Getting blood boiling before the holidays

The passion of the fan is the richest natural resource in sport. The interest level and emotion of the fan turns a game into a happening. And if you string together enough happenings you got yourself a billion-dollar industry like the NHL. As I've written before, I believe there are times when players and owners of all sports lose focus on their most precious commodity and friend. The fan. The e-mail bag in this column is my weekly electronic hug to you for creating and maintaining the NHL. And since it's the holiday season, we dedicate this entire space with a Santa size edition. Thanks for reading each week and e-mailing with your kind words and poignant thoughts.

John --
Does painting my Stiga table hockey guys to sport the Minnesota Wild's third jerseys make me more of a rube or a dork?
Ryan Cardinal
Shoreview, Minn.

It makes you a legend, Ryan. I bought my first table hockey game when I was 9 with birthday card money. I can still remember the day I took it home from that Indiana, Pa., Woolworth's like it was yesterday. I still have it, and it still works. No helmets, no masks, and all the players look like Stone Phillips.

Shootouts. The NHL needs them like I need the Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Scott Modrzynski
Providence and New Jersey

Never underestimate the power and knowledge of Meatwad and never underestimate the feeling of going home from a game fired up or disappointed. Ties don't boil the blood. Hockey is a blood sport. For optimum results, it needs that blood to boil one way or the other.

What's with your hair and the new glasses? I think the "Barton Fink" look is fetching if a bit daring!
Hej då!
Allegra Blake
Kalamazoo, Mich.

"Barton Fink" was a 1991 movie starring an actor named John who is a writer, in his 30s, who wears glasses and suffers from severe writer's block. (Insert something funny and/or smart. I suddenly can't think of anything to write in response to Allegra Blake of Kalamazoo, Mich.)

So there are three of us over here in China, just west of Shanghai. We're all teaching English, reading your column.
Jeremy in Suzhou

It is sentences like that that bring me unbridled joy for 3-5 days.

I had to write after reading the email from Michael J. Neri Jr. who wanted to name his baby Cam. My wife and I decided in August '97 (six months before the U.S. women's team won Olympic gold) to name our daughter Cammi, after Cammi Granato. My wife wanted to have her real name be Cameryn, but when the nurse brought in the paperwork, I filled it out as just Cammi. For her first birthday, I bought her a photo of Cammi Granato with her gold medal to hang in her room.
Cammi Clark Balentine's Dad

Everyone who meets Cammi Granato likes her in seven seconds. She is still focused on playing for the U.S. Olympic team in Italy in 2006, then calling it a career to focus on her stamp collection and making the nightly chicken parm for her boyfriend, Ray Ferraro.

I was reffing a tier tournament in Los Angeles, and there was this team from Boston, Cushing Prep, that just happened to have a No. 19 Bourque on the team and a guy named Ray, behind the bench as an assistant coach. I had heard how great this team was all through the tournament, but didn't get a chance to see them until I got to line the championship game. It was a great game, his son is a great player, and his time has been well spent since retirement helping coach that team. The only words I heard from Ray during the game were a "good call" on an offside call, and a "thank you, good job" after the game, but his presence that you have often described in your writing in such detail was felt standing in front of him on the bench. It was amazing to have had the opportunity to have that brush with greatness. Cushing won the game 9-2.
Trevor Waagner

Excellent Fletch reference in the Yzerman story last week. Had Fletch been a hockey player do you think he would have had fantasies in a Kings uniform, or an Oilers uniform, and do you think he would have sported the 'fro, or hockey hair/mullet.

P.S. Put it on the Underhill's tab

Had Fletch played hockey he'd be 6-foot-4, with the Jofa hockey helmet, 6-9...

The ties in the NHL are getting out of control. I would rather watch soccer than the third period of a tie NHL game -- and I hate soccer. I think the idea of getting a point for an overtime loss is sacrilegious. You should get NOTHING for losing, except shame.
Melrose, Mass.

I agree. Just think, last season an Eastern Conference team could have not won a game and made the playoffs -- 82 ties last year would have qualified for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Or even worse, 82 overtime losses.

My friends and I are thinking of starting a new rock/alternative band. I am trying to come up with some hockey related names for the band and was wondering if you and Ken had any suggestions. Also, I was wondering what Ken's favorite team is. My guess would be the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters, for obvious reasons.
Tim Lanzilotta
Cleveland, Ohio

Ken has a 37 percent ownership stake in the Erie Otters. As far as your band name, if I've said it once, I've said it 17 times, Hakan and the Loobs is the only way to go. However, you could do: The Harold Snepts Project, Pokey and the Reddicks, Sunday Morning Save Percentage, Inside Edge, Half Wall or Blood, Sweat and Bob Beers.

Thank you so much for writing articles about the man, the myth, the legend, Steve Yzerman. He is so cool. I have followed his career since I was younger. By the way, the best dream song is "Only in Dreams" by Weezer.
Nathan McManus
Gonzaga University
Spokane, Wash.

More Dream songs: "Dreams" by Allman Brothers, "River of Dreams" by Billy Joel, "Dreams of our Fathers" by Dave Matthews Band, "Sleep to Dream Her"
by Dave Matthews Band, "The Dreaming Tree" by Dave Matthews, "All These Dreams" by Phish. "Dream of Mirrors" and "Infinite Dreams" by Iron Maiden, "Made Up Dreams" by Built To Spill, "Street of Dreams" by Rainbow, "Dream With Me" by Sweet Cheetah.

I'll tell you right now that if it takes these guys a year or two for a new CBA, I'll never go to another game or get the NHL Center Ice package on TV. And I bet I'm not the only one.
New York, New York

I feel your pain, Jason, but that's like saying, "I swear, one more Pringle." Can't do it.

Hey Bucci,
Since the Blackhawks are sucking this year without T-Bo, what do you think about the Hawks getting Cujo in Chicago?
Tommy Maloney
Zamboni Driver/Goalie/Stay-At-Home Dad

Finding a way to get a veteran goaltender in Chicago makes wayyyyy to much sense for the Blackhawks. You have a better chance of seeing Pat Burns in a wrestling suit.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the top 10 songs one should hear at an NHL game.
David Durst

One time, I'd like to have an arena dejay plays songs from an entire CD. Live's "Throwing Copper" comes to mind. I'd also like a game where no music is played and instead highlights of great NHL moments are shown on the Jumbotron. Again, we are selling the great game, not Guns N' Roses Greatest Hits. Turn the music down and the hockey up.

Sorry to hear that by 2019 Ken the Otter still hasn't gotten any "action" from Britney ... but then again, maybe Christina has been monopolizing him.
Take care,
Tim Davidheiser
Columbus, Ohio

Don't cry for Ken, Argentina. He gets plenty.

Hey John,
I totally agree with your feelings on shootouts in the NHL! I am fortunate enough to have the Blues and the Missouri River Otters (UHL) play here in St. Louis. In the UHL the shootout is a regular occurrence. It's a lot of fun to watch and the fans tend to stick around to see who wins. That's got to be good for owners, right? If you ever get a chance I'm pretty sure Ken could into a game for free! Heck they'd probably give him a hat, too!
Brad D.
St. Louis

People don't leave to buy Milk Duds or change the channel during a fight and they wouldn't leave for a shootout.

Mr. Buccigross,
I will be having a son in less than a month and my wife and I are at a loss as to what to name him. His middle name will be Kimball, but we are trying to decide between Benjamin, Blake, Carter, Chaz, Cole, Noah, Luc, Matthew, and Rockwell (we could call him Rock or Rocky). You helped out another soon-to-be-dad a few weeks ago, and I was wondering if you could throw me a bone as well. By the way, my wife has already nixed the following names: Nikolai, Ziggy, Ladislav, Valdimir, Lubomir, Pavel and Marian.
Sam Haslam
Mesa, Ariz.

With your two-syllable last name a three-syllable first name would rhythmically fit best. Benjamin Kimball Haslam would work fine, but I like Zachery Haslam. Haslam is a gentle sounding last name, which is good. Giving him a first name with a "K" sound in it will ensure he will muck and grind through life. Zachery Kimball Haslam. A winner.

Jim Rome had Wayne Gretzky on his show last week, and the Great One brought up a most important point: changing the size of the nets is NOT an option. Can you imagine if someone broke Wayne's 894 goals -- with a larger net?? Every record from the point the change is made will have an asterisk by it. Say Markus Naslund scores 900 goals by the end of his career, but scored half of them into the larger net? It just doesn't really make much sense. That's all I got for now. Out.
C.J. Fraguadas
Portland, Ore.

Baseball lowered the mound, the NBA put in a three-point line, and the NFL has changed the rules for blocking and pass defense that has resulted in Jerry Rice playing a different game than Don Hutson. The NFL has done a great job adjusting the rules to make sure the offense can move the ball and score points. The NHL needs to think in terms of better flow and a few more exciting goals.

I went to do some holiday shopping yesterday and I received exactly 36 cents change, one penny, one dime, and one quarter. The scary thing was they were dated 1995, 2000, and 2003, respectively. Those three years are the Stanley Cup championship years of my favorite team, the New Jersey Devils!

Mike Castagno
Little Silver, N.J.

Hi John!
I'd like to comment on your ideas about rule changes. In Finland we got rid of the red line a few seasons ago and the game is worse than ever. The trap is just dropping to the blue line, there is absolutely no room to carry the puck in to the offensive zone and breakaways are as common as Tuomo Ruutu goals! So please, hang onto the red line over there.
Jari Lindroos
Jyvaskyla, Finland

NHL players are the best in the world and their skill will overcome any worries of that happening. In short-handed situations and transition situations, allowing two-line passes will allow more ice to be gained before the defense can regroup. And I wonder if a two-line pass were legal would a few less skaters backcheck and instead curl back up ice in anticipation of a long pass creating more ice for everyone. The imagination and skill of the NHL player, I feel, would make it only a positive.

Hi John!
Just thought I'd let you know that Podes isn't the only one coming over here to play hockey this season. Kent Manderville recently joined Timra here in Sweden to play in our Elitserien.

If Ken Hitchcock's starting goalie was, in fact, a plate of bruschetta, what type of penalty would Atlanta Thrashers backup Byron Dafoe be accessed for eating the Flyers' goaltender during a stoppage in play?
Mark Driscoll
Providence College

A gross misconduct.

On Dec. 2, I spent the day at the Hockey Hall of Fame and got to see the Maple Leafs take on the Rangers at Air Canada Center. The next day, I drove to Philadelphia for the Flyers-Penguins game. On the way into Philly, I saw a white Dodge Intrepid with a license plate that read "Bucci." Was that you ... or Ken?

That was I. I'm a sucker for white Dodge's and familiar red Oldsmobuicks.

Would you be in support of the NHL downsizing to, say, 24 teams? If so, why or why not?
Go Parm,
Jimmy Rees

To grow hockey in the USA, I think the more NHL teams the better. When an NHL team comes to an American city more kids play hockey. We need more kids to play hockey so more kids watch hockey and more kids read hockey columns so I can buy more White Dodge Intrepids.

If you've never been, you should check out Baker Rink on the campus of Princeton University. One of the great old-time barns. Quite underrated, like, say, Billy Joel's "Turnstiles" album.
Rich Grippaldi

"Turnstiles" is in my top 10 favorite CDs and "Summer Highland Falls" is Bill's best.

Bucci --
Just finished reading your latest article. I must say the comments made by Stevie Y in regards to the looming CBA are bleak at BEST. I know I am not the only fan who fears this. Can hockey survive a work stoppage of a year or more?
Tim Hani

Tim, and all the others who send me work stoppage emails: THERE WILL BE NO WORK STOPPAGE LONGER THAN 60 DAYS.

Since being deployed to Kuwait, my friend and I have come up with a new alt-bluegrass band (kind of) -- Squatting Hajee, for all of us who are fine travelers from all over the world who have come to help us win the war. It has really nothing to do with hockey, but I know you like all those off brand bands. I absolutely enjoy every exciting new article. Say hi to Ken.
SSG Chuck Gray
371st CSG
Camp Udairi, Kuwait
Ohio Army National Guard

I am glad that you write your column, because it is one of the only things that I can read on the net from over here in Iraq and keep up with hockey. Thanks. And as far as the shootouts, the IHL did it and it was great fun! Great way to end a game!
Andrew S. Brazee
HHC, 101st CSG
Mosul, Iraq

Great way to end a column. Peace.

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.