Devils fans, Denny's and Tawny Kitaen

Observations and name-dropping, Part 1, while on the road at the Stanley Cup finals and with the series tied at two ...

  • Keith Carney's face is a morph of Chris Chelios and Todd Bertuzzi.

  • The New Jersey Devils fans in section 217 are what hockey fans are all about. There are not a lot of Devils' fans, and they hurt TV ratings, but the ones they have are awesome. In section 217, the fans have a pretty good view of the ice, and their season tickets are $800 a seat for the year. Not too bad. Devils fans are among the league leaders in Devils sweaters worn at a game.

  • I played golf with Darren Pang and Joe Micheletti in Tustin, Calif., last Friday. Panger almost got a hole-in-one. He wants one badly because his bud, Steve Yzerman, got one last month on the third hole of the prestigious Oakland Hills Golf Club (Donald Ross design) in Detroit. No. 19 used a six-iron from about 180 yards out for his first ace. Micheletti said he played hockey with Kevin McHale while growing up in Hibbing, Minn. Bob Dylan was a checking winger.

  • Both New Jersey and Anaheim have a nice intimate setting inside the rink. However, in New Jersey you can't walk around the concourse. Everything you touch is STICKY. Including Barry Melrose.

  • Everyday in Anaheim has been sunny and 82 degrees. Everyday in Jersey has been rainy and 68.

  • Chicken Parm and I watched two periods of Game 4 in the NHL's suite. Gary Bettman, former Hartford Whaler/Pittsburgh Penguin owner Howard Baldwin, and Sacramento Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof were among those present. I had three plates of sushi and a piece of chocolate cake. While chewing, Joe Maloof, who also owns The Palms Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, said that he and his brother were all set to buy the Tampa Bay Lightning from its Japanese ownership in 1997 until Takashi Okubo changed the deal late. So, the brothers bought the Kings. "Maloof, Maloof, Maloof is on fire," told me he loves hockey and still wants to own an NHL team. Joe bought Gavin and Gavin's girlfriend authentic Duck sweaters at the souvenir stand.

  • Anaheim is Columbus, Ohio, with really good weather.

  • Game 4 was the first game Steve Rucchin had his skating legs. He'll be good the rest of the series.

  • Watching Scott Niedermayer skate is pure joy. I can't do anything close to as well as he skates.

  • I've been to Denny's twice so far.

  • I didn't go to Disneyland. Or is it Disney World? I wonder why Disneyland is one word and Disney World is two words.

  • You haven't lived until you've gone on a two-hour limo ride from Anaheim to Los Angeles to the Sky Bar with Chris Berman, Chicken Parm, Barry Melrose, John Saunders, and Steve "Cookies" Levy. I have lived.

  • Unless Martin Brodeur gets another shutout and the Devils win in 6, Jean Sebastian Giguere is the Conn Smythe winner in my mind. Win or lose. It would be hard not to give it to Marty if the Devils win in 6 and he has three shutouts.

  • On the plane flight from LAX to Newark, I sat next to an 18-year-old Australian woman (I say "woman" because she had the demeanor, vocabulary and sense of humor of a 25-30-year-old) who was on day two of a three-month vacation that will eventually take her to a month-long volunteer program in Croatia where they deal with orphaned bears. I couldn't make that up if I tried.

  • When you go to a game in person, you see so clearly why the red line has to go. It will make the trap less effective, create more long passes and create more room in the neutral zone. Which part of that is bad?

  • Tawny Kitaen and Michelle Kwan were both at Game 4, but not together. Talk about your opposite ends of the spectrum. When you look at Michelle Kwan, she has that kind of countenance that makes you less stressful and happier. You can see why she owns figure skating judges. When I looked at Tawny Kitaen, I thought about Chuck Finley bleeding from the ears.

  • It dawned on me that there won't be a Pittsburgh Penguins franchise in three to five years. Whether Mario plays somewhere else or not. A billionaire new owner or a drastically different CBA is their only chance. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am.

  • If there is an NHL All-Star Game in 2005, Ken the Otter tells me his sources say it will be in Atlanta. Next year's All-Star Game is in St. Paul, Minn. It will be one of the best All-Star weekends ever.

  • Ken the Otter also tells me that Glen Healy will be hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs for a front-office position.

  • I swear I'm not complaining, but I haven't had two days off in a row since March. And as I was typing this column, I HAD NO IDEA if it was the year 2002 or 2003. I mean, NONE.

  • Chicken Parm and I did an on-ice demonstration on cheating in the face-off circle. I grabbed a Petr Sykora stick to use, and the thing is like a shovel. The toe of the stick is like a Vokey lob wedge. No wonder some of these guys can roof it like they do.

  • There is absolutely no progress toward a new CBA, if you were optimistic the two sides might start now in an attempt to save games and/or an entire season. The most ominous sign that there will be a stoppage is that the owners are very unified and a lot of players have money saved to skip a season. During the 1994-95 lockout, the owners were not as unified and the players didn't make the kind of money and didn't save like they have been the past year or so to sit out an entire season.

  • It saddens me that, at most, there's only three hockey games left.

    The life of Podes
    The life and times of Shjon Podein in his words, left on my cell phone:

    "Names and places have been withheld to protect the innocent. Following my first year in the NHL, I was overseas playing in a tournament. After we landed, we had this big meeting with the coach explaining the guidelines of the trip for off-ice issues and to ensure we represented the team and well.

    "One of the rules was that you couldn't tour the hotel bar. Well, one night it was 8:00 and my roommate and me were bored. We headed down to the pool to see what was going on, and when we got down there, there was a big business party going for some convention that was going on in the hotel. The party included an OUTSIDE HOTEL BAR. So, my roommate and I just hung out in the shallow end by ourselves while the party was going on.

    "Well, one thing led to another and somewhere around midnight, I felt a calling. And I decided to act. I exchanged all of my Team USA gear, T-shirts, shorts, underwear, hat and flip-flops in exchange for a white towel and one of those 1970s truck-driver, valor-front, mesh-back, flat-brimmed hats that said in big block letters 'POOL MANAGER.' I also received a 1995 first-round pick from the Hartford Whalers.

    "So, there I was in my towel and a 'That 70s Show'-style 'POOL MANAGER' hat and now bartending for the pool party going on at the hotel. It was the team's first night overseas. Slowly, word got around and some of my other teammates made it down to the pool party. It's now 3 a.m. The night is going swimmingly, when I fill up four more beers for my comrades, turn around and THERE IS THE GM OF THE TEAM!!!

    "There I am, in my towel and hat. I look at him. I can see the disgusted look on his face forming, and I say, 'HEY BOSS! CAN I GET YOU A BEER?!'
    He replies, 'I'm the GM, not the coach; I didn't see anything.'

    "However, I couldn't figure out why I was on the fourth line the rest of that tournament. It couldn't have been because of my unbelievable talent. But, I think it was more of a mix between entertainment director/lack of talent.

    "This is Minneapolis 25, bleeding blue. And remember, what Paul Westerberg was to 'The Replacements,' John Buccigross is to NHL 2Night.

    "See ya."

    I have to express some disappointment in your lax
    attitude toward touching the Stanley Cup. I was made fun of
    for not wanting to touch it during a trip to the HOF
    in Toronto because I haven't earned it. I probably
    never will earn it, but I'm OK with that.
    That said, you earn points back for being a Fruity
    Pebbles man. Do you get funny looks in the aisles
    when taking the Pebbles off the shelf?
    Chris Vosler

    I buy my Fruity Pebbles at 3 a.m. at the 24-hour Stop and Shop in South Windsor, Conn., USA. Chris, if Penelope Cruz asked you to touch her while waiting in line at Starbucks for a frappucino, would you tell her, "Sorry, hon, haven't earned it?" You are obviously inspired by the Cup. Touch it. Hold it. Grab it. Trace your fingers over the name Raymond Bourque. Phil Bourque. Hakan Loob. Wayne Gretzky. You can do all of this and never be worried about a restraining order.

    Why do you call Magnus Arvedsson "The world's strongest Swede" on NHL 2Night?
    The question just came to me as he scored the first goal against the Devils during Game 7.
    From another Swede,
    Ulf Grundstrom

    What's up, Ulf? (That's the first time I've EVER said that.)
    I call Magnus that to honor the greatest Swedish athlete of all time and the official athlete of ESPN2: Magnus Ver Magnusson. There's one problem with that. Magnus was born in Iceland. I now need therapy. And I need to find an Icelandic winger really quick. I apologize to you Ulf and all the Grundstroms in Sweden.


    I always enjoy reading your columns and had to smile at
    your habit of Sharpie-writing a player's name on your golf
    ball. In my house, we have a similar system for grades. You
    see, my young son has infinitely more passion for hockey
    than he does for his schoolwork. Therefore, we adopted a
    school slogan for his grades of, "Big E (88) or better!" as
    Lindros is his favorite player. This has inspired him to
    hit that lofty goal many times but has also failed to
    prevent him from bringing home a Jagr (68), a Niinimaa
    (44), or a dreaded LeClair (10)! The best days are those
    when he announces he has received a "Gretzky +1" and really
    is there anything better than that?
    Kim Sullivan

    Hey John,
    Sam here. Just thought I would let you know that I finished
    one season on my NHL 2002 game. I created you, Panger and Melrose. You
    were on a line with Thornton. Your stats were ... 82 GP, 62 goals, 88
    assists for a grand total of 150 points. You did pretty dang good. But
    Boston didn't win Lord Stanley. Sorry about that.
    Sam Gray

    After my stellar season, Jeremy Jacobs has said he can not afford my 20-percent raise "demand" and has informed me I have been traded, along with a first-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, eight-, and ninth-round draft pick to Dallas for Richard Matvichuk. We have commented here before that the most important thing in life is to have a vision and stick it out. The Bruins have showed their lack of vision again and why that, more so than their alleged "cheapness." This month's draft in Nashville is considered one of the stronger drafts in some time, and the Bruins do not have a second-round pick (Dan McGillis trade), a third-rounder (Steve Shields), or a fourth (Ian Moran). We've also said hockey is smarts and hearts, and isn't it sad that only one of the Original Six seems to have smarts and hearts in the front office, and that's Detroit. The other five's lack of vision doesn't bode well for their futures.

    You know you're having a great day when Cam Neely walks right past you on my lunch break today.
    Tony Becker

    You know you're having a BAD day when Cam Neely hands you your lunch on your lunch break today.

    Hey Bucci,

    I remember phone numbers the exact same way! People think I'm crazy when I pull out my phone and start mumbling "OK...Therien...Choiunard...Recchi..." But I disagree: nets should NOT be bigger but, instead, goalie equipment should go back to 10 inches. When Roy won the Cup in '86, it was all skill and not KOHO 590s. Go back to smaller equipment and you can leave the nets at the size they're been for years. "The lead singer of Air Supply is really Al Morganti: The untold story." Look for it in bookstores July 23. I hope you're serious about that book. It will be my Bible. And Bucci? Thank you for existing. You make my bad days funny. Rock on.
    Baltimore, Md.

    I just realized how much I enjoy the sound of the word "Baltimore." Say it five times and you'll feel more relaxed. I wonder if Adam Duritz of Counting Crows does too, and that's why he wrote the song "Raining in Baltimore." The last four numbers of my current cell phone are DEMITRA-HEMSKY.
    It's hard to go backwards with equipment. The NHL needs five things and the game will hold for 100 more years:
    1. A net six inches wider and four inches higher. Humans are bigger than when George Vezina played. They are getting bigger and their equipment is bigger.
    2. Get rid of the red line, and you can't use college hockey or European hockey as an example because NHL players are the greatest players in the world.
    3. Regular-season shootouts. This is the no-brainer of all no-brainers.
    4. Put the nets back where they were. All the resulting factors of moving them farther from the boards are NEGATIVE.
    5. If a goalie plays the puck behind the end line, he can be hit. In front of it, he cannot. That's all. Call the rule book as is, take away the curve limit, the rules tweaking will stop and the greatest game there is will be more fun to play and more fun to watch.

    Hey John!

    Since Teemu Selanne is now trying out the UFA waters, where do you think will he land?
    Paul Zhang,

    San Francisco

    Selanne will either be a Duck, King, or an Av. July 1 is when unrestricted free agents can sign with a new team.

    I enjoyed your song recommendations in your April 29 column. I need to know what some of the 7,812 other songs are. I need to hear some new stuff.
    Tampa, Fla.

    OK, five more of the 7,812 -- 7,799 to go (Bourque-Gretzky).

    1. "Man in Uniform" -- Pete Yorn
    2. "Daysleeper" -- REM
    3. "Ghetto Bastard" -- Naughty by Nature
    4. "Sick of Myself" -- Matthew Sweet
    5. "Stop" -- Jane's Addiction

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