Friday, January 25, 2008

ALL-STAR EMAIL Q & A: John Buccigross of ESPN

John Buccigross can be anchoring a special on the Mitchell Report and hockey fans will always see him as the hockey guy at ESPN. And for good reason. He may be a voice in the wilderness in Bristol, but John certainly fights the good fight for hockey.

In some followup emails, John said he hasn’t heard from Islanders fans this season as much as he had in the past. His theory is that it’s home-grown players like Rick DiPietro that “bring the buzz to energize a fan base” and that the Islanders “need to get a young, exciting, charismatic talent up front.” I told him Kyle Okposo could be the guy and he agreed. Then I told him after this Q & A runs, he could count on hearing from Islanders fans. Our email conversation follows.

Without getting you in trouble again, tell me this: am I imagining stuff, or has ESPN subtly stepped up its hockey coverage on Sportscenter and on the dotcom this season?

I think you are imagining things. I wouldn't know on the dotcom. I only read my column. Twice a day. But, on Sportscenter, it's the same drill. Melrose comes out of his cave on Wednesday, drives down from upstate New York and does hockey on Wednesday and Thursday and then goes back home to hunt small animals and eat them with his bare hands. If you timed the hockey coverage compared to last year and it was up, it would only be in seconds. I did a Sportscenter last Saturday and there wasn't one hockey highlight shown.

What do you think of the influx of all this incredible young talent and what it means for the game?

It means that more young people will get involved. The NHL is a healthy league and will always be a healthy league because it skews young. It also helps support 30 teams and could probably support another two. I mean, nobody is awful like 1970's awful. There are few if any sieves in the NHL. And the league will only get deeper because of the output of US-born players through USA hockey's developmental programs and the fitness level of the players enables them to play longer.

How was (Islanders VP of Communications and ITV honcho) Josh Bernstein as a producer when you were together at ESPN?

Josh was one of the more impressive people I have worked with at ESPN. He's a born leader with great instincts and feel. He also has excellent taste in music. He likes rabbits and cheese.

Rick DiPietro is to the Islanders as who is to who?

What Michael Hutchence was to INXS.

"This is the power
Since time began
Every single hour
That we have known
And from each moment
All that is left
Sleep of the innocent
Just one desire"

"Shine Like It Does" is one of the 16 greatest songs of the last 24 years.

What do the Islanders have to accomplish in the regular season for Ted Nolan to be one of the three nominees for the Adams?

They have to make the playoffs.

List your five favorite Islanders of all time.

1. Bob Nystrom - He played like a complete manic. Like his hair was on fire. He has the third hardest handshake in the world after Jim Schoenfeld and Ken Hodge. Watch old video of him and you swear he was playing on a one-day contract, every game.

2. Mike Bossy - We all wish we could be as talented in anything as Mike Bossy was shooting a puck.

3. Bob Bourne - I don't know why, but when I was a kid I was mesmerized by his skating. He was one of those guys you always wish you could skate like.

4. Ray "Chicken Parm" Ferraro - A great competitor and a great friend. 13 goals in 18 playoff games in the spring of 1993 and the pass that beat the Penguins in 7.

5. Steve Webb - The energy he brought to the 2002 playoffs was the kind of energy Jimmy Page brings to a Led Zeppelin concert.

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