My crazy Sunday starts and ends with hockey

Sunday was a long day.

After working until 3 a.m. anchoring SportsCenter ("Stay classy, Bristol"), I went home and read half of the latest Sports Illustrated until 4:05 a.m. and fell asleep soon after.

I woke up at 9:30 a.m. to shower, eat (banana, Wheaties, oatmeal, orange juice and vitamins every morning; sometimes, I'll throw in a canned ham) and head to the South Windsor Arena for an 11:15 a.m. mite game. My 6-year-old son, Jackson, a mite rookie, used his right glove as a blocker for living room mini-stick hockey the night before, and thus was rendered Michael Jackson.

So it was off to the pro shop for the emergency $30 purchase of a new pair of 11-inch Easton Synergy gloves. When you are a parent of a child who plays hockey, one must have unconditional glove.

I help coach the group of 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds. We capped off a two-win weekend with a 3-0 Sunday shutout. Jackson hit the post with his new gloves and is still in search of his first career goal.

After that, it was a mad sprint to the car at 12:30 p.m. My older son, Bantam Brett, had a 1:10 game in a part of Connecticut where cell phone and satellite radio service are nonexistent and the antique shops outnumber Old Navy stores, 28-0. During the trip down the windy, Connecticut roads, Jack claimed he "had nine goals in his career." (Jack counts goals scored during practice drills and pregame warm-ups, when goalie Phillip is thinking about the postgame cruller, as career goals.)

Brett's game was at a Connecticut prep school called The Gunnery. As we walked into the cold, dark, rather depressing rink, there were 14 minutes left in the game. I just completed half of a three-hour, round-trip excursion for about five shifts. Par for the course. The highlight of the game, a 5-1 South Windsor win, was looking on the wall of the rink at a team picture of The Gunnery hockey team from 1961-62. The captain of the team looked like Buddy Holly and his name was Spaulding McCabe.

We hit some Thanksgiving weekend traffic through the gridlock nightmare that is Waterbury, Conn., and didn't get home until 5 p.m. My body needed a timeout, so I took a solid 90-minute power nap in order to have enough energy to watch the Canucks and Avalanche at 9 p.m. What follows is a running diary of watching that game on the Denver regional sports network, Altitude.

9:08 p.m. ET: Game on. The puck drops and 11 seconds later Milan Hejduk scores his fifth goal of the game. Avalanche analyst Peter McNabb says "That was a Hejduk goal." Yes, yes it was. The Avalanche record for quickest goal is nine seconds held by Joe Sakic and Kirk Muller.

9:13 p.m.: Andrew Brunette scores his sixth goal of the year. "Bruno" is a hero to athletes like me who never had fast feet or powerful, athletic movements. He relies solely on his hands and brain. That was Bruno's 128th career goal in his 567th game. He's missed just seven games in the last five-plus seasons, but then again, he doesn't move fast enough to get hurt.

9:26 p.m.: Sakic scores. His eighth goal of the year and 550th of his career. That's 20th all time, and former Bruin John Bucyk is next on the all-time list. It is also point No. 1,424 for Sakic, one short of his hero, Bryan Trottier.

(The year off has hurt Sakic. He looks like Michael Jordan when he played a year of baseball and then came back to the NBA. Those first three months, if you remember, Jordan didn't have his explosiveness. He could hardly dunk during a game. Sakic looks like that. It will likely take him a couple more months to get his legs. He is one of those guys who didn't play at all last year and those players look slow right now. Some will get a step back, but others, especially if the NHL stays fast, will not. It bears watching. I wouldn't be shocked if Sakic retires after this year. It will either be retirement or a two-year, $8 million-$10 million deal. Then, Sakic can retire with over 600 goals and 1,000 assists. Gretzky, Messier, Howe, Marcel Dionne, Yzerman and Lemieux are the only seven players to have done that.)

9:29 p.m.: Marc Crawford calls timeout. Crawford's hair is once again Augusta National, first cut of rough perfect. Blue blazer, striped shirt, striped tie. Among all NHL coaches, Crawford has the best hair and is the best dresser. Joel Quenneville's tie looks as if it was tied in the mid 1980s by Ric Ocasek, lead singer of The Cars. Quenneville has about $10 million-$20 million in the bank and he dresses like a Burger King night-shift manager. You have to respect that. Joel is the kind of guy who would rather smoke a $300 cigar while wearing an $8 tie. Crawford is probably the other way around.

9:35 p.m.: The officials, Eric Furlatt and Tim Peel, are letting the boys play, which can now be interpreted as the players are playing by the rules. However, in some instances, players are taking their hands off their sticks and engaging players and crashing the net. Tired (and older) players are slowing players up in the neutral zone. But the game has flow and there has been just one power play.

9:37 p.m.: Brendan Morrison penalty. Holding. Trevor Linden is out to the kill the penalty for the Canucks. He's holding a "Vote for Saskin" sign. Oops! Another "new NHL" hooking penalty; 57 seconds of 5-on-3 for Colorado.

9:41 p.m.: Marek Svatos scores on a partial breakaway after the first penalty ended. He was hooked on the play and there was a delayed call on Anson Carter. But I think this might be reversed. The net looked off its pegs. Svatos broke in after a beautiful, 75-foot pass from John-Michael Liles, who at this point in their careers, I would take over Rob Blake. The officials are reviewing. Altitude Sports hasn't shown a good replay yet. Why do they take so long to go to the overview cam when it can tell the story 98 percent of the time? We never get the overhead cam, but the goal counts. It's a power-play goal and the Canucks player comes out of the box.

(But this is one of those instances where although the Avs scored on a delayed penalty, Carter still serves the penalty, because it was a power play-delayed penalty goal. A goal can't cancel out two penalties. But someone answer me this: I believe that if it wasn't a power-play goal, a penalty shot would have been rewarded to Svatos. It was clear cut. Would he have gotten credit for the goal and then been awarded a penalty shot? He would have scored two goals in zero seconds, which has to be a record or something. I wonder if the referee didn't know what to do, because Svatos clearly should have been awarded a penalty shot, even though he scored. Help me, Stephen Walkom. I'll call Walkom and have the answer next week.)

9:45 p.m.: Period ends. Colorado up 4-0.

First-period thoughts: Todd Bertuzzi is largely invisible. With his size and speed, he should be the most recognizable player on the ice. He plays a soft game and has had no impact. His salary this year is $5,269,080. I understand he hasn't played much hockey the last 19 months, so we'll give him a couple more months. But there is no way he will be on the Canadian Olympic team. Markus Naslund does something every shift. You always notice him. Blake has an enormous butt. If he butt-checked me, he would break every rib in my body.

10:02 p.m.: Second period begins. The Avs are playing great in their own end, staying close together and leading with their sticks. Quenneville hockey. Quenneville should start lighting up cigars on the bench when the Avs are about to win. He could pull that off.

10:04 p.m.: Water-skiing hooking penalty on the Canucks' Richard Park. Good call.

10:08 p.m.: Bertuzzi is now playing with Park and Ryan Kesler. Crawford pulled all of his hair out in the first period trying to figure out his team. However, being the genetic, hair follicle freak that he is, he grew all of the hair back during the first intermission.

10:11 p.m.: I just opened a Miller Lite. This is a one-beer column.

10:14 p.m.: Patrice Brisebois broke his stick over the boards at the end of a shift. There goes $200.

10:20 p.m.: Bertuzzi makes a beautiful play, his first positive play of the game, a pass to Kesler. But David Aebischer makes a gorgeous save.

10:23 p.m.: Nice to see Morrison show up an hour and 15 minutes after the opening faceoff. A beautiful wrist shot from the faceoff dot to make it 4-1 with 25:30 left in the game. It's Morrison's fourth goal of the year. Naslund has been playing by himself for most of the game.

10:26 p.m.: Penalty for Brisebois. Hooking. Dicey call. Third power play for Vancouver. They are 1-for-2 so far. Wait … no more power play. Another soft hooking penalty is called on Naslund. Four-on-four hockey. Second period ends.

Second-period thoughts: Sami Salo and Mattias Ohlund are a high-end defensive pair. Good size, good skaters, smart. I'm appalled at the effort of Bertuzzi. He's hardly even bending his knees. I would scratch him after this effort. Or trade him. Or something. I love the Colorado home whites, and if I was a season-ticket holder in Denver, I'd be bummed if I couldn't drink my $12 beer and watch them fly around in those white sweaters.

10:51 p.m.: The third period begins and the Canucks' big line begins the final frame.
Bertuzzi is booed every time he touches the puck. The volume has been consistent.

10:52 p.m.: The Sedin brothers have been good, if good means cycle effectively, get some scoring chances, but don't actually score. Henrik Sedin has 50 goals in 342 NHL games. Alexander Ovechkin will get his 50th career goal on St. Patrick's Day.

10:55 p.m.: Svatos is probably the fourth-best rookie after Sidney Crosby, Ovechkin and Dion Phaneuf. Don't forget he is 23 years old, has played in the Stanley Cup playoffs (he played just four regular-season and 11 postseason games in 2003-04, so he's still considered a rookie) and doesn't have the pressure the other three have. He is fun to watch and is one of the smaller players who realize they can go in the high-traffic areas without fear of getting cross-checked in the teeth.

11:05 p.m.: Bryan Allen scores to make it 4-2 with 11:44 left. I think the Avs will hang on to win this though. The Canucks don't have much life. Is this Bertuzzi-Steve Moore thing still not behind them?

11:11 p.m.: Brisebois shoots the puck out of play from his own end. Penalty. This is the Canucks chance. Overall, the Altitude Sports production is good, from the game to the intermissions. I like the narrow graphic on top of the screen, not on the bottom where it hides the puck. It's non-obtrusive and sleek. The camera work is top-notch and outside of not having the above-the-net cam on the Svatos goal, it's been a great watch.

11:13 p.m.: The puck gets tied up in the skates of one of the referees behind the Colorado net as Bertuzzi was wheeling away from John-Michael-Vincent-Van-Breda-Koff-Liles. It enables the Avs to get the puck out. The microphone behind the net clearly picks up Bertuzzi screaming at the referee, "Get the [expletive] out of the way!" Awesome!!

11:14 p.m.: Dan Hinote breaks in alone off a Canucks turnover. As he attempts to shift the puck to his forehand as he closes in on Alex Auld, he loses control. But the puck gently slides between the legs of Auld and the Avs lead 5-2. The Avs' penalty kill ends on a Hinote. Thank you very much. I'll be here all week. Enjoy the veal. The Eurythmics are next.

11:16 p.m.: Sakic scores his second of the game and ninth of the year with that patented wrist shot. The shot Raymond Bourque called the best he ever saw. Sakic now has as many career points as Trottier and about $20 million more in the bank since he played the prime of his NHL career from the mid-'90s to 2002.

11:18 p.m.: The "Bertuzzi sucks" chant starts and ends quickly with just over four minutes left.

11:25 p.m.: Game ends. Fourth straight win for the Avs over the Canucks. If Vancouver had just split their four games in Denver, its lead over the Avs in the Northwest Division would be seven points instead of three. Remember, because of weighed divisional play, we could see wild swings in the standings. Say, if Carolina struggles against Tampa Bay and Atlanta this year, their divisional lead will shrink faster than George Costanza at a New Year's Day ocean dive.

Good night, Winnipeg!

The Mother of All Mailbags


One of the questions you posed was "Why do most fans turn against the athletes and side with the big-money entities?" Here's my two cents: Fans don't relate to them anymore. The athletes make so much more than the common fan that relating just isn't likely. This spans more than just hockey, but all of the major sports. It's hard to relate to them being unhappy when the league minimum is 4 or more times what you make. So, folks didn't feel that sorry for them when they had to take a pay cut? And accept a salary cap?

Andy Santoro

So, you relate more to billionaire owners who don't love the game, but the investment? Mike Ilitch, who I would say does love the game and sports/competition in general, will probably make more than $20 million this season and hasn't had to take a knee from Bryan Allen.


People generally believe that wealth is acquired through ingenuity and hard work, both universally admirable qualities. (This concept is derived from a work ethic associated with Protestantism and the tenet of Predestination, in which you indicate to others your place in heaven by your hard work). Even if you inherited your wealth, someone in your lineage worked hard and was ingenious and amassed wealth and respect, of which you are now the beneficiary.

Athletic talent, however, is generally ascribed to be a "genetic accident." … The fact that athletes have to work hard to hone their skills becomes anecdotal to the belief that they were fortunate to be born with the seemingly innate skills (reflexes, coordination, strength, vision, etc. …) to hone in the first place.

When a dispute arrives between the two groups, the public generally sides with the group with whom they most identify. As has been your observation, that identification tends to be greater with the owners, I believe, because of this notion that if I work hard, I could achieve that level of wealth. No mater how hard I work, I will never do a "Spin-a-Rama" (a la Savard).

Timothy Irvin

Being in the business I am in and working at the place that I do, I have been around many athletes and many owners and my findings are: Owners are creepy and athletes are fun.


I have to say I totally disagree with you about both diving and Crosby. Every time Crosby takes a flop when someone makes contact with him, it's an embarrassment to himself, his team, his coach and the league. Every time he takes a dive and doesn't get a call, he takes himself out of the play. He should be ashamed, and the league should be embarrassed for giving him what amounts to preferential treatment. The next Gretz or Lemieux? Hardly. Those guys have a little thing called character.

Todd LeVan
Pittsburg, Pa.

Mario Lemieux has always attempted to draw penalties his whole career. Being 5 inches shorter and almost 40 pounds lighter, Crosby will go down easier than Lemieux despites Crosby's amazing balance. Gretzky was a full-fledged, heavyweight chirper! He was always screaming at the referees. Also, Gretzky played in a much easier, less physical conference than Lemieux, and played against guys whose offseason workout regimen consisted of slow-pitch softball and keg stands. All that being said, Crosby will fight through a penalty/check when he has a chance to score. If he feels he doesn't, he will attempt to draw a penalty.

But he doesn't flop. But again, diving doesn't bother me. NHL referees should be talented and trained enough to simply see what a penalty is and isn't. Calling diving penalties and fining players is a waste of time. The NHL should focus more on putting the first meeting between Crosby and Ovechkin on national television and less on fining Sean Avery.


How about them Kings? It's nice to see some younger inexperienced goalies shine.
NHL Home Ice on XM channel 204. Awesome.

Regards from the West Coast,
Josh Platt

Satellite radio keeps getting better and better. My choice is XM Radio because they have the MLB package and now have the NHL (the NHL will be exclusively on XM in two years). NHL Home Ice is a great place to hear hockey talk while driving to work. This just wasn't available in the United States. For NHL fans, the impact of this and the joy it provides can not be overstated.

Hey John,

1. Who do you think is the best player in the NHL?
2. Who is the most overrated "star" in the NHL?
3. Which player has the best name in the league?

Nelson Santos,

1. I think Daniel Alfredsson is the best all-around player right now.
2. Todd Bertuzzi. As I type this, Bertuzzi has scored just 25 goals in his last 92 NHL games.
3. There is no Hakan Loob in the NHL right now. Three of my current favorites: Dion Phaneuf (someone has to write a song named Dion Phaneuf. It's rhythmic and lyrical); Marcel Goc (pronounced "GOCH"; Barry Melrose says they call underwear in Canada Goch. Is this true?); Ziggy Palffy (I mean, his name is Ziggy. Do you know someone named Ziggy?).


As of Nov. 23, Sidney Crosby has 11 goals, 16 assists and 27 points in 22 games. If he plays all 82 games this year, then his projected stat totals would be 41 goals, 60 assists and 101 points. I believe that it was you who said before the season started that Crosby would finish the season with 38 goals, 63 assists and 101 points. I know that the season is young and there is a lot of hockey to be played, but I'm just stating the facts.


Yes, you are Ben. Yes, you are.


I saw Pete Yorn at an I-80 rest stop in Bethlehem, Pa., about a year and a half ago. He was eating Roy Rogers fried chicken and took the biggest handful of napkins I've ever seen on his way out.

Daniel Greenberg,

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. I need a new Pete Yorn CD. His CD "Musicforthemorningafter" is one of my all-time favorites and the official CD of the 2002 Stanley Cup finals. That was the Cup run where I drove from Connecticut to Detroit to Raleigh, N.C., back to Raleigh and then back home to Connecticut. I saved ESPN thousands of dollars of airline tickets, but wasn't reimbursed for gasoline. My CD of choice for those long, dark car rides was Yorn. Play "Strange Condition" and my mind goes to the loud Raleigh playoff crowds, Paul Maurice news conferences and just standing in the hallway outside the Wings' locker room watching those players go by one by one; Yzerman, Lidstrom, Hull, Robitaille, Larionov, Chelios, Hasek, Bowman, Shanahan.


I never thought I would actually do this, but you do seem to have a talent for it. My wife and I need help with baby names. It's too early to tell if we will have a boy or a girl, so I want to be prepared. So far, nothing sounds remotely good to us. Please help!

Scott Muller,
Sunny Southern California

Luc Marcel Muller

Jacqueline Rachel Muller

Breaking news: For those of you who think me naming babies around the globe is a waste of hockey column space, from this column forth, I will provide a hockey fact whenever I give a baby name suggestion. Hockey Fact: Top 5 All-Time Assists: 1) Wayne Gretzky 1,963 2) Ron Francis 1,249 3) Mark Messier 1,193 4) Raymond Bourque 1,169 5) Paul Coffey 1,135.


If you could decree that five songs NEVER be played in a hockey arena again, what would they be? And if you could choose five that every arena had to have in their repertoire, what would they be?

Denver, Colo.

Old Time Rock and Roll -- Bob Seger
Breakout -- Swing Out Sister
Any Gloria Estefan song
Party All The Time -- Eddie Murphy
Heartbeat -- Don Johnson

Zip-Lock Bag -- Lit
Flagpole Sitta -- Harvey Danger
Going Away To College -- Blink 182
Learn to Fly -- Foo Fighters
American Girl -- Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers


Saw your e-mail response regarding TV timeouts and stoppages of play recently. As a Zamboni driver for the Buffalo Sabres, I can confirm that you are correct. There are three TV timeouts per period, occurring at the 14-, 10- and six-minute marks. There are a couple exceptions though; the TV timeout will be delayed if a goal has just been scored, or a team is on a power play. If this is the case, the TV timeout will not occur until the next stoppage of play. During these TV timeouts, the ice crew will also skate onto the ice to shovel the snow around the nets and in front of the benches. By the way, thanks for recognizing us guys that drive around in circles, making four right turns for a living.

Buffalo, N.Y.

Props to the icemakers, yo.


In your mail box, somebody asked you about good hockey food. I would suggest "hockey puck pizza." Cut an English muffin in half, put on sauce, cheese and your favorite toppings. English muffins are about the size of a puck, perfect for a hockey party. In the late '60s or early '70s, there was a Canadian commercial with a former Leafs goalie using English muffins as a puck, thus in my family, we started to make "hockey puck pizza."

Joe Wasik,
Cheektowaga, N.Y.

Mom used to make those every New Year's Eve. Dad would eat 17 of them and a six pack of PBR and then breakout the Northland. That's how I learned how to run.


I must admit I got the idea from reading your column, but I've sent Chris Osgood a letter suggesting that he change his number from 30 to 0, purely for the fact that when he makes a big save, the people at the Joe can play The Fixx's "Saved by Zero." Also, I might be a little late, but what Geoff Rickly is to Thursday, John Buccigross is to Hockey Night in Canada. Cheers.

Rob Peterson
Garden City

I used to pray 38 novenas a night that Bruce Driver would change his number to 8. Driver 8 (REM SONG!). I would then buy two game-worn Bruce Driver 8 sweaters. I would keep one and send the other to REM bass player/legend Mike Mills.

Hey Bucci,

I have a real big complaint in this year's rookie race. First of all, Crosby and Ovechkin are two amazing players, but I really think that Dion Phaneuf really deserves a shot at the Calder trophy this year. While he is not as flashy as the two forwards, he is turned into one of the premier defensemen in the league, a position that is a lot harder to pick up at the NHL level than a forward. Do you think that he gets lost in the race due to the fact that he plays in the West for Calgary?

Joey Pankiw
Winnipeg, Manitoba

I watched Phaneuf play last week against Edmonton. Amazing skater. When you watch him play, just watch his feet. They are lightning quick. His lateral movement is bewildering. And of course, he is tough. He has a hard, heavy shot. He doesn't have Ray Bourque offensive hands/sense. But if he did, he would be perfect and it wouldn't be fair. The over/under for Phaneuf winning the Norris Trophy is four.


When a goalie heads off the ice for an extra attacker, why don't they drop their stick across the goal mouth to make the net less "empty"?

Michael Setterberg
Tempe, Ariz.

That would be illegal, Mike. Strangely, it is legal for the goalie to leave a dead badger in the crease or a Men Without Hats boxed set.

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