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|One of Bucci's greatest moments? Getting one last look at the Boston Garden.|
After five years of poverty wages in Cape Cod, I was hired by WPRI-TV in Providence, R.I. I covered college pucks and the AHL. I also interviewed Orr again, but this time I had cameraman. Then, I had one of my ultimate Hockey Night in America moments -- covering the final hockey game at the Boston Garden, a preseason contest against the Montreal Canadiens. They actually let the media scrum on the ice after the game, along one end of the boards, and I witnessed all of the emotional moments of that final Boston Garden hockey game. Normand Leveille going for a skate with Ray Bourque. Boston journalist Clark Booth's introductions; seeing all of the players leave the ice and Orr taking the final laps on the Garden ice before it was later demolished.
So, if the ice melted at that point, I would have been content. But in a bigger upset than Team USA beating the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics, I was hired by ESPN and soon after hosted the only nightly, U.S.-based NHL highlight show at the time. That show brought me to All-Star Games, Stanley Cup finals, interviews with Maurice Richard and Wayne Gretzky, and other players, coaches, commissioners and ice girls. Most important, it brought me to this column and you.
Along the way, hockey has also given me relationships with hockey people who worked on "NHL 2Night" through the years -- Barry Melrose, Ray Ferraro, Jim Schoenfeld, Darren Pang and Keith Jones. Talking hockey with them was like Christmas morning every time. All of them could write a book on their hockey lives, but for my first attempt as an author, I chose "Jonesy." Our sensibilities and stories mesh, and I believed it gave me the best chance of not blowing my opportunity of writing a book. Melrose coached Wayne Gretzky. Ferraro scored 108 goals as a 19-year-old in Junior. Schoenfeld has the hardest hand shake in North America. And Pang grew up with Steve Yzerman. I wanted no part of that lineage for my first effort in Barnes and Noble Land. "Every man" Jonesy was the most comfortable way for me to start. The more I talked with Keith, the more it became apparent this would be fun -- the right way to start a possible side career in writing books. Jonesy's story is interesting, irreverent, illogical and funny. So is the man. Hopefully, you will read "Jonesy" and feel like you know him. For those of you who have bought the book and read it, thank you.
Keith Jones (and sometimes me) will answer your e-mails.
|Keith Jones is wondering why Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr has only seven goals in 26 games this season.|
Question from Jason A. Ciastko: John or Keith, I read your book in one sitting at the downtown Borders in Chicago. My wife works at a large hotel downtown (a pastry cook, no less) and I had time to kill before she got off work and we headed to a Hawks game. Good book and a fun read. I've started my second read of it so I can savor it more. Jones: Thanks so much, Jason. It's great to hear responses like that, and for the most part, that's what I've gotten. It's really a good feeling that people enjoyed the book.
Bucci: There was more information to use and I'm seriously contemplating doing an independent film based loosely on the book. A coming-of-age hockey film. Question from Jason Scheeneman (WMU grad, 1998): What are your favorite memories of Western Michigan University? While I know our hockey program was never a consistent power, it pains me that the administration doesn't provide more support. Have you ever been contacted by WMU to play a role in the program and/or coach? Please come back, we need you!
Jones: My favorite moment from Western Michigan is the first time we had strength training there (read below). They've never contacted me about coaching, but they do call for money for the alumni association. I think I've done the dressing room four times over.Question from Terry Charlton (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.): Your book must be selling well because Bucci has had more "last chances for blatant self-promotion" in his column than Ozzy Osbourne has had farewell tours. Seriously, it was a great read. My question: Is it hard to give honest criticism of a local team you are broadcasting for, like the Flyers, since you travel with the players? I imagine it would be hard to say "Derian Hatcher was officially recognized as a new monument in Washington tonight as Ovechkin and Co. blew past him numerous times," only to run into him the next morning at the buffet line. Jones: You have to be more creative. There is a way to give criticism in a way that isn't as gut-wrenchingly honest as it might be for an opposing team. I think that is just human nature and it's good business. We see these people all year because we travel with them. Question from anonymous (Westerville, Ohio): What is your scouting report on the Flyers this year? Jones: Well, 22 to 24 of the teams are .500 teams. There are four elite teams and there about three or four are above average. I'd put the Flyers in that above-average category. The four elite teams are Ottawa, Carolina, Detroit and Anaheim (once they get Scott Niedermayer back). The Rangers are in the class of the Flyers. I'm not sure how much Jaromir Jagr has left in the tank. He looks disinterested and that's a big concern. Question from Carl Allen (Winnipeg, Manitoba): The unbalanced schedule is out. Is that a good thing? Jones: Not for me; it means I have to travel more! I'm sure the players will like it. You get tired of playing the same guys over and over again in the division. It's refreshing to play cities and teams where there isn't quite as much built up in the bank in terms of hatred. As a player, I would like it. As a media member, I love it the way it is because I don't have to travel as much.
|Are bigger nets the answer? Keith Jones says yes.|
I too travel for a living. Tell Mark to cough up $129 bucks for a Slingbox. It's the best invention since the VCR and is a godsend if you have DirecTV and the Center Ice package. There is even a HD version.
Dave Rivard (Bruins fan in R.I., suffering since 1975)
The 1971 Leafs-Wings in-game blog was great reading. I love seeing those vintage games on the NHL Network. The variety of goalie masks, if worn at all, is pretty neat to see. I also enjoy seeing the players have a legitimate chance of scoring without the need of a massive screen shot or a one-timer that has the goalie moving. Great reminder that the goalies back in the day had a lot more net to cover with minimal equipment than today's Stay Puft Marshmallow Man-like netminders.