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Monday, May 13, 2002
From the heart and mind of a father

By John Buccigross
Special to ESPN.com

Raymond Ferraro limped out of the St. Louis Blues dressing room and into an entirely new life.

Ray Ferraro
Ray Ferraro, right, finished his NHL career with 408 goals and 490 assists in 1,258 regular-season games.
Since he took his first strides on ice as a toddler in British Columbia, playing hockey has been the centerpiece of his existence. Hundreds of youth hockey games and 1,258 NHL regular-season games later, Chicken Parm is done. He played his last non-Celebrity/Old Timers game Saturday in Detroit. Never again will he play a hockey game of any meaning.

Ferraro hobbled out of the visitors' dressing room at Joe Louis Arena with one healthy anterior cruciate ligament and one disintegrated by Kris Draper's Darcy-Tucker-like low hit in Game 2. But this is the Stanley Cup playoffs, and one ACL or not, you stick on a brace, grit your teeth and get out there. It's also what you do when you have two sons -- Matthew and Landon -- who play hockey. There is nothing cooler than having your dad play in the NHL. And when you're that dad, there is no greater motivation than having sons old enough to remember you playing.

That explains why Ray and others play with one ACL. And it explains why when Ray walked out of the Blues' room his 10-year-old son Landon crying -- one row of tears because his dad's team lost the game and the other row because it was probably the last day he would have a dad who plays in the NHL. It's the last image Ray will remember about his last day in the NHL.

My dad never played in the NHL, but my sharpest memories as a child were of his athletic endeavors in slow-pitch softball. His determination, will and relentlessness were an example of how one should compete on the field and in life. Smarts and heart. I still remember my dad's greatest play. While playing first base on a dusty softball field in the late 70s, a laser throw from shortstop was low and hard, and a bit off the mark. Stretching as far as he could to the outfield side of first, while keeping his toe on the first base bag, he made an incredible short hop scoop. Barehanded.

You don't have to be the son of an NHL player to look up to dad, and you don't have to be in the NHL to teach your children well. But, when dad is in the NHL the swag is dope. Flights on team charters, autographed sticks from Mario Lemieux, great seats to all the games, and just hanging around the room interacting with NHL players. It's fantasy land stuff that even Disney can't recreate. Kevin McHale said he played one more year than he wanted because his son wanted to be the Celtics ball boy. While Landon and Matthew no longer have a dad who plays in the NHL, they still have a dad who gives the greatest gift a parent can give a child -- undivided attention.

What's next for Chicken Parm? Unfortunately, his summer will be dominated by rehabilitation from surgery on his torn ACL. Before that, however, he will join NHL 2Night for the conference finals.

When Ray left the Blues dressing room for the final time, he told his boys, "I have nothing left to give." That seemed to make Matthew and Landon feel a little better. They know their dad is smaller than the average NHL player, and that to play over 1,250 NHL games and score 408 goals takes a lot of smarts and heart. In the end, that will be Parm's legacy to his boys. They have autographed sticks and bobbleheads and sweaters and memories of life as an NHL son, but what they will take into their hearts and minds from watching their dad is his heart and mind. Do that and they will have a full life. NHL or not.

With Ray Ferraro actually playing in the playoffs this postseason, NHL 2Night has had an assortment of analysts. New York Rangers winger Matthew Barnaby was the latest. Of all my observations of Barnaby, left-handed golfer with 6-8 handicap potential, the *NSYNC haircut, and the stories of his on ice trash talking, the most glaring is the fact that he does what he does with the body he has. He is hardly imposing. Nearly every fight he is in, he is the smaller man. Raised by a single, social working mom, he is used to fighting. He may be a millionaire, but he fights like he's waiting for his next paycheck so he can buy the next load of groceries. While waiting to do NHL 2Night on Sunday night, I asked Matt eight questions.

Mathew Barnaby
Matthew Barnaby, left, celebrated more in New York than he did in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
No. 1: Are you happy with your career to this point?
Barnaby:
Definitely. It was a struggle for a little while there not getting the right role for the team. I think they are using me the right way in New York, and things are going my way.

Matthew has played 552 NHL games. He turned 29 on May 4.

No. 2: What way are you best utilized?
Barnaby:
I think as a third line player. A grinder. One that knows the role of getting the puck in working down deep and sticking up for his teammates. I think I can add an offensive part.

In 105 games with Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, Matthew had 13 points. In 48 games with the Rangers, he had 21.

No. 3: Do your theatrics on the ice take away from what you can do as a player?
Barnaby:
Definitely. I think my reputation precedes me when a new coach comes in. I think he sees a lot of the theatrics I've done in the past, but as you grow older you grow wiser, and in my case that might not be the case, but hopefully it is. The way I played with the Rangers when I got there is how I want to play the rest of my career.

Matthew loves to golf. He went to Scotland last year and played all the great courses. The last movie he saw was "I am Sam." He loved it.

No. 4: What are your impressions of Eric Lindros?
Barnaby:
Great guy, great leader. When you don't know a guy and hear lots of rumors, you try not to judge a book by its cover, but it's tough. When I got to New York, I got there with an open mind and he turned out to be one of my good friends. He does a lot of things on the ice I really didn't expect of him.

Matthew is a self-proclaimed "boy band junkie." He still lives in the Buffalo area in the off season with his wife and two kids. His wife is from the Buffalo area.

No. 5: How about Bure?
Barnaby:
Another good guy. His reputation preceded him as kind of a selfish guy, but he came to our team and he did everything asked of him -- he even played a little defense which was incredible. And he was a great guy in the locker room.

In 12 games as a Ranger, Boo-yeah had 12 goals, 8 assists and was a plus-9. If he plays 75 games with Lindros next season, I GUARANTEE he scores 60 goals.

No. 6: What needs to be done for the Rangers to make the playoffs next season?
Barnaby:
We are an explosive offensive team that needs to pay attention to our defensive zone. Our defensive defensemen have to stay home, get the puck to our forwards and let them do the work.

The Rangers gave up an unbelievable 258 goals this past season. 258!!!!! Only Atlanta gave up more.

No. 7: Do you have the same meal before every game?
Barnaby:
Exact same thing everyday. Chicken parm, spaghetti, bowl of chicken noodle soup, and a little ice cream with a little chocolate sauce and bananas on my way up to the room.

No. 8: Do you have the same postgame meal?
Barnaby:
Yeah, 12 Bud Lights.

Cheers.

You have to reach the finals to have a chance at the Conn Smythe. Therefore, there might be a name on this list that won't have a chance for playoff MVP. What I like about this list is that there are no goalies. That means the play has been fast and furious.

HIT THE ICE by Michael Fischer
TOONS ON ICE Hockey (www.toonsonice.com)
1. Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings: He shot out from the gates while the rest of his teammates lagged behind. The Wings lost their first two playoff games, but since Yzerman transplanted his heart into the rest of his teammates in Vancouver, Detroit is 8-1 in their last nine playoff games. Now it's halftime for them. They are getting valuable R & R to prepare for their next eight wins.

2. Gary Roberts, Toronto Maple Leafs: They might lose Game 7 to Ottawa on Tuesday night, but it won't diminish what Roberts has done this spring. He turns 36 on May 23. With Mats Sundin out of the lineup, Roberts has carried this team. He and Yzerman are the stories of the postseason to this point. Roberts has never been a prolific playoff scorer. This is his finest moment as a player in the league on the ice.

3. Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche: Larry Bird on skates, he continues to see things other players don't. The lob-wedge pass he made to Rob Blake in Game 3 at San Jose was the best pass of the year in the NHL. If he could just play 80 games next season, we wouldn't have to worry about not having a 100 point scorer in the league.

4. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators: Either him or Roberts will be off this list next week. Alfredsson is the best talent remaining in the East. Since 1997, he has been the NHL's best playoff goal scorer. A goal every other game. Did you realize that? Because he plays in Ottawa and is Swedish, his talents are overlooked. He can do it all. One of my favorite sights watching hockey is watching him shoot a slap shot. Artful violence. Perfect form meeting explosive energy. I love it.

5. Chris Chelios, Detroit Red Wings: He's got more points than Blake and Nicklas Lidstrom. His plus-8 rating leads everyone. He'll be a New York Ranger next year.

Yes, working at ESPN is cool. Every night I hit my knees and pray to the nose hairs of Charley Steiner that I got lucky enough to do what I do to pay my electric bill.

Scott Stevens
When the bottom band is filled with names, the top big band is retired to the Hall of Fame.
Without question, one of the highlights of the year is when the Stanley Cup pays a visit to our campus. (We call it a campus because it somewhat resembles a small Division III college in its acreage and the fact that a large portion of the employee base are young adults who primarily subsist on bad pizza and skittles.)

Lord Stanley's Cup was at ESPN on Saturday. The "Keeper of the Cup" is Mike Bolt. He grew up playing hockey in Toronto and dreaming of one day hoisting the cup over his head. It is his job to go where the Cup goes, whether it is Bristol, Conn., or Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. That commercial produced by NHL Productions, where they lay the song "Sparkle" by rubyhorse over images of players and fans reacting to the Cup, gives me chills and makes my eyes moist. I get teary eyed when inspirational and uplifting images bombard my senses. rubyhorse will sing "Sparkle" on Conan O'Brien on May 22. If the NHL was smart, they would have the lead singer Dave Farrell carry the Cup or a reasonable facsimile thereof and place it on a stool next to him while he sings the song on Conan.

If that is done, Mike Bolt would be backstage.

Job description: "Keeper of the Cup. I've been a keeper of the Cup for almost three years now. I do share the duties with a couple other people. I've been with the Hall of Fame for the past eight years."

Favorite Keeper of the Cup story: "I have so many. Everyday is a different day. A new day. Climbing a mountain in Colorado with the Cup was pretty amazing. Going to Ray Bourque's house and bringing it to him. After watching him play for 22 years, then getting to walk into his house and him over the Stanley Cup for his two days with it, was pretty cool. Also, a lot of the charity work we do with it whether it's with the players or just doing a hospital visit on our own is a rewarding thing. Going to the Bahamas to shoot that NHL.com spot was amazing. Going to Europe with the European players is great and seeing their reaction. It's a big deal over there as well. Everyday is a great day."

Cup trivia: "It weighs 35 pounds. There are currently 2,116 names on it. It's made of 97 percent silver and three percent nickel. You can fit 13 teams to a ring. Now, most people think the Stanley Cup is going to keep getting bigger. But, what we do is this: There are five major bands on the Stanley Cup. When the bottom band is filled, we take the top band off, stretch it out, and put it in a glass case in the Hall of Fame in Toronto. That takes place every 13 years. Then we move all the bands up one and start with a blank bottom again. The Cup dates back to 1893. Montreal has won 24 Stanley Cups. The biggest character flaw on the Cup is that in 1983-84, Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington put his dad's name in the Cup. His father had nothing to do with the organization, so the name was x'd out. A team is allowed about 52-53 names on the Cup when it wins. The original bowl that Lord Stanley donated in 1892 for $48.67 in Sheffield, England, was retired into the Hall of Fame in 1969."

Do you get tired of the enthusiasm the Cup causes?: "No. That's the best part of the job is seeing people's reaction. I understand why people want to see it. I never get tired of answering the questions. I treat my job as an honor. Everyday is a special day. I won't drink out of it or lift it over my head because I've never earned it. I have too much respect for the guys who play this game and how hard they work towards it. Ray Bourque tried to get me to drink out of it, but I wouldn't. He came close!!

John,
Loved your report on trying to qualify for the U.S. Open. I'm sorry you didn't advance. I was wondering if you could give us golf clones a "What's in the bag?" report from your golf bag.
P. Matani

Woods: Titleist 975J 9.5 degree driver with graphite design shaft and Lamkin grip.Callaway Steelhead Plus 3-wood.
Irons: 3-LW (I carry four wedges), Mizuno MP-33's with S300 True Temper shafts, Golf Pride grips and a three-gram strip of lead tape on the 3-PW. One inch long, four degrees upright.
Putter: Odyssey #1 White Hot
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Postround beverage: Sam Adams Light

Hey John,
First off, I'm a big fan, and I love the column and commentary almost as much as Ray loves his parm. I was wondering what kind of moves you see Chicago making this offseason?
Mike Wileman

The Blackhawks made a 25-point improvement under first-year coach Brian Sutter. That being said, I think this team is primed for a dropoff next season. They don't have playoff centers. If Tony Amonte leaves (I think he'll be in Dallas), they'll be weak at right wing, too. They have a nice collection of left wingers, which is their strength. They are aging on defense, but should be solid next year. Goaltending is hardly a strength in the tough West. Their main free agent target should be Bobby Holik. But he will be a lot of teams' targets, which is why he'll be offered $35-40 million over five years. It's New York (Rangers), Dallas or Los Angeles for Holik. I've heard Selanne to Chicago, but I don't know why the Sharks would not want to resign him, except for the $30-35 million he'll get in some form from a team like the Flyers, Avalanche or Stars. Don't count out Anaheim for Selanne.

John,
I'm a real big Rick Tocchet fan. Do you think Bob Clarke will give him a legitimate chance as an assistant coach?
Jon Ross

The Flyers asked Tocchet to be an assistant this year. When it was obvious that Bill Barber had lost the room, the Flyers asked Tocchet more than once to take on the role as assistant and try to save the season. He certainly would be a great coach in terms of motivation and respect. Would he be a good in-game bench coach? That is never known until given a chance.

John,
Your Adam Duritz story was unbelievable. What's your Top 5 Counting Crows song list?
Sanjeev Dev
Pittsburgh, Pa.

1) Rain King, 2) Anna Begins, 3) Daylight Fading, 4) Children in Bloom, 5) Mrs. Potter's Lullaby. Check out their cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road."

John,
When my wife comments that Barry doesn't look the same without the mullet, it is time to take action. However, I think I may have a lead on what happened to it. When my mullet disappeared about 13 years ago, I thought I had tracked it down to a trailer park in Flatwoods, Ky. Unfortunately, my mullet had high tailed it out of there when it caught wind that I was looking for it. Rumor has it the mullet is now following Poison on their current "Hollyweird" tour.
Until next time when I hope to start the great "Trixter vs. White Lion" debate,
Marc Daley

John,
As for the "Barry and the mullet" topic, my opinion is this: As a former mullet model myself, I can appreciate where Barry is coming from in both sporting one and ultimately shearing one. However, never forget the advantages of a mullet: "BUSINESS IN THE FRONT, PARTY IN THE BACK!"
See ya on the set John,
Peter
McCall
Idaho

John,
Your interview with Pat Verbeek made me wonder what your top five hockey nicknames of all time are.
Joy

1. Ray "Chicken Parm" Ferraro
2. Ray "Big ball of hate" Ferraro
3. Pat "Little ball of hate" Verbeek
4. Kevin "Artie" Stevens (That's his dad's name. Have you ever heard of anyone having a nickname that is their dad's name? I love it.)
5. Chris "Bundy" Therien

John,
With the Flyers' current coaching opening, what do you think about Melrose behind their bench?
Rich Galasso

Barry and Bob Clarke aren't exactly buddies. That won't happen. The Flyers cry out for a detail orientated coach who would be more technical than Bill Barber's "just work harder" approach. They will get their wish. Ken Hitchcock will be the next coach of the Flyers.

Hey John,
Is a lob wedge a legitimate club or a gussied-up sand wedge with a fancy name? It's not natural.
Brad Groatman
Leesburg, Va.

A golf bag without a lob wedge is like a goalie without a cup. You can do more with one. Every golf bag should have a lob wedge in it. There should be telethons for this sort of thing hosted by Gisele Bundchen and David Feherty.

John,
I play on an all girls' team and on behalf of all of us we would like to say...WE LOVE YOU JOHN!! You are sooo hot! We get together all the time and watch you. We were wondering if you could tell is a little bit more about yourself?
Tahnee McNally
Florida

Stats: 6-4, 190, 32" waist, hat size 7 7/8", Aquarius, lob wedge owner.
Likes: "88 lines about 44 women" by The Nails, "James K. Polk" by They Might Be Giants", Pringles, Tenacious D, Starbursts, mozzarella sticks and when Jim Carey sticks his fingers up the cow's nose in "Me, Myself and Irene."
Dislikes: Two-line offside, Radek Bonk's apathy, Gloria Estefan's music, when NHL players verbally abuse linesmen, and Michel Therrien's Monday Night Football jacket he wore during Game 4 against Carolina.
Motto: "I'm road tripping to Florida with Gisele Bundchen and Andy Van Hellemond to find Tahnee McNally and her hockey friends to discuss The Osbournes, Tie Domi doing Riverdance and why the Pentagon hasn't proposed using Kerry Fraser's hair as a missile defense system."

John Buccigross is the host of NHL 2Night, which airs Tuesday-Saturday on ESPN2. His e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is john.buccigross@espn.com.