TheNeilShow - The NHL still seems to be struggling to grow a fan base in the USA. What can Mr. Bettman and the League do better, in your opinion, to get the game to progress in the United States?
John Buccigross - I donít think commissioners or P.R. departments can do much of anything. Hockey is a popular, niche sport. It allows Thomas Vanek to make 7 million dollars a year. It may not rate all that great on television, but itís a successful international sport that has plenty of revenue streams.
The arenas are full, the franchise values are rising, and the players are rich. What more do people want? I donít care how popular the NHL is. It doesnít affect my love of the game at all if one other person is watching a game or one million other people are watching.
TheNeilShow - Do you see the NHL and ESPN working together again? Any specific reasons why or why not?
John Buccigross - ESPN is always interested in any major or minor sports league who is in the last year of a contract. Whether itís the NFL, NBA, MLB, Arena League, MLS, or professional golf and tennis they will always at least investigate if it makes financial sense to do something. If it makes sense they do it, if it doesnít, they donít.
TheNeilShow - If you could make any rule changes in the NHL, what changes would you make and why?
John Buccigross - I would make the net a little bigger. The goaliesí equipment is too good and the goalies are too good.
TheNeilShow - Can you tell me about your golf experience with, Boston Bruins Great, Ray Bourque?
John Buccigross - Weíve played together just twice. The first time I was attempting to three putt on the final hole in order to shoot a 77 playing with Ray Bourque. I thought that would be appropriate. I was going to ease theputt near the hole, tap the next putt an inch or so, and then tap in for 77. Instead I made a slippery 20 foot downhill putt on the last to shoot 75.
The other time was a fun match where Ray Ferraro and I defeated Ray and his buddy Reggie Lemelin. Ray Bourque is the gift that keeps on giving. He has no downside.
TheNeilShow - I have heard nothing but good things about a book you just released through Middle Atlantic Press called ďJonesy: Put Your Head Down And SkateĒ can you tell us a little about that and what an experience that was.
John Buccigross - People seem to like it which is great. Itís just a simple little hockey story with some different twists. Most NHL players did not take the path Keith did. He has had an interesting and humorous life that people seem to enjoy so far. It was a difficult process.
Writing is difficult and writing a book is very difficult. The best part is when you are done. But, it is a great thrill to walk through a Borders and see your book on the shelf.
Hopefully, I can learn from the experience and enjoy more the next time! Iíve started interviewing Barry Melrose for a book on his life that I hope can be released next fall.
TheNeilShow - What was your favorite story of Keith Jones in your ďJonesyĒ book?
John Buccigross - My favorite stories involving Keith are the ones that shaped his interesting and successful outlook and approach to life.
TheNeilShow - Whatís your greatest accomplishment in your career so far?
John Buccigross - My greatest accomplishment? I donít think Iíve done anything in this business that I would describe as an accomplishment. Iím just happy to get a paycheck every two weeks doing this.
TheNeilShow - I like to ask this question a lot because I love the answers. Any embarrassing on air moments with ESPN you can share?
John Buccigross - My chair has sunk on the air twice. But, it paid off. Dick Clark has used it on a blooper show and I got like 100 bucks. So, it paid off.
TheNeilShow - Do you see Peter Forsberg coming back this year? if so who do you bet he signs with?
John Buccigross - I think Forsberg will sign with the Rangers or Flyers.
TheNeilShow - Do you see Don Waddell in his coaching role for very long in Atlanta? Have you heard who could be the new bench boss of the Thrashers?
John Buccigross - I would think Don Waddel has too many manager concerns to coach for the entire season. They have to decide on Marian Hossa. Will they sign him? Will he want to sign with Atlanta? If not, they must trade him and you canít do that and coach.
TheNeilShow ĖHabsí star, Alexei Kovalev, is once again in the news for all the wrong reasons. There have been some strong suggestions he may be headed West to Calgary for a Alex Tanguay, do you think this has any legs?
John Buccigross - I donít want to waste a second of my time thinking about Alexi Kovalev. Heís finished.
TheNeilShow - The Buffalo Sabres are missing Daniel Briere and Chris Drury. Now, a lot of so called ďexpertsĒ have said they will tank this season, do you see that happening?
John Buccigross - No way! The Sabres are a still a playoff team. I had them making the playoffs in my ESPN.Com season preview, and from what Iíve seen nothing has changed my mind.
TheNeilShow -Who comes out of the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference this year?
John Buccigross - From what Iíve seen so far, Iíll say Ottawa and Anaheim.
TheNeilShow - Your early ďrookie of the yearĒ pick?
John Buccigross - Jonathan Toews will win rookie of the Year
TheNeilShow - Can you tell our readers here at nhldigest.com what you do and where we can find you and your writings.
John Buccigross -I am a Sportscenter anchor and a hockey columnist on ESPN.Comís NHL page. My column comes out every Tuesday with an email bag of questions from readers that I answer on Thurdays. I hope you like it. www.espn.com
Johnís book link: You can buy ďJonesyĒ direct from Middle Atlantic Press here
I would encourage you all to pick up Johnís book ďJonesyĒ.It is a very good read.
Look for more from TheNeilShow throughout the season as he interviews various sports media members as well as coaches and players from around the NHL.
If you have any questions or comments, please share a comment on the site or email Neil at theneilshow(@)nhldigest.com