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Monday, March 1, 2004
A brief chat among friends

By John Buccigross
Special to

The following is a transcript from a hockey chat room held late last night:

LOOB12RULES@Puck.organIzation: What's up? John Buccigross here and let's get this party started quickly. RIGHT?

YZER19KNEE@ouch.RobertKron: I love it when you quote C & C Music Factory, Bucci.

LOOB12RULES: Yzer?! How's the wheel, dog? And what's this "I'm not thinking retirement" talk?! You got one foot in the golf cart, Grandpa. You want to borrow my "Cocoon" DVD?

YZER19KNEE: You want to borrow my "Shrek" DVD you big-headed freak. I just wanted to get the focus off of me and on the team. Obviously, we feel like we have a good shot at the Cup and I don't want any sappy farewell stuff getting in the way. I got plenty of stuff. I don't need anything else. Plus, it looks like we definitely will miss the first three months of next season with the CBA stuff. I can show my solidarity with the boys and then have a 40 game season and a chance for another Cup. That could play right into our hands. Five Cups sounds nice.

LOOB12RULES: At least you're not going to Sweden.

IMONASTAMPNYOURENOT@21.Modo: What's that supposed to mean?

LOOB12RULES: Peter!!! My chillin' Swede!! How's the groin, yo?

YZER19KNEE: Bet you ask all the guys that.

LOOB12RULES: Stifle, Ahab.

Every week, we will present an NHL photo and I'll provide a caption. E-mail me your suggestions (include your name and hometown/state) and next week we will use the best ones and provide a new photo.

Canadiens forward Mike Ribeiro:

"Forecheck? I got yer forecheck RIGHT HERE!"
-- Bill McNally, Marysville, Ohio

"Maybe if I open my mouth wide enough, people won't notice my hair."
-- Brian Lim, Fountain Valley, Calif.

"I can't believe ESPN's Page 2 nominated Jose Theodore for Sexiest Male Athlete instead of me."
-- Jeannette F., Orlando, Fla.

"Yo, Adrian!!!!!!"
-- Michael Suszczynski, Cranford, N.J.

"... our home and native laaaaaaaand..."
-- Dave Crews, Iowa City, Iowa

"BUUUUURRRRPP!!! Where's that Labatt beer, eh? That hoser's buyin' the next round."
-- Adam M. Spurchise, Rochester, N.Y.

"You sure you want to bet that I can't swallow my own fist??!!"
-- Brian Kelly, Westerville, Ohio

"They got a pepper bar!"
-- Alan Korolewicz, Sterling Heights, Mich.


Detroit defenseman Mathieu Schneider to Nicklas Lidstrom and Manny Legace:
Hey Nick!! Remember when you were this tall??!! REMEMBER?!! That was AWESOME!!
IMONASTAMPNYOURENOT: The groin is getting there, although I get plenty of spam e-mail saying I can improve in that area. I'm sick of being hurt. It's time for a break. Between the shorter season in Sweden, the rest between games, Shjon Podein, the likely work stoppage next season in the NHL and the chance to play at home in my prime for Modo makes it the perfect time to go home for a year. I can always come back the next season to Colorado if I get the itch.

LOOB12RULES: A man smarter than me once said, "In all things, the most important factor is timing."

YZER19KNEE: Steve Guttenberg say that?

LOOB12RULES: Listen, you Johnny Depp lookin' octogenarian, I'll squash you like a grape.

MARIO66@TragicallyHip.YinzGuys: Brother, can you spare a dime?

LOOB12RULES: Mario! How's that arena lobbying going? I got a backyard rink I can offer. We can PSL the lawn chairs. We'll have 41 Dick Tarnstrom bobblehead nights. I'm your marketing guy!

MARIO66: My head hurts. Peter, after a year in Sweden, will you play for the Penguins in 2005? We'll have Kelly Buchberger's salary slot available. You can play with Ovechkin and Malone and I'll get you a season pass on the Duquesne Incline. That thing's the BOMB!!

IMONASTAMPNYOURENOT: Mario, are you taking some "Iron City" medication?


LOOB12RULES: I think Mario is presently one straw shy of a Slurpee.

YZER19KNEE: His goalie's name is Chiodo. Sounds like a Buick.

STYLES97@JR.Me: Hey, guys. Sorry I'm late, I was just sucking my lunch through a straw. I recommend staying away from the salmon-through-the-straw lunch. It's like a Ken Hitchcock practice.

LOOB12RULES: Are you retiring, JR?

STYLES: Nah, I don't think so. I got more water bottles to throw at Blaine Angus. I think I'll be back for the playoffs.

LOOB12RULES: I hope so. You're my favorite player to watch.

STYLES97: Just save me a seat at ESPN, Big Head John. I'm about to make a few of your co-workers "expendable."

LOOB12RULES: I wish I were as confident as you are JR for just 10 minutes to see what it feels like.

STYLES97: Feels good, brutha!

YZER19KNEE: You know you guys aren't gonna win the Cup, right JR?

STYLES97: Not a freakin' chance.

MARIO66: OK, Mike Eastwood for Pavel Datsyuk and a wrench.

STYLES97: Ouch, my groin.

YZER19KNEE: Strain?


LOOB12RULES: Are you millionaires really going to sit out a year and a half? Is this whole deal about second-line centers and the bottom 10 teams in the league?

MARIO66: Hey! Is that a double slam at me?! I know I'm no Milan Kraft, but have some respect.

YZER19KNEE: The problem is the current situation is mostly of the owners' doing and now they want us to bail them out. They should just bail themselves out through discipline.

LOOB12RULES: But then they would be accused of collusion. You have to have some financial model in place to follow to protect each other from future renegade owners and their own emotional selves. We're selling competition here. You have to share the revenue and spread the wealth. But, then sometimes I think a cap is a system for mediocrity. Ten years from now, will we be able to name 10 players from the Patriots and Panthers? I like watching great teams battle. I could name more players from Super Bowl XIII between the Cowboys and Steelers then I could this past Super Bowl. I'll remember the 2001 Avalanche and 2002 Red Wings teams until the day I die. Will a cap spread the thin talent even more until we have 3 goals a game?

STYLES97: My head hurts.


YZER19KNEE: My knee hurts.

MARIO66: My hip hurts.

LOOB12RULES: My bad. That stuff is depressing.

MELROSE@MULLET.gel: Boys!! Has Wayne called me yet to coach the Coyotes?!

MARIO66: After he asks Kurri, Coffey, Anderson, Fuhr, Semenko, Smith, McSorley and Glen Sather, then maybe you'll get an interview.

LOOB12RULES: I'm getting sleepy, boys. Tell me what you love about hockey that I can go to bed on.

IMONASTAMPNYOURENOT: I love the battle, the will to win every second of every game. Not just the game, but every second. It's the air that fills my lungs with life.

LOOB12RULES: You're so Larry Bird.

YZER19KNEE: I love the process. Looking at the big picture and breaking it down 1,000 times. Eating it. Drinking it. Living it. It is me. All of it. Every roll of tape and every shaving of ice.

STYLES97: I love the stage. The show. The play is the thing, right boys? I'd play in an empty rink in Weymouth, Mass., but the fans give the game a soul. A purpose for me. I need that fuel. Whenever I take a puck in the face and I eat my hamburgers through a straw and my head hurts and I think I've had enough, I think of that feeling when I first step on the ice during warm-ups without my helmet on, and I feel the air press against my face as I skate around looking at the hungry eyes in the stands while Petty's "Runnin' Down a Dream" cranks in the arena. That breeze in my face is what I miss and why I play.

MARIO66: I think I like golf more than hockey, but I can't beat Rick Rhoden in golf and I'm the best on the ice. I like being the best. I like driving around with the guys. Getting a coffee with the guys. I don't like my back going out when I tie my skates. I don't like being irrelevant. If the Penguins go away into the sunset, my entire legacy dies too. I'll have no identity. My career is on that sweater. Fifty years from now, Yzer will be able to go to the Red Wings rink and see his championship banners and see his number in the rafters and be treated like a god and feel like what he did had meaning. My banners will be on eBay.

LOOB12RULES: What about you Barry? What do you love about hockey before I go to bed?

MELROSE: Margarita night at Gary Thorne's!!!!

One year ago, on March 7, Merrimack senior goalie Joe Exter, of Cranston, R.I., was hospitalized and in a life-threatening condition after sustaining a serious head injury in a collision with Boston College's Patrick Eaves during the first round of the Hockey East Tournament.

Exter had left his crease to chase down a loose puck and was kneed in the head by Eaves, who also was going for the puck. The collision left Exter unconscious on the ice. His skull was fractured. He had a seizure, paralyzed vocal cords and whiplash, and was bleeding from the ears. Play was delayed for about 20 minutes, and the crowd sat and stood in chilling silence.

Exter was taken to Boston's Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center. His life was in the balance, and he was put in an induced coma, where he lay for 10 days. There was pressure on his brain, and quick decisions had to be made. Like Exter, Dan Snyder was in a medically induced coma, his vital signs were good and hope was high. As we all know now, things can change tragically in an instant. That's how close Joe Exter was to death.

But this story has a happy ending. Joe Exter is alive and well in Wheeling, W.Va. Treasuring every breath. And playing professional hockey for the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL.

No. 1: Next week will be one year since the on-ice collision. What are your emotions surrounding the anniversary date?
It's been an amazing year, with how many good things have happened to me and all the things I've overcome. Just think where I was, where I was laying and what I'm doing now.

Joe remembers nothing about the game or even the bus ride to the game that night. The collision wiped out his memory of the events leading up to the collision.

No. 2: What were the first questions when you regained consciousness?
When was I going to play again? The doctors had goals for me like going to the bathroom or taking a shower, but those weren't my goals. The doctors and I weren't able to get on the same page until a month after it happened. Their focus was different than mine, which took awhile for me to understand. If someone mentioned I might not play again, I got very angry. One of my doctors told me I was crazy to play hockey before the injury much less after.

No. 3: What was a turning point in them understanding your will to return to hockey?
It was me, my mother and one of my coaches in the room with the doctor and I kind of flipped out. I said, "Listen, Doc I have to trust you, but you have to believe in me and trust me this is what I want to do!" The doctor thought I lost my mind, but my mother and the coach said, "This is good!" The belief I had from my team and family were amazing and were what carried me through.

No. 4: What were your goals before the collision, and what are they now?
The same goals as always: to play at the highest level. It was that before and it is now. But because of what I've overcome, I don't worry about where I'm going to be in a year or a week. I just worry about what I can control and let everything else take care of itself. And my passion now is to play in the National Hockey League. I wake up every day striving for it.

No. 5: Where are you now, and how are you playing?
I'm in West Virginia playing for the Wheeling Nailers in the ECHL. When I first started coming back, I had to come up with a plan as a free agent. Before I got hurt, I was on the radar screen of a few teams. So, I approached those teams with my agent Bryant McBride. We were able to nail it down between the Florida Panthers, the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. So, we chose the Penguins and signed with Wilkes-Barre and they sent me to Wheeling. Eleven months to the day of the injury, I got my first start and my first professional win. I played the last two games on the road against good teams and played well. I'm building a ball of momentum and getting in my groove. I got two starts in a row and got better and better. I'm very confident in my game right now.

Joe is 6-0, 184 pounds. His style is aggressive and athletic. Turco- and Brodeur-like. Unscripted. Joe is 4-1-1 with a .918 save percentage. The team save percentage is .906.

No. 6: Will you play in the NHL one day?
That's my goal. I can't predict what's going to happen. But if it takes hard work, self-control and discipline, with talent, then yes for sure. I don't worry about things I can't control anymore. I'm striving to improve every day, and I am.

Joe is good friends with Tom Poti and will skate with him in the summer. It would be cool if the Penguins called Joe up to start the last game of the regular season, April 4. A 3 p.m. home game against the Washington Capitals.

No. 7: What kind of music is being played in ECHL locker rooms?
(Laughs) Oh, boy. It's pretty interesting. It goes all over the board. In fact, the first professional start of my career, I'm naturally all fired up and focused. A dream come true. And I'm sure the other guys knew and I was really looking forward to them helping me out as much as possible. Help me feel confident and comfortable. Well, I'm in the locker room and someone cranks a song on the stereo called "Let's Get Retarded." I sat there thinking, you got to be kidding me! I hope this isn't a sign of things to come!

Here are the some of the actual lyrics of the Black Eyed Peas song "Let's Get Retarded":

(yeah) Everybody, (yeah) Everybody (yeah) Let's get into it (yeah)
Get stupid (Come on) Get Retarded (Come on!) Get Retarded (Yeah!!)
Let's Get Retarded! (Haa!) Let's Get Retarded! (In here!) [x2]
Let's Get Retarded! (Haa!) Let's Get Retarded! (In here!) [x2]
(yeah..Cookoo...Ah hah!)
(Cookoo...In here!)
(Cookoo...Ah hah!)
(Cookoo...In here!)
(Cookoo...Ah hah!)
(Cookoo...In here!)
Oww, Oww, Oww...
Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya' Ya!!

Why can't Carole King, Bono or Peter Gabriel write quality lyrics like this!!!!!!!!?????????

No. 8: How do we sum this up?
I have tremendous faith in God, and the power of prayer has carried me through all of this. I had a tremendous support system at Merrimack, and as a result so many good things have come out of the collision. I graduated, have closer friends and am playing professional hockey. But it was all so close. The doctors saved my life by making the right decision at the right time. My doctors put tubes in my head and drained out the blood and pressure from my head. They did that at such a key time. I was so lucky to be in Boston and in that medical community, especially when it comes to the brain. On the ice, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Off the ice, I couldn't have been in a better place. And now, I'm in the exact place I want to be. Playing professional hockey and striving for the NHL.

During training camp prior to the 1925-26 season, Georges Vezina was not in good health. He was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis and was forced to retire. His condition worsened and he died later that season on March 27, 1926. The Chicoutimi Cucumber was 39. Vezina's family history was full of tragedy, as only two of his 24 children lived to adulthood.

Before the 1926-27 season, Canadiens owners Leo Dandurand, Leo Letourneau and Joseph Cattaranich immortalized Vezina's name by establishing a trophy to be presented annually to the top netminder in the NHL.

Like just about every individual and team award, including the Stanley Cup, the Vezina Trophy is wide open and will be won in the last month of the season. Here are my five candidates as we approach the homestretch:

Roberto Luongo
1. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers: This is very difficult, picking a goalie on a team that is going to miss the playoffs, but he has seen over 2,000 shots already and no one is close to that. Plus, he is around that .935 save-percentage area. His shutouts are old-school shutouts, not those 17-save varieties we see other goalies get. The Panthers will make the playoffs next season.

2. Andrew Raycroft, Boston Bruins: He is the MVP of the Bruins and is the only reason Boston is a Presidents' Trophy candidate. "Razor" glues together a splintered defense.

3. Marty Turco, Dallas Stars: His status is almost a carbon copy of Raycroft's. They play on teams that don't have great defensemen and ones that struggled for a portion of the season. They were the ones who held it together. Both teams are a couple of moves away from being a playoff threat.

4. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils: A .915 save percentage on a good defensive team is Marty's crutch. He still has 10 shutouts, and a strong kick could get him another Vezina. The injury to Scott Stevens hurts, but Marty still has a defensive corps that is way better than those of the Panthers, Bruins or Stars.

5. David Aebischer, Colorado Avalanche: A .927 save percentage on a team that is not defensive-minded. He has seen about the same amount of shots as Brodeur and, as I type this, he has a better save percentage and a lower goals-against average. His season might be he league's most underappreciated story.

The last time there was a work stoppage, the Flyers organization gave each of their season ticket holders an autographed Eric Lindros stick. If there is a lockout next season, what would management have to give Flyers fans to win them back? (Assuming that the Flyers don't win the ultimate prize, the Cup, this season.)
Jen Canning
Shady Side, Md.

Eric Lindros will come to your house and make you a pastrami sandwich on rye.

I do not like the idea of shootouts to decide games. I've seen too many great World Cup soccer matches ruined in the last minutes and overtime because the team knew shootouts were there to bail them out. Argentina absolutely destroyed the 1990 World Cup by making it to the finals with their defensive, rough, and cheap tactics. They had a goalie who could save penalty shots and that was it. I always thought soccer should adopt the same rule the NHL uses to decide playoff games, play till somebody scores.
Mike Jones
Huntington Beach, Calif.

My shootout proposal is for the regular season where the season is long and the bang for the buck is not always there for the casual fan. Entertainment should be the primary force for regular-season games.

John -
With all the talk of the trap and how it has killed hockey, I came up with a thought. If a coach came up with this philosophy, why can't a coach come up with a way to break it? They earn millions of dollars to coach, they should spend some time trying to break the trap rather than complain about it.
Steven Wojtowicz
Basking Ridge, N.J.

Good point, Steven. We need an innovative offensive mind in the NHL like a Bill Walsh in the NFL. But could Walsh and his systems have survived and thrived in the NFL before pass blocking and pass interference rules favored the offense? I really believe if the red line was taken out, a team could use the boards a lot more to break through a clogged neutral zone. It would enable a player and team to go around the defense and not through it by banking long passes off the boards to players who built up speed in their own end.

Everything you said about how an athlete should put effort into signing an item so you can read the name I totally agree with! I know that many athletes are bugged for autographs all the time, but how hard is it to put an extra five seconds at most into making your autograph more legible? I have an 8x10 black-and-white photo of Gordie Howe signed, "To Kevin, best regards." with his autograph below that's clearly written out extremely beautifully in blue Sharpie.
Kevin Krauser

The autograph column caused a massive response in the Inbox. Three of my other favorite autographs are on golf balls: Ray Bourque on a Titleist 77, Joe Sakic and Bobby Orr on an FDNY-stamped golf ball.

I totally agree with you on every single point you made in your article about autographs. I have a Florida Panthers jersey signed by every single person and coach from the 2000-2001 season, even if they only came up from the minors for one game and played one shift. It's very difficult to go back and read the names, which is frustrating. On a similar note, Olli Jokinen has an incredible signature; really flowing no matter how fast he signs it thanks to the nature of his name.
Ashley Gandolfo
Coral Springs, Fla.

Other athletes with good signatures I have: Ray Ferraro, Fred Lynn, Wayne Gretzky, Larry Bird, Ted Williams, Arnold Palmer and Mickey Mantle. My favorite personalized autograph was when Adam Duritz of Counting Crows wrote on the CD booklet for "August and Everything After": "What I am to Counting Crows, you are to NHL 2Night."

I totally agree that a sloppy autograph is disheartening. Have you ever had the pleasure of having Scott Stevens ink something for you? The first time was at the Cup celebration at the Meadowlands in 2003. His concentration when signing something is about as fierce as when he is playing the game. The best part was seeing him bend over and sign his name on a Devils bib being worn by an infant in a stroller, without even being asked of course.
Howell, N.J.

I once had Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World sign my CD for "Bleed American" and he printed in CAPS LOCK form on the keys of the jukebox. I liked that. I also like eggs.

Hands down Roberto Luongo and Jay Bouwmeester have THE WORST signatures I have seen in 10 years I have collected.

I once piggybacked a very aggressive autograph seeker and we ended up in Lyle Alzado's hotel room on the eve of the 1978 AFC Divisional game in Pittsburgh. There were lots of girls and a strange odor in the air. I was 11. The Broncos lost the next day 33-10.

Hey Bucci,
I loved your article on autographs in the NHL. When Jeremy Roenick played for the Coyotes, I told him my birthday was coming up in a week and he was so nice he wrote on it: " To Jeremy, have a very happy birthday" and then signed it beautifully. It to this day is my favorite autograph just because he was so nice about it and he seemed to truly CARE.

P.S. Can you ask Brian Leetch to stop running away from autograph requests, I still need to add him to my Graves, Kovalev, Messier, Richter, signed 1994 Stanley Cup poster.

L.C. Greenwood once turned me down for an autograph when it was just the two of us in front of a hotel in 1979.

On Sunday, February 15, I got down on one knee and proposed to my girlfriend in front of the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. She said yes! I felt like hoisting the holy trophy over my head, but instead we bought a miniature replica Stanley Cup to sit atop our wedding cake. She has even agreed to allow me to name our children after Matthew Barnaby and Rob Ray. What if it's a girl? Emily May, after Vancouver Canuck Brad May. Our wedding song? "Fireworks" by The Tragically Hip. Great song.
Jerry Back
New Hartford, N.Y.

Jerry, change your wedding song to "Baby Got Back."

John Buccigross is the host of NHL 2Night, which airs on ESPN2. His e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is