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You know how it works. We present an NHL photo, and Bucci provides a caption. E-mail him your suggestions (include your name and hometown/state), and we will use the best ones and provide a new photo the following week.
Must. Find. French Fries. (Getty Images)Your captions:
"I hope my mom doesn't lick her thumb and rush onto the ice to clean my face again!"
-- Keith Shocker (York, Pa.)
"Mike Tyson was right. Those ears are tasty!"
Every day is Groundhog Day when Craig Anderson is the backup goalie. (Getty Image)
• The Penguins have to at least consider and discuss trading Evgeni Malkin this summer if he is looking for an Alexander Ovechkin-type contract ($9-10 million per season. Term doesn't matter. You always will be able to trade a great player if he is healthy), and the team concludes that paying a combined $17 million for two players on their roster will greatly affect their Stanley Cup plans. NHL teams will have to look at things as NFL teams do. You won't be able to fall in love with players, and you can't talk about being a contender for 10 seasons. You have to look through smaller windows. Otherwise, you could have a very good season, then be mediocre for the next five. You have to keep looking forward, keep building. That said, don't keep bringing up Tampa Bay and its big three players. Tampa Bay got bad fast because it drafted badly, traded badly and signed free agents badly. The Penguins can have Sidney Crosby and Malkin, and then have young players and veterans on short-term contracts playing with them. These gigantic contracts for young players enable teams to acquire good veteran players at cheap prices and a manageable term.
• Please ... for the love of God ... do not go to the net camera when a player is attempting to score on an open net. It is self-indulgent directing. Keep the live camera shot on the game angle when a player attempts to score on an open net. I want perspective. It's fun to watch the puck sail down the net as the camera pans and follows the puck. Don't take that joy away from us. The cut to the goalie cam is jarring and doesn't work. Show it on the replay. • Phil Collins might be the most underrated rock vocalist of all time.
|Phil Collins, most underrated rock vocalist? You decide.|
|Did Gerry Cheevers' mask get in the way of the Narragansett?|
With the recent resurgence of the Wings coinciding with Nicklas Lidstrom's return, what are the chances that No. 5 takes home the Hart? Chris,
South Bend, Ind.Nicklas Lidstrom will have a difficult time becoming one of the three Hart Trophy finalists because voters (I am not one, even though I watch more games than anyone) favor forwards and/or goalies. The last defenseman to win the MVP was Chris Pronger (1999-2000). Before that? Bobby Orr! (He won three straight Harts from 1969-72.) Before that? Babe Pratt in 1944! That's a joke! Everyone who watches Mite hockey knows that oftentimes the best and most important player is a smart, fast, puck-moving defenseman. That's why we can safely assume that the force and telekinetic game of Ovechkin and his vibrant and infectious personality likely will land him the Hart Trophy. There is time for things to change. That's why they play 82. I'll hand out my postseason awards in next week's blogumn (blog + column).
|Bucci sees great things happening on the ice between Marian Hossa and Sidney Crosby.|
San Jose, Calif.
I wanted to know your take on the proposed Winter Classic at Yankee Stadium. As an Islanders and Yankees fan, I couldn't have been more excited when I heard the idea of an Islanders-Rangers game at the Stadium. But I am shocked and appalled the NHL and NBC would prefer Rangers/Bruins. No offense to the Bruins, but I don't see the draw there. There's much more history between the Islanders and Rangers. The Islanders-Rangers rivalry is the best in sports. Having been to those games many times, I would say it's even better than Yankees-Red Sox, but without the media circus. The intensity of the crowd during Islanders-Rangers games is somewhere between mayhem and total chaos. The animosity in the air is palpable. Taking it outside would make for a legendary showdown.
Red Wings-Blackhawks, Penguins-Flyers, Oilers-Flames, Canadiens-Maple Leafs, Red Wings in Nashville on a sold-out night, and others, including Islanders-Rangers, bring out that excitement. Now that the NHL has realized the ratings potential of an outdoor game, it will look to maximize it by choosing teams with markets that draw well.New York City is the largest television market in the United States, and the Rangers' local ratings dwarf the Islanders' and Devils'. The Rangers are the natural choice when picking a U.S. team with big ratings potential. And a game in Yankee Stadium should create enough casual curiosity to draw a strong ratings number in greater New York City and across the nation, especially with a strong marketing buildup that would begin this summer. Whom the Rangers play is probably of little ratings consequence.
The Bruins makes television sense because of the New York-Boston dynamic driven mostly by baseball and, to a lesser extent, this past February's Super Bowl and the Patriots-Jets rivalry. Also, with Boston-based sports teams, you can draw from six states. Now, I understand that the Bruins presently have the pop-culture relevancy of Henry Winkler, The Garden Weasel and Kajagoogoo (*) in New England, but for an outdoor hockey game over the holidays in Yankee Stadium, they would be relevant for a day or night.
Ratings research has shown that New England cities like Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn., do well for big hockey events and they would draw good ratings for a Bruins-Rangers outdoor game in Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics (now that they are good again) all rate well nationally because they do VERY well in the six-state New England region. Add in team success, big personalities, transplants and bandwagon jumpers, and you have a "Dancing with the Stars" ratings winner.Television networks like ESPN do exhaustive research on who watches television and when, and two facts remain strong: 1) Most of the people in the United States still reside in the Northeast corridor from Washington D.C. to Boston; 2) People in the Eastern time zone watch sports on television more than people in the West. (Weather and tradition may be the reasons for this.) A Detroit-Chicago game in Wrigley Field also would be a big television ratings winner. The Red Wings rate well locally and have good national appeal in NHL terms. You would have a big Blackhawks curiosity factor in Chicago's massive market (third largest in the country). There also would be solid ratings support in New England and good NHL ratings in markets like Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Minnesota, even though their teams aren't playing in the game. [ (*) I want a Kajagoogoo Dolls world tour and I want it now.]
And when Erik Johnson scores a goal for the Blues, they can blare Sandy McFiddish screaming "Gophers?! Where?!"
|Fry me up some walleye!|
Also, I thought you'd like to know (if you hadn't heard already) that Toledo, Ohio, has renamed its hockey franchise, formerly the Toledo Storm, as the Toledo Walleye. The new hockey franchise is being run by the Toledo Mud Hens organization and will be housed in a brand new downtown arena within walking distance of Fifth Third Field and the Hens. There is quite a bit of controversy regarding the nickname. (Folks around here think it's too "goofy.") You stay classy, John Buccigross!Shawn Selders
I'll start off with a hockey question: How do you feel about the Pronger suspension? I'm sure you'll cover this in your column anyway, but I think eight games are about right. It wasn't as heinous as Chris Simon, but there was a definite stomp that took place.
|Chris Pronger was suspended eight games for stomping on Ryan Kesler's leg.|
Cameron CramerGo to the smaller station every time. All you'll do at the national network is go and get Ron Burgundy's take-out dinner from Applebee's. "Keep the 78 cents, Cam! Who won the Avalanche game, anyway? I was watching 'Deal or No Deal!'" Go to the smaller station, take the camera, shoot all day, make music videos, interview local athletes and construct profiles. Do play-by-play of a T-ball game. Life is about reps. And applying the same four values that we talked about 4½ years ago in this space in describing a hockey player and why Cam Neely should be a Hall of Fame inductee. Still waiting to hear from that Cam for our years of work. Those values are heart, courage, mental toughness and artistic expression. Don't be limited by fear, Cam. Make up your own definition of a good life. Chance will furnish you what you need. You will stumble upon something that, like a flash, will exemplify who you are right to your core. And it will fit like a CCM glove.
Back to our regularly scheduled hockey column:I like the Pronger suspension mostly because his $600,000 lost salary fine goes to the players' Emergency Assistance Fund. I hope they buy 30 retired players in their 60s a nice new Buick LeSabre and a VHS collection of the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.
In terms of a pure suspension, I'm OK with it. And I would have been OK with a game -- or three. I do believe Pronger was trying to free his leg from Ryan Kesler's mini-figure, four-leg lock, and Pronger knowingly stepped on Kesler's shin guard, understanding he wouldn't injure him. But what if he missed and Kesler moved and Pronger sliced an exposed area behind his knee or on Kesler's upper calf? We can't have kids watching NHL players put their skate blades toward another player on purpose. Kids copy fights, Ovechkin's goal celebrations and Dominik Hasek's snow-angel saves. They will copy kicking, too.Kesler "asked" for it by "pinning" Pronger's foot to the ice, but Pronger should have just wriggled himself free. I GUARANTEE that was the first time I have EVER typed the word "wriggle."
When I hear "wriggle," I think of Sting's lyrics from "Be Still My Beating Heart": "And I wriggle like a fish caught on dry land."I also think Pronger's move was SIGNIFICANTLY more dangerous than Chris Simon's skate stomp. Simon stepped on a well-protected skate. He knew what he was doing and knew he wasn't going to injure Jarkko Ruutu. There was NO chance of injury and there wasn't one, either. I like all the positives that Kesler and Ruutu bring to the NHL and their teams, but, in these situations, I would suspend them a game or two, as well, for provoking these actions.