there must be something wrong. Were we hearing these debates in the 70s and 80s and early 90s? Games change and adjustments are necessary. The NFL constantly tinkers with the rules to benefit the offense. The NBA introduced a 24-second clock and a three-point line. The NCAA also introduced a shot clock and three-point line, which revolutionized the sport's popularity. Baseball lowered the mound, wound the ball a little tighter, and made the ballparks smaller and eventually a man hit 70 homers. Golf courses are made longer. None of this applies to our game, the best game, but the main objective for hockey is simple: create more space to show off the skills of the players. The game needs more exhilaration.

4. Shootouts
I am pro-otter, pro V1, pro-ibuprofen and pro shootout. Anyone who saw the All-Star Game loved the shootout. It was a great way to show off the skill of the players. A team has 60 minutes of regulation time and five minutes of 4-on-4 to get a win. If you don't like a shootout deciding the game, tough. You had plenty of time to show you had more skill than the other guy. The United States Golf Association has restrictions for golf balls and golf clubs so SKILL is the most important factor in determining a winner. The NHL should not shy away from showing off skill and providing drama AT ANY TIME. Regular-season shootouts provide both for those nights when there are ties.

5. Scott Niedermayer
World class. When I lay in bed thinking about the Stanley Cup final it all comes back to watching No. 27 skate. He was Conn Smythe material. He's easily the most under appreciated defenseman in the game. He was at a Paul Coffey level. You wonder what kind of numbers he would put up if he played a couple of seasons with an attacking offensive team. He's already lifted three Cups over his head.

6. Vancouver Canucks
The team made gobs of money this year. The players won awards and notoriety. And a city went nuts over its exciting, sexy hockey team. The Canucks were a staple on my NHL Center Ice Package. From Marc Crawford's hair to Matt Cooke's forechecking, to Marcus Naslund's wrist shot to Todd Bertuzzi's brute force, the Canucks are always a good watch. Late night on the couch, in the cold of winter, with a freshly microwaved bowl of popcorn and an ice-cold one, watching Bertuzzi, Naslund and Brendan Morrison wheel and deal. Life is good.

7. Minnesota Wild
Minnesota is the center of hockey in the United States. When the North Stars left for Dallas, you have to wonder why nearly every NHL team didn't packed up and left for Minnesota right away. Knowledgeable and passionate fans and a fantastic rink make it one of the NHL's elite markets. Wild games rated extremely well on ESPN. People there live the sport. When it comes to fans as natural resources, Minnesota was an untapped oil field. I believe there are five too many teams in the NHL and five markets where the NHL is wasting its time and money. The antithesis of Minnesota.

8. San Jose Sharks
What a difference a year makes. I wasn't sold on all the Stanley Cup talk surrounding this team, but what a nice group they had. Wonderful, proactive, passionate fans. Holdouts, coaching changes, retirements, and trades and this team is suddenly a big question mark. I love their announcers, their logo, watching Patrick Marleau skate and the intimacy of their rink. I hope Ron Wilson can get them together and they can return as a playoff team. Last year was an ugly mess, a classic case of mismanagement for whatever reason.

9. Darren Pang
I love Panger. One of my favorite Panger moments is to going to Denny's after an NHL 2Night in 2002 and writing down our Olympic rosters on the placemat at 2 a.m. Panger talks hockey and thinks hockey all the time. He would be an ideal NHL GM. He loves the game, knows the game, knows all the people in the game, is not afraid to solicit advice and is insatiably likeable. Highly competitive, passionate, patient and unwilling to deal with incompetence, he would be an excellent cog in any NHL organization. He would think things through and then make the hard decision. Panger is the little bird in that little hockey birdhouse in your soul.

10. This year's draft class
The game is changing. If there is lockout it's goodbye Forsberg, Sakic, Naslund, Yzerman, Messier, Francis, Lemieux, Hull, Lidstrom, Modano, Chelios, just to name a few. Late 30-year-olds won't find a need to come back unless there is union pressure. Some Europeans will go home and play in their country for a couple of years, play in the the 2006 Olympics and retire on all their North America-earned money. This year, as well as the last couple of years, the NHL draft will feature the new wave of player. They say this year's draft class is deep. It better be ocean deep, to replace a sea of legends who will sail into the sunset in the post lockout NHL.

When I was interviewing for the new job that would take me out of Washington, D.C., area, I was asked: "What would you say separates you from other candidates?" An interview question designed to get you to say too much, or too little. I replied: "I am clutch, and clutch is everything." I couldn't believe that I had actually said that in an interview, but I got the job.
Francis Hopkins
Torrington, Conn.

And if anyone ever calls you Francis ...

If I say, "Ken the Otter" in my e-mail, will you put it in your column?
Mark Challe
Green Bay, Wis.

I'll think about it.

Hey John,
Is it possible that Steve Rucchin is somehow the love child of Mick Fleetwood and James Taylor?
Take care,

Looking at Rucchin and hearing him talk at the final does conjure up images of James Taylor hanging around a campfire in San Bernardino, Calif., singing songs with Dan Haggerty, Merlin Olsen, and Michael Gross (the dad on "Family Ties"). My Top 5 James Taylor songs: 1) Carolina in My Mind, 2) Up on the Roof, 3) Never Die Young, 4) Frozen Man, 5) Only a Dream in Rio

I've noticed a possible "Bucci-curse", John. Did you notice that, once the playoffs started, each playoff team featured in the photo of "Shot of the Week" went on to lose the series they were in -- right after you ran the column? Colorado's Tony Granato (Rd 1), Detroit's Luc Robataille (Rd 1), Vancouver's Morrison and Cooke (Rd 2), Wild "fans" and then Andrew Brunette (two in a row! Cruel!) (Rd 3), Ottawa's Alfredsson and White (Rd 3). Now, this week it's Anaheim's Giguere and his lady (Rd 4). Bye, bye Duckies, I guess.

Brad Touchette

St. Louis

Yes, I understand the power I have and therefore will now use it. Look for pictures of Bob Goodenow, Jeremy Jacobs, Bill Wirtz, Alf, the red line, Melrose's mullet and abnormal goaltender equipment. When I played goalie in the Steubenville Street Hockey League in 1982, I wore shin guards, a helmet, a hockey glove on my right hand and an autographed Dave Concepcion glove on my left. Not even a cup. I had a 1.57 goals against average and won the part of Heidi in the school play.

Shjon Podein was traded for Keith Jones, which begs the question: Have two better characters ever been involved in a straight-up trade?
Anthony Vitucci

Podes and Jonsey are identical souls. Original. Clownish. Funny. But, behind their veneer of comedy lie two souls who are smart, opportunistic, and owners of gigantic hearts.

Hey John:

Any truth to the rumor that Dallas forward Steve Ott was forced to change his name from Steve Otter to fall in line with the pervasive anti-Otter sentiment in the NHL?

Tim Collins

We love Steve because in keeping with the NHL bylaws which states any played with a one syllable name must be given the suffix ER or SEY to create a nickname, you just know his Dallas Star teammates call him "Otter." Other examples: Darren Pang is "Panger." Adam Oates is "Oatesy." Brendan Witt is "Witter." It's a Canadian-hockey thing. Steve Ott is Otter….and it was good.


I first must go on record and say that I am not anti-otter. They make a great pet and everyone should own them. Second, how is it possible that Giguere wins the Conn Smythe?? Was this decided before the puck was dropped for Game 7?
Chris McEwen

Obviously it was since the Ducks lost. The argument for both is strong. Jiggy beat the Wings, Stars, swept the Wild, and had the Ducks one game away from a Cup. The Devils beat the Bruins, Lightning, the Sens in seven, and the seventh seed in the West. They had a great draw and took advantage of it. Martin Brodeur set the postseason record for shutouts and didn't win. But, Marty Turco broke the record for goals against average in the regular season and didn't win the Vezina.


Only about 13 percent of our population is left-handed. So why are there so many left-handed hockey players?

Kevin Kong (the only Devils fan in Philly)


Kevin Kong!! What an ideal hockey name! Especially for a Flyer. The top hand does most of the work as far as coordination goes and for most right-handed people it is most natural. I am fairly ambidextrous. I've hit homers in slo-pitch softball both right and left handed, dribble with my left, and even tried putting left handed once. Yet, this winter on the backyard rink all I had was a right-handed stick one day and I couldn't make a simple pass right-handed. It was like I had just chugged a quart of Nyquil. It was so strange. Hold me, Kong. Hold me.

What makes the Mighty Ducks any different than the Carolina Hurricanes were last year?
Mike Stechschulte

A goaltender who has had back-to-back .920 save percentage regular seasons and a much more creative offensive team with Paul Kariya, Adam Oates, Petr Sykora and Stansilav Chistov to go along with their other solid forwards. They also have first-round pick Joffrey Lupul on the way and a player from Sweden named Mikael Holmqvist, so they should have adequate depth to deal with injuries. Ron Francis and Jeff O'Neill were kind of left to fend for themselves in Raleigh. Also, Rod Brind'Amour missed 34 games, Josef Vasicek 25, Erik Cole 19, Bret Hedican 10. If Kevin Weekes can play 60-70 games and they stay healthy they will be a playoff threat, but they lack creative offensive players and their depth is tenuous. The 'Canes are one of those teams who appear not to have enough depth to deal with injuries.

Hey John,

Love your show. My parents think I am a bad parent for letting my 4-year-old hockey loving son stay up to watch the playoffs. Am I ?
Mike Cohen

Fair Lawn, N.J.

I live by two rules: 1) Moisturize 2) Never let sleep get in the way of adventure. At any age. You're a hero, Mike.

My freshman year at Brown, my campus extension was 5299. When asked for my extension, I would always tell everyone "Fifty two Gretzky". After a while, everyone was doing it.

Mine was Fotiu-Straka.

I take issue with this quote from your June 5 column: "The other five's lack of vision doesn't bode well for their futures." Two words: Bob Gainey. Les Habitants win the Stanley Cup within five years. Please believe it.

Sean Swift

New York

I wrote that before Gainey was hired. Good call. How long until Guy Carboneau is head coach?

You failed to update on how your U.S. qualifying attempt went this year at the TPC of Boston. What name was on the ball? What did you shot? What made the cut? Did you come closer to getting in than Brett Hull?

Antioch, Calif.

1. J.S. Giguere
2. I doubled 18 to shoot 81. No birdies.
3. 73 made the cut
4. I missed by 8, Brett missed by 9.

How about a little more discretion when writing your weekly columns ... Quit moping about not having two consecutive days off since March.
Golfing with Panger, Bar hopping/limo riding with Boomer, and watching the Cup finals from the NHL's luxury suite doesn't sound terribly dreadful. The rest of us "working stiffs" should be so fortunate! You've alienated one loyal reader.
David Gartner
Newhall, Calif.

One down. Four to go.

John Buccigross is the host of NHL 2Night, which airs on ESPN2. His e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is john.buccigross@espn.com.