A goalie, two Rays, and a drop of golden sun.
Last week, Raymond Bourque, Raymond Ferraro, and Reggie Lemelin joined me for 18 holes of golf at the newest TPC track in Norton, Mass. The occasion was, first and foremost, a practice round for me. The TPC of Boston, a brand spankin' new Arnold Palmer design, is one of 100 sites that will host local qualifiers for this year's U.S. Open, and it is where I chose to play my qualifier.
The United States Golf Association has accepted 7,820 entries, including mine, for the event, which will be played June 12-15 at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill. The youngest entrant is 13-year-old Mu Su of Bradenton, Fla. The oldest is 68-year-old George Bellino of Youngstown, Ohio.
I could have chosen any of the sites in the U.S., but I chose the TPC of Boston because it is new, I probably wouldn't get to play it any other way, it's an hour away from my house, and it's literally next door to an amphitheatre that I frequented often in the late 80s and early 90s. REM, Eddie Murphy, Bruce Hornsby, The Outfield, Huey Lewis, Pat Benatar, Jimmy Buffett, and, yes, Julian Lennon were just some of the acts I remember maxing out my credit card for. Remembering those fun times and humming Lennon's "Valotte" while in the furnace of U.S. Open qualifying would hopefully serve as my 15th club.
Our tee time was 9:51 a.m. Chicken Parm and I arrived in his rented Buick Regal at 9:05, while Bourque and Lemelin arrived in Bourque's BMW about 9:30. We hit the five star, 10-acre practice area to shake off the hour ride. The TPC is hosting the Deutsche Bank Championship on Labor Day weekend with Tiger Woods in the field. (One way to get Tiger to play in your event: Donate proceeds to the Tiger Woods Foundation.) We decided to play the course at the tips to get that PGA feel and because that's where I would be playing the course in my qualifier four days later. It was me and C-Parm, as Dany Heatley calls him, against No. 77 and No. 1 -- best ball, sandies, greenies, birdies, the normal "junk," all for a little bit of coin.
As some of you know, I Sharpie-mark my golf balls with a hockey player's name and for this sunny day on a great golf course I chose Bob Beers because nothing is better than golf, hockey and beers.
Bourque and I both parred the short, par-4 first. A nice six-footer by No. 77 on the par-5 second put the French Canadians 1-up. When I interviewed Bourque last year during his stint as a TV analyst at ESPN, he told me he and his wife mainly speak French to each other. So do Bourque and Lemelin, as they did when helping each other read putts. Parm and I spoke freaky deaky Dutch.
As the day went along Parm and I were ham-and-egging it to perfection -- that's a golf term for taking turns having a good hole. I would card a double bogey on a hole; Parm would par it. Parm would make a 7 on the next; I would par it. We were even after seven holes, but Parm had a nice up and down par on No. 8 and I sank a 20-footer on No. 9 to secure the front nine, and kick in an automatic press on the back.
As we walked up to the 10th green, Parm, who had 408 career goals, screamed over to Bourque, "How many goals did you have?" I told Ray the night before that Bourque had more than him, but he didn't believe me. Bourque responded, "410."
"DAMN!" said a frustrated Ferraro. The rest of the day I called Parm "408" and Bourque "410" -- 818 NHL goals. (Neely-Drury. That's how I'll remember that number. That's how I remember phone numbers. Using hockey player uniform numbers. For instance, Parm got a new cell phone recently and his last four numbers are 9149. So, to remember it I thought Fedorov-Orr-Bucyk. Presto, it's locked in my brain.)
On the second nine, C-Parm and I were 1-under as a team. We kicked in a couple more presses, and were on our way to a profitable day. Bourque considered the day a success because he played all 18 holes of the 7,000+-yard TPC with the same Titleist 77. Reggie used a few of his Titleist 1's.
Lemelin was hysterical all day. I can see why the quiet Bourque likes to hang around Reggie, besides the obvious cultural background similarities. Reggie carries the show and Bourque can counterpunch. Reggie had us rolling with three particular stories:
• When Reggie played in Atlanta in the late 1970s, his coach, Boom Boom Geoffrion, once said in a passionate pregame speech, "We gotta do THREE things tonight! We gotta shoot, we gotta skate … LET'S GO!!"
• Lemelin once had a teammate who spoke French, but very little English. In fact, he spoke so little English that no matter what anybody said, his response was: "I tell you one thing, I tell you that!" Reggie said it became a catchphrase on a late 80s Bruins team. If you hear me say it on NHL 2Night you'll know it's a hello to Reggie and Ray.
• A former Flames teammate of Reggie's, defenseman Pat Ribble, once ordered and then chugged to the amazement and horror of a stunned waitress an entire bottle of BLUE NUN WINE!
Lemelin just finished his 10th year as the Flyers goaltending coach. He said Roman Cechmanek was very open to coaching and may have suffered a bit from not having his family around in the playoffs. His wife and two kids returned to the Czech Republic during the regular season. Mr. Bean speaks little English, and not having the comfort of family may explain his great-game-bad-game playoff run. If I'm the Bruins, Blues, or Hurricanes, I take a look at Cechmanek. The Canes have five Czechs on their roster, a perfect place for Cechmanek.
Bourque is a close friend/former teammate of Patrick Roy and undoubtedly has talked retirement with him. My initial plan was to challenge No. 77 to a Blue Nun chugging contest to get Roy's decision out of him, but I relented. I would never put Bourque in a position to answer a question like that, so I never even mentioned Roy. Besides that being a private conversation between two friends, we were just four guys on a golf course, not working media and active players.
Here's what I know: People in the Avalanche organization don't expect Roy to return.
Here's what I think Bourque told Roy about his retirement decision and walking away from $8.5 million as Bourque did in 2001: "If you have a burning desire to play, play. However, you have nothing to prove. I'm so glad I still have my health to enjoy the rest of my life. Don't jeopardize yours in any way. If your hips hurt and you think it will affect your passion for golf or just everyday life, retire. And the joy of putting on your skates and being with your son everyday on the ice at hockey practice is a joy that a fifth Stanley Cup can not approach."
Of course, that conversation would be in French.
So, based on what I know and what I hypothesize, Patrick Roy is going to retire. We'll find out soon enough.
What a day. A great day of golf on the best TPC course I've ever played with the best service I've ever received. A round of golf with 818 NHL goals and 236 NHL goaltending wins. That being said, I don't expect to play well in my U.S. Open qualifier. I'm driving the ball poorly and am not making 4-8 footers. I anticipate a 78-82 on the 7,200-yard track. But that's OK. I'll tee up my Titleist with Jean-Sebastien Giguere on one side and 35 on the other. Why J.S.? Well, he's the hottest thing in hockey right now and he's doing it with humility, dignity and class. And he wears No. 35. I'll need two 35s to qualify. I think 70 will be the number. My game is more tuned to a Ray Bourque or a Miroslav Satan, right now. But again, that's cool.
Whenever I think of the TPC of Boston, I'll think of my first round there and another French Canadian goalie. And my reaction will be like Reggie Lemelin's after a Boston Bruins playoff series win in the spring of 1988 in the Montreal Forum. Mask off, held by the glove hand, sliding on his left knee, and pumping the left arm back and forth in pure boyhood joy.
I tell you one thing, I tell you that.
The players who have been suiting up every night -- or nearly every night – for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks during this playoff season are experiencing the times of their hockey lives. Win or lose in the final, they will never forget the spring of 2003.
Then there is enforcer Kevin Sawyer. He is on the sidelines watching it all. Sawyer suffered a concussion in December and has been out of the lineup since. Thus, he is not experiencing the thrills of playing on a Stanley Cup freight train of a team.
And what if the Ducks win the Stanley Cup?
Prior to 1977 only players who had competed in the Stanley Cup playoffs were eligible to have their names on the Stanley Cup. Since then, players appearing in 40 regular-season games or one Stanley Cup final game for the championship team (like Jiri Slegr for the Red Wings) have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. The NHL makes exceptions for players who do not meet the standard because of injury (see also: Eddie Olzcyk in 1994). If that's the case, you can bet Kevin Sawyer will get his name on the Cup.
His kind of toughness is the kind that makes Barry Melrose's eyes water and Mike Babcock's blood flow. I talked with him Sunday afternoon.
No. 1: How did you get your concussion?
Sawyer: I was fighting Brad Norton of the Kings on December 19. I went for a haymaker and left myself open and he caught me with a hard right on the temple. That was all I remember.
That was Kevin's 12th and final fight of the year – three at home and nine on the road. He had 26 fighting majors in 2001-02.
No. 2: How do you feel now?
Sawyer: This week will be one month with no symptoms. I have been crystal clear. It's taken a while, but I feel great.
Kevin was born in Christina Lake, British Columbia, on Feb. 21, 1974.
No. 3: What's it like to have a concussion?
Sawyer: It's the most unsettling feeling, just because you just don't feel right. It's hard to put into words. Day-to-day life becomes so hard. You get overwhelmed from a simple conversation. You can't concentrate or you feel dizzy. It's just frustrating. I would have a good day, and then the next day be right back where I was.
Kevin has played 110 NHL games -- six with the Blues, four with the Bruins, three with the Coyotes and 97 with the Ducks.
No. 4: Do you still feel a part of the team?
Sawyer: Honestly, a little bit. Guys tell me after games that I'm a part of this and a part of the team, but I'm not doing anything to help the team win these games other than stay positive. Obviously, I'd like to be doing a lot more. I just started riding the bike 10 days ago.
Kevin has a 4-month-old son named Jack. Jack Sawyer. What a great detective name. CSI: Vancouver, the Jack Sawyer chronicles.
No. 5: How have the coaches and players been toward you?
Sawyer: They've been GREAT. They put my stall back up in the locker room, and I tell you what, a little thing like that is unbelievable. To see my picture up over my stall makes me feel great. I'm really grateful.
Kevin is 6-foot-2, 205 pounds.
No. 6: You don't have a contract for next season. How concerned does that make you at this point?
Sawyer: Very. I'm a fourth-line fighter/grinder who has been out for four months. But I know I'm fine. I have a newborn son and it's hard not to think about those things. He was born 11 days after my concussion, so I haven't played a game in the NHL while he has been alive and that's kind of troubling to me.
No. 7: Explain the success of head coach Mike Babcock.
Sawyer: I played for "Babs" twice before, once in juniors and once in the AHL. He hasn't changed one single bit. He shows no sign of intimidation. He's the most prepared guy ever. He puts his time in. He knows what other teams do and he relays it to us clearly. He is prepared and he knows how to counter other teams. He knows when to push and when to lay off. Steve Thomas has also been very important to our success. He's taken over the locker room. We were on a flight and an older male flight attendant, about 60 years old, was walking down the aisle and "Stumpy" yelled at him, "Hey Oatsie!! (referring to Adam Oates) Grab me a water!!" The plane erupted. No one ever did that kind of thing before. We have a lot of quiet guys. Our room is more vocal because of him.
No. 8: If the Ducks win the Stanley Cup and you get your day with the Cup, can I come to your party in Christina Lake and eat Chicken Parm out of the Stanley Cup?
Sawyer: Great Idea! Although the last four wins will be the hardest against a great team. If that happens we will serve chicken parm out of the cup for sure.
Will someone please check Jiggy's pads? He looks like a self-defense dummy. I was at Games 1 and 2 against the Wild and his pads looked twice the size of Roloson's. What do you think about this? I smell conspiracy!
From the State of the Borg...I mean the State of Hockey
All of Jiggy's equipment was measured before the playoffs. Did I just type that sentence? It's all good. By the way, an NHL official told me that a goalie's equipment can't be measured during the game except the stick.
I have to disagree with your comment regarding Anaheim. I believe that Giguere is automatically the playoff MVP, no questions asked. Even if they lose, the precedent is there for a player from the losing team to win the MVP. Remember Ron Hextall against the Oilers? If Ken's out west, have him drop me a line. I know this hot young otter out at Northwest Trek, the local wildlife park.
If Martin Brodeur and the Devils smoke the Ducks in four or five games, Marty would be the Conn Smythe winner, I believe. If they go seven and Jiggy threw in a shutout of two, he would probably get it. Ken is locked into the Stanley Cup finals. He has an affinity for the Ducks, as you can imagine. Get a number.
Last week, I had a chance to go see the Cup in person and get my picture taken at Sears. There were several big screen TVs playing memorable Stanley Cup moments to watch while standing in line. When you saw the Cup did you touch it????? I have a little debate going with my friends. I won't touch the Cup until I earn it, and if that never happens it was not meant to be. What's your opinion???
White Bear Lake, Minn.
I touched it when I took a picture of the Cup with former Masters champion Craig Stadler. I have touched it many times. It's the coolest thing there is.
I wish I could watch games that ended 6-5 instead of 1-0. Should they make the nets bigger?
All the best!
You are what Jim Morrison was for the Doors,
Frank Henrik Johansen
I do believe the NHL nets should be bigger -- six inches wider, four inches higher. The human being is getting bigger. The general population is bigger than it was 75 years ago. What about 75 years from now? There is less and less net to shoot at it -- and that is starting at a younger age, which will frustrate kids from playing hockey. If the nets are not enlarged some day a 6-foot-10, 315-pound, agile man is going to come along and cover up the entire net.
Amazing, all this time I've never read your column and now I know why. I've watched hockey my entire life and I can't think of a more poorly written or more pointless column written during the playoffs.
I happened upon your article however while surfing for Wild stuff on espn.com. What a piece of literary genius.
Just my opinion, but nothing goes better with a late Oilers game than a big bowl of Lucky Charms. One more thing ... I'm playing in a golf tournament tomorrow. Ken the Otter will be written on the side of my Titleist.
Send the Ken the Otter ball to me at ESPN (ESPN Plaza, Bristol, CT 06010) and I shall frame it in his room.
Another little tidbit for you to use: Last night, Barry said in the trivia question that Brenden Morrow played with Marian Hossa. That he did. But here's more info, not only did they play together, they won the Memorial Cup together (for the Portland Winterhawks, the same team Chicken Parm played for in '83 when he was on the MC winning team) and lived together in the same billet home. The following year Brenden lived with Marian's little brother, Marcel of the Canadiens.
You should write a book. Seriously.
I've begun one: "The lead singer of Air Supply is really Al Morganti: The untold story." Look for it in bookstores July 23.
I love Lalime's Marvin the Martian mask motif. If you were a goalie what cartoon would you choose? I'm thinking the Power Puff Girls would be quite comical and give the other team pause. Thanks for bringing fun, frivolity and head-scratching hilarity to my week!
Spoiled in Denver,
Cartoon? For me? Johnny Bravo meets the Great Gazoo.
I heard a rumor that home teams would sport dark jerseys next season, and the road team would sport white jerseys.
It's not a rumor. It's fact. The Wings will wear red at home next year, the Bruins black and so on. I'll be wearing only black shirts and white ties, like Ken Hitchcock, on ESPN next year as well.
First off, I greatly enjoy your column, and I must mean it as I have never written to anybody about their work in the media before, and frankly am quite amazed I am doing it now.
Washington (formerly Calgary)
That's because you've never drank a quart of Aqua Velva before, Jeff. Put down the rest of the Sam's Club-size bottle and go to bed. Everything will be fine. And Washington was never called Calgary. I know, it's the Aqua Velva talking.
I know you're tight with Podein, so the next time you talk to him tell him thanks from Willy. Shjon used to assist me in my Micro Economics class at the University of Minnesota-Duluth back in '88. Not only is he a player on the ice and with the ladies, but he also really knows his stuff about the Law of Diminishing Returns.
Another chapter from the Life of Podes next week…
It's 4:08 in the afternoon, I am at work, and listening to the new Pete Yorn CD, it is solid. The reason I am writing to you is I just read your column and have tears in my eyes because of the last e-mail from Anthony Styer. I guess I have read other e-mails from people fighting in the war in the Middle East, but Tony's hit home for some reason. I am glad you continue to put those e-mails at the end of your column because it puts it all in perspective, and it makes me realize my problems are a joke compared to what guys like Tony are going through on a daily basis. I am obviously aware and grateful for all that the troops have sacrificed for us, but it's always good to be reminded. Thanks again John, keep up the good work.
John Buccigross is the host of NHL 2Night, which airs on ESPN2. His e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is firstname.lastname@example.org.