There'll be hockey ... but it better be soon

I've got 18 things I want to say ...

1. Keep in the mind we are now approaching the reckoning phase of the NHL lockout. After Thanksgiving is when the stress levels will go through the roof. Agents will be coaxing players since they are not collecting fees. Wives will be nagging players because the holiday season is approaching. Owners who sell out all their games will be reminding Gary Bettman about all their lost revenue.

After Thanksgiving, things will move quickly. The players will make a proposal, the owners will counter and the season will hang in the balance as the players decide to accept the owners' final offer. The players will go back to the owners, ask for a little more -- like making unrestricted free agency begin at 28 or 27, maybe increase playoff shares and a complimentary Nicollette Sheridan bobblehead doll -- and we'll have a deal and have hockey.

2. Our band Keane has a song called "Bend and Break" from their four-star CD Hopes and Fears. I was listening to that song driving to work the other day when I realized it has NHL lockout lyrics that screamed out at me. An example:

Lovesick, bitter and hardened heart
Aching, waiting for night waiting for life to start
Meet me in the morning when you wake up
Meet me in the morning then you'll wake up

3. Look-alikes #345: Los Angeles Kings defenseman Aaron Miller and Red Sox middle reliever Mike Timlin.

4. Please keep in mind I am taking no sides in the NHL labor disagreement. I really don't care who gets the better deal. I talk to people, I observe, I listen, I read, I assess, I pass on my vibe to you. When this is all said and done, the owners will be rich, the players will be rich and tickets will be overpriced.

5. If there is no CBA in place next June, there will be no NHL draft.

6. Hockey god Chris Drury and his wife are expecting baby No. 2 next May. Robert Gary Drury?

7. The boards are up for the backyard rink. Hopefully, we'll have ice for a Christmas skate. I've decided that the boards are staying up full-time, even in the summer. I'm accepting sponsorship signage and lawn chair PSL money.

8. Cam Neely. Next year it will be nine years since Neely last played in the NHL. Nine years is enough. As the NHL looks to reinvent itself after this labor strife, implementing a period of reconstruction by celebrating the player and endorsing the tradition of good men who played with all the values of a hockey player -- courage, toughness, skill, heart and playoff production -- 2005 is the year for Neely. He's at the head of the eligible class. My argument for Neely is the same -- there are players in the Hall with less talent and there are players in the Hall with less heart. There are players in the Hall who don't approach Neely's lasting mass appeal to the NHL fan. He is loved. His numbers are clearly worthy, especially his gaudy postseason numbers. He continues to build on his legend with his commitment to making life easier for families trampled by cancer. Cam Neely. The name means hockey. And it belongs in the Hall of Fame. Now.

9. Since so many NHL players are playing, there won't be much training camp needed when the season resumes. I'd say 10 days, max.

10. My sources tell me ESPN/ESPN 2 will televise games from the World Junior Championships. I can't reveal my sources so don't even try to get it out of me.

11. The new Ginger on the Gilligan's Island reality show is Rachel Hunter, who is now, after breaking up with me, dating Sean Avery. Who's your mommy, Sean?

12. The next time the New York Rangers play a hockey game, Jason LaBarbera of the Hartford Wolf Pack should be one of their goalies.

13. I drove up to Burlington, Vt., and watched the U.S. women play Canada in the Four Nations Cup on the campus of the University of Vermont. Real good hockey. The women can skate, are tough, defend and play goal. The biggest improvement the women need to make, except Angela Ruggiero, is on their wrist and snap shots. The women need more power. They should do mandatory forearm work year round and maybe play with a little lighter puck if they can keep it from bouncing too much.

14. A vintage game from the early '80s was shown on TV recently, and a few things were astoundingly clear -- goalies were largely technically atrocious, had small and nonfunctional equipment and simply were not athletes. Goalies now are too big (with the protective equipment) and too good for the size of the net that is being used. If the NHL needs more goals and the only way that will exponentially happen is with a bigger net.

15. Why NHL nets really should be bigger -- in its October issue, New Scientist reports industrialized nations have been getting taller for decades. The people of the Netherlands, for example, are now the world's tallest. They've been on an upward trend since 1851. The average height increase of Eastern Europeans is up to 1.18 inches a decade. People are taller and weigh more than they did 50 years ago. How big will they be in 50 years? And how long until we all realize that bigger people, bigger and better equipment and better-trained and -conditioned athletes in net warrant and justify a bigger net?

16. Remember, when you leave a voicemail leave your number at the beginning of the voicemail before the message twice, and then leave your number again at the end. I currently have a voicemail I haven't returned yet because I don't want to go through the annoying 90-second message to get to the phone number, which was said once and fast. C'mon people, you're better than that!

17. The Incredibles was excellent, but I didn't think it was Toy Story- or Finding Nemo-caliber.

18. When you start talking about computer-generated motion pictures, you know the lockout is beginning to take effect and it's time to stop. My kingdom for a Zdeno Chara cross-ice dump-in.

Down here in Nashville, hockey is alive and well. I attribute a great deal of this to the grass-roots hockey programs that the Nashville Predators started upon their arrival. Many of my players didn't lace up their skates until we got an NHL team. Without these programs, high school hockey wouldn't even exist -- the Preds basically brought the whole program into existence. We now have a local 21-team league, and many other leagues throughout the state, and a bona fide state championship. Their efforts have provided legitimacy to a game that was totally foreign, to the point where we're packing a local rink for a regular-season game.

Patrick Burke
Nashville, Tenn.

These kinds of stories warm me, like when my Mom would dump a tub of hot oatmeal down my pajamas when I wouldn't get out of bed in the morning. Always Quaker Oats' Cinnamon and Spice. God, I admire her. Patrick's e-mail strengthens my argument that hockey fans are created one rink at a time and the way to grow the game is to keep teams in the so-called non-traditional markets -- and be patient. The greatness of the game will make an impact. I will always defend the "non-traditional" hockey fan.

My question is this: What are your favorite and least-favorite covers of all time? And one you'd like to see? I'd pay $19.99 for any CD that had Marilyn Manson covering "Tempted," by Squeeze. That's sick, isn't it.

Patchie MacDougal

Some great covers that come to mind without research -- James Taylor's "Up On The Roof." I love Everclear's cover of "Brown Eyed Girl." Counting Crows', "Big Yellow Taxi." Manfred Mann's "Blinded by the Light." David Bowie's "China Doll." Ben Folds' "Songs of Love." Worst covers? Madonna's "American Pie." "Dock of the Bay," by Michael Bolton. Dolly Parton's "Stairway to Heaven." I'd like to hear Modest Mouse try to cover Steely Dan's "Black Friday." And I'd like to hear The Shins give Elliot Smith's "Miss Misery" a shot.

Dear John,
My boyfriend and I are big-time hockey fans. So for the holidays I'm getting him the Winnipeg Falcons jersey (the yellow one) and I can get it without the World Cup of Hockey patch. So … I thought instead of keeping the WCH patch on and getting Sakic put on or another Avs player (big Avs fan) because he has so many jerseys, I thought it would be cool to get him a Frank Fredrickson jersey instead (captain and top guy for Winnipeg Falcons and the 1920 Olympic team, but you knew that). My point is (sorry, I like telling stories) that I need to know Fredrickson's number.

Dafna Stempel
Long Island, N.Y.

Can anyone out there help Dafna?

Hi John,
Does Gary Bettman continue to get paid during the lockout? And just how much does Gary Bettman make? I ask because the players aren't getting paid and this is supposed to provide an impetus for them to want to negotiate, but what is there that should spur Bettman to work?

Garrett Oppenheim
Go Kings!

Gary Bettman continues to get paid. Bettman's compensation package has never been made public. I'd say he makes around $3 million to $4 million. Although not currently negotiating, Bettman and his staff meet daily to go over strategies, handle media requests and deal with all 30 teams and their needs during this work stoppage. Bob Goodenow and his staff are not getting paid, but that is standard "union" practice.

The players lost the PR battle a long time ago with quotes from guys like Brett Hull during the World Cup saying that he didn't care about the fans. Note to the NHLPA -- real unions don't go take other people's jobs when they can't negotiate a new contract. It's acts like this that have alienated the fans to the point we are now. By the way, everybody is invited to my place for a BBQ the day the players fire Bob Goodenow and start playing hockey. Yes … even Barry Melrose and his iridescent, polyester pimp suits. Just tell him not to stand too close to the grill. It may be cramped like a locker room on the patio, but that's how we like it.

Peace Bucci,
Scott Cavin
St. Louis

Barry owns a United Hockey League team in Glens Falls, N.Y., regrettably and unforgivably not called the Mulletmen. Glens Falls has been awarded the UHL All-Star Game on Jan. 24. Tickets are going fast. Before the All-Star Game on Monday night, I will take part in a charity game against Adirondack alumni. Darren Pang, Steve Levy, John Saunders and possible special guests may include a former NHL player named after a tasty Italian entrée.

My wife is pregnant with our second child and we need your naming expertise. Our first child is named Cade Edward Fish, but we are having trouble coming up with names that we both like for either a boy or a girl. An outside source is clearly needed. I have found your names to be excellent suggestions. (Although I don't think I will be able to talk my wife into Haken Loob Fish.) You have to be careful with the last name Fish.

Thank you,
Guy Fish
Assistant Volleyball Coach
University of Nebraska-Omaha

Cade Fish. What a freakin' awesome name. Well done. For No. 2? Boy. Caleb Francis Fish. Girl? Katherine Elizabeth Fish, and call her Katherine every day of her life.

I am the hockey enthusiast in this family. So it has been rough going trying to convince my husband that we need to name our identical twin boys something that will help them make it through the ranks to the NHL. Our boys are due right around the time my Ducks would be visiting us here in St. Louis (mid-February). I have been pushing for the names Jarren Michael and Jamie Craig (homage to 1980s Olympic goalie Jimmy Craig). Do you have any suggestions or any ideas as how to knock some sense into my husband?

Thanks and keep up the positive attitude,
Jennifer Lupul
St. Louis

I don't like Jarren or Jamie, Jen. Lupul is name consisting of soft-sounding letters, we need something with an edge elsewhere. If you want hockey, I'd go Jackson Michael (Eruzione) Lupul and Markus (Johnson or Pavelich) Brooks (Herb) Lupul.

Howdy John,
There has been something I've been wondering for about six months, but I wanted to research my question before spitting it out. Anyway, in an old article you said something like "I love watching Todd Bertuzzi play because of his reckless abandon." Can you find that quote for me, and can you defend that statement, as he is defending the consequences of his reckless abandon. There were too many of dislocated shoulders and concussions from his "legal" playing, so I wonder if you still have the same high regard for his play?

Mark Woods
St. Louis, Misery

I wrote this in one of my columns in March 2002 referring to Todd Bertuzzi and I assume it is the one you are referring to, Mark: The most unique talent in the game. There is no one else like him. His value to his team is extraordinary and he plays with a Neely-like rage, which I love.

I don't regret any of those words, Mark. I surmise the dislocated shoulder line from you was Bertuzzi's hit on Barrett Jackman behind the St. Louis net in Vancouver. That was a clean hit. The Steve Moore hit was not. Neely played with rage, but he controlled it to keep things civilized, another Hall of Fame trait. He could have clubbed Claude Lemieux from behind a number of times but chose to face him to make clear his intentions, to be fair, despite all the unfair things Neely felt Lemieux did to him. Bertuzzi was chasing Moore around the ice asking for a fight because of what felt was an unfair hit on Markus Naslund in a previous game between the two teams. When Moore didn't face Bertuzzi, as No. 44 emotionally implored, he lost his temper, became temporarily uncivilized and committed an inexcusable and dangerous act. Hockey players need to play with a rage, as Neely did and Bertuzzi does. In fact, not enough do. But they must also be civilized and fair as Neely always was and Bertuzzi wasn't.

I am an officer in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany. I am an avid hockey fan, with the Avalanche as my favorite team. When stationed in Colorado in '96, my pregnant wife splurged on Avs tickets for my birthday. She even waddled down the aisle between the spilled popcorn and sticky, soda/beer-covered floor for us to see the game. We now have three children and are raising a family that loves hockey. All who are associated with the NHL need to think about the fans and make a deal that is good for the future of hockey!!

Major Bill Farmer


I was reading your latest column, the one with a bunch of e-mails of people explaining their love of hockey. I had the song "Let Go," by Frou Frou, from the Garden State soundtrack … I hadn't shed a tear since my father died 15 years ago. Those e-mails reminded me of the efforts he made so that I could play hockey. Those tears felt good.

Thank You, John.
Sebastien Perth

Arnold Bennett said: "There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul."

John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is john.buccigross@espn.com.