Fans: Feel the power

While attending Heidelberg College in the mid '80s, my buddy Dan Kerchner had a phrase when someone was saying something of little substance: "BLADDLE, BLADDLE, BLADDLE!"

So whenever I hear Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs say how much money his Bruins are losing or when Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson says the players will NEVER accept a salary cap, Kersh's "BLADDLE, BLADDLE, BLADDLE," echoes through my head in Dolby surround sound.

Are they all blind to what's going on? Do they understand the most destructive element in the game right now? While a few more scoring chances and a few more goals would be nice, the preeminent issue in the game today is TICKET PRICES.

Now, you might be one of the ones where money is not an issue. Whether by inheritance, luck, timing, intelligent investing, long-term living below your means, staunch saving, or if you're David Cassidy's Botox injector, you might be one of the few who are immune to rising cost of NHL tickets. But, there is a better chance that you are like most everybody else. If you want a lower-level seat, you are probably talking about 70 bucks -- some more, some less. If you buy two seats, that's 140 bucks a game. Multiply that by 41 regular-season games and you are talking $5,740. Add another 50 bucks for parking and food and now we are around $8,000 a year. Over a decade, that's $80,000. You could buy a real nice Mercedes for $80,000 or about 3½ Nissan Altimas.

I have written before about the arguments I've had with players on how much the value of the fans is disgustingly discounted by some of them. I don't hang out with owners, but I'm sure it wouldn't take me long to find an owner or two who have zero fan interest as well. I'm not blowing sunshine up your butt when I say; you are the most vital resource in the industry. I say that with sincerity and passion because you're the most vital resource in my industry. Isn't that blatantly obvious -- the importance of the fan? I consider myself akin to an NHL player in terms of my role at ESPN. ESPN is the game, I am a player. Yes, most of you go to a game to see a player, but above all, you go and watch to see the game. The players change, the game moves on.

Players might argue that they are not involved in this equation. The owners are the owners and they set the ticket prices. Where this argument falls short is that the players in the four major North American sports leagues - MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL -- receive more than half the revenues. It is in their interest to have as many people as possible come to their games and watch on television. The players could get the fans on their sides by openly and sincerely talking about the need for lower ticket prices and to make proposal that would allow that to happen.

Fans in Boston are way more predisposed to align themselves with Joe Thornton than Jeremy Jacobs. Fans in Chicago are way more predisposed to align themselves with Kyle Calder than Bill Wirtz. The players should build that bridge now. Recruit you.

The owners? The way they have built most of their new arenas and the way most of them have run their business, the fan is far from their hearts. But they can also recruit the fan in this money game by including you in the CBA. I'm serious. With each proposal, highlight the part where ticket prices will be reduced. Aren't you the most important investor?

You are probably laughing. You sell yourself short. The power you have. The impact you can have. I know it's too early to get too emotional. You'd be out of gas by Arbor Day. But when the time comes, please scream and yell. You can make a difference. Baseball fans clearly did.

Everyone can win here. The owners can get their salary cap, the players can remain millionaires, and you can get lower ticket prices. So far, reason as somewhat prevailed. The sides are talking. I know the players as a whole, despite the few who discount you, are reasonable and want to play. They are great guys. The NHL people I know are bright, down-to-earth, reasonable men and women. My concern is the union leadership and the owners. That's where the work stoppage will come from. Both sides would be smart to befriend you. To harness your power. Because you do have the power. All of it.

And that's not a lot of BLADDLE, BLADDLE, BLADDLE.

The Hockey God is about to become a dad. Cool Papa Drury. Chris Drury has had a life of thrills. Little League World Series hero, NCAA champion, Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner, Calder Trophy winner, Stanley Cup champion, a Cape Cod wedding with family, friends and most important, wife Rory. But nothing will compare to the little twisted wrister Rory will deliver into the world in another month. Rory is pregnant and due Dec. 3. If she comes through on time Chris's first born will share a birthday with Ozzy Osbourne and Katarina Witt. A future goon!

No. 1: Why are you wearing No. 23 with the Sabres?
I wore No. 37 in Colorado because that's what they gave me. When I had a chance to get No. 18 I did, since that was my number growing up. Those two numbers were taken once I came to Buffalo, so I decided since I was now playing in the same state (New York) as my favorite baseball team, the Yankees, I would choose the number of my favorite Yankee growing up, Don Mattingly. So, it's 23.

Don Mattingly was a lifetime .307 hitter with a career on-base percentage of .358. He won the 1985 AL MVP when Chris was 9. Here's some forced quasi-creepy numerology for you: In 1988, Mattingly hit 18 homers and 23 doubles. The next year he hit 23 homers and had 37 doubles -- 18, 37, 23, Chris's three NHL uniform numbers.

No. 2: What is the future of the Sabres?
I think the future is very bright. Everything from ownership to management to the players is going in the right direction. I couldn't imagine what the guys went through last year, but once Mr. Golisano came in and solidified the ownership, from then on, everything has gone in the right direction.

The Sabres play Dec. 3 in Chicago. Chris has missed just 16 games in five plus NHL seasons. The Sabres are off Nov. 30-Dec. 2. If the kid has inherited Chris's lifetime sense of timing gene, he or she will arrive on his off days.

No. 3: You got a four-year deal from the Sabres. And all things equal, understanding the market in Buffalo, a salary cap and revenue sharing is probably the best system for the Sabres to have to the best chance at the Stanley Cup. That being said, do you ever have any conflicting issues over the CBA negotiations?
No, it's pretty easy. Obviously I want to win, but the bottom line is I'm in a union.

Three Drurys have played in the NHL: Chris, his brother Ted who played in 414 NHL games and Herb Drury (no relation) who played five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and one with the Philadelphia Quakers (1925-31).

No. 4: You played college hockey, which doesn't use the red line. Do you think it would help the NHL game if they took out the red line for offside?
Someone would figure out a defensive scheme to combat it. It wouldn't be that big of a deal. The biggest thing I noticed in college is during changes; if your goalie could really move it, say like Rick DiPietro, that is where it comes into play more.

Chris skates on Bauers, shoots with a Synergy stick and holds his stick with Easton gloves.

No. 5: My long-term goal is to teach at a college or university and coach the golf team. What's yours?
I'd really like to get back into baseball somehow. Whether it be coaching my kids or whatever. Every spring and summer I miss playing baseball.

The year Chris was born, the Yankees made the World Series for the first time in 12 years. In his 27 years on earth, the Yankees have been to the World Series ten times.

No. 6: How are you being used differently in Buffalo than other places?
Well, I'm killing a lot of penalties. I'm being counted on a lot more defensively. I'm playing against top lines and taking important faceoffs.

Chris recently played in his 400th NHL game – the magic number of NHL players. That number of games guarantees them a pension (It's 180 games for goalies).

No. 7: What parts of your game do you wish you were better at?
(Long Pause. This is a man comfortable in his hockey skin. If Drury asked me that same question and replaced "your game" with "broadcasting and writing," my list would approach 612.) Probably my reach. It seems like there are points in that game that a couple more inches of reach would make a difference.

Top 10 names for Chris's child if he is a boy: 1) Hakan Drury, 2) Antti Drury, 3) Gaetan Drury, 3) Jean-Guy Drury, 4) Bucko Drury, 5) Stu Drury, 6) Zdeno Drury, 7) Bep Drury, 8) Busher Drury, 9) Newsy Drury, 10) Jarmo Drury.

No. 8: Why is scoring down?
Because the focus of every team going into a game is defense. That's all our meetings are on, that's all the video that is shown. Quite frankly, I think players know how prevalent video is, and how many games are on TV and feel that big brother is watching. You don't want to lose your guy or turn the puck over because you know it's going to be on the video and four or five coaches are going to say something about it. The bottom line is that 85 percent of the players in the league are saying, "I'm not going to get on that video. I don't want to be scored on and I don't want to lose my guy." So, basically, scoring is going to go down.

This seems awful simple to me, but I've never heard anything said about it, even in today's "padded, stuffed & obstructed" NHL. Why not just let Ilya Kovalchuk (and everyone else) curve their sticks however they damn well please? If there's a point to the curvature rule, I, for one, am missing it.

Barry Melrose has brought this up on NHL 2Night. He says the movement of the puck from ultra curved sticks would mean more goals. Barry also advocates bringing back the mullet and making the El Camino the official car of the NHL.

Um, I have read your column many a times and this is the first that I have to say that I do not agree with. Red Wings fifth? Come on John. What were you thinking? Granted, the Blues will be stronger this year with Pronger back, but fifth? I think that if the Red Wings do not win their division, then they will be fourth for sure, and with more points than the third-place team. Care to explain why the "loss" of Feds will hurt Hockeytown so much?
Ken Wilson
Albany N.Y.

Ken, the loss of Sergei Fedorov will hurt the Wings' 5-on-5 offensive output. The Wings are a little old and a little small up front. They need to get bigger up front before the trade deadline.

OK, Jeremy Roenick looks way more like Tony Hawk than either Conine or Woods.
Rock on John,
Mike Fisher
Sylva, N.C.

Come on Bucci, Jyrki Lumme wins the Roenick look-alike contest hand down. Did anyone ever see them on the ice together?
Rich Hansil
Avs fan stranded in L.A.

Just wondering, if Ken had been in the dugout against the Yankees, would he have pulled Pedro?
Kurt Beye
Denver, Colo.
P.S. Stood in line behind Forsberg at the Whole Foods in Cherry Creek -- 1 tenderloin, 1 package vermicelli, lots of smiles and autographs all around and approachable. This is why hockey does not suck.

If Ken the Otter were managing the Red Sox he would have pulled Pedro after Jeter hit the high fastball to right. Pedro was gassed. Do you think Scotty Bowman would have "asked" Pedro if he was wanted to come out. Great coaches make the hard decisions.


Podes is the best. I read that last story and people were wondering what I was laughing at. We miss him here in Colorado. Could you imagine him and Ricci here at the same time?
David A. Bixler, E.I.
Denver, Colo.

First of all, I enjoy your stuff, yadda yadda yadda, all the way from Sweden. I saw you mention Shjon Podein on the ESPN site, so I thought I'd mention this: Shjon Podein just signed for the Växjö Lakers (of the Swedish Allsvenskan, that being the division under the Swedish Elite League) for a fraction of the salary of an NHL player. On top of that, he will give 25 percent of his salary to the local hospital, and another 25 percent to the Växjö youth program. I don't live anywhere near Växjö, and I didn't even know they had a hockey team, but I gotta say, Shjon Podein is now officially my idol!!!
Best regards,
Leo Marchant
Åkersberga, Sweden

We are excited here at ESPN.com. We now will get "Life of Podes: The Scandinavian chronicles" soon.

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.