Where have all the goals gone?

The lost art of scoring goals, Ray Bourque and Shjon Podein take a ride on the Zamboni.

Updated: October 23, 2003, 4:05 PM ET
By John Buccigross | Special to ESPN.com

During the 1968-69 season, the Boston Bruins, led by revolutionary Bobby Orr, did something no other team in NHL history had done to that point -- they hit 300.

Actually, 303 goals, to be exact, in a 76-game regular season. Two seasons later, Orr matured into a 22-year-old man and the B's exploded for 399 goals in 78 regular-season games. That was Orr's implausible 37-goal, 102-assist season as a DEFENSEMAN!

Hockey was going through a revolution. The shots were flying faster and, with Orr leading the way, offense was on the minds of most. And this all happened almost overnight.

In 1962-63, Gordie Howe led the NHL with 38 goals. Take away Bobby Hull's 54 goals in 1965-66 and the next highest goal scorer was Frank Mahovlich with 32. In 1969-70, the second year of the 12-team NHL, Phil Esposito led the NHL with 43 goals. The next year he had 76!! Again, this could almost single-handedly be attributed to Orr. Six of the top eight scorers in the NHL were Boston Bruins that year.

SHOT OF THE WEEK
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 best ones and provide a new photo.

LAST WEEK:
Mario Lemieux to Ed Olczyk:
"Whatever you do Edzo, do NOT puke here. I'll keep the Ivan Hlinka stall open for you."

"Trust me, Ed. I felt the same way last year. That sickening feeling goes away once the uncontrollable weeping starts around December."
Vartan G., Northridge, Calif.

"Just kidding, Eddie. I didn't trade me for draft choices."
A. Alex Hutton, Grand Rapids, Mich.

"Sometimes when I get nervous I stick my hands under my arms and then smell them, like this!!"
Patrick Maninger

"OK, who used the super-glue-on-the-hand trick on our rookie coach?!?!?"
Joe Napoline, Claymont, Del.

"Two words coach - breath mint!!"
Steve LaRusso, Denver

THIS WEEK:

A front row, popcorn-loving New York Rangers fan is stunned as Boris Mironov ignores Glen Sather's Edmonton Oilers reminiscings and gives teammate Anson Carter a peck on the cheek.
The rest of the teams in the league saw this offense and liked it. Reggie Leach hit 61 in 1975-76. Mike Bossy netted 69 in 1978-79.

Then came the 1980s. Members Only jackets, Men at Work, Martha Quinn, Chris Berman and a kid named Wayne. Rocky Bragg scored 50 in the first year of the Steubenville Street Hockey League.

In 1979-80, nine of the 21 teams in the NHL scored 300 goals. The next season, 14 hit 300. Gretzky set the NHL record with 162 points in just his second season. The next season, 16 of the 21 teams hit 300 goals, the Oilers scored 417 and Wayne netted his still-standing and untouchable record of 92.

Bring on the 1990s and lime green spandex shorts, Heavy D, Jesus Jones, and the commercialism of music. One year after the New Kids on the Block became the biggest act in America in 1989, I stabbed myself in the ears with knitting needles and Brett Hull cranked in 86. The next year he scored 70. Teemu Selanne entered the NHL in 1992-93 and scored 76 as a rookie. Imagine the bonuses he would have hit if he had today's rookie entry-level contract. HERE TEEMU! TAKE BRAZIL AND FREE CABLE FOR LIFE!!!

Ray Sheppard scored 52 in 1993-94. Ray Sheppard!!

Then came the lockout.

The next full season, 1995-96, only three of the 26 NHL teams scored 300 goals. The next season? NONE. And it hasn't happened since. Boom! Just like that. As fast as the bull market on goals began, it crashed. And here we are today. On pace for over 300 shutouts. Two scoreless ties on the same night for the first time since 1969. Lacy Underall was right when she said to Ty Webb: "I bet you have a lot of nice ties."

Why? Why so few goals?

Here's a top 10 list. And if you're sick of top ten lists you only really have two people to blame. God and David Letterman, the original top 10 list creators.

10. Bigger goalie gear

It just went too far when Garth Snow had a tail surgically implanted last season to help him cover his five hole.

9. Jacques Lemaire

In 1992-93 the Devils scored 308 goals. They hired Jacques Lemaire to coach the next season and scored 306. They perfect the trap and score 136 in the lockout shortened 48-game season (or 232 goals over 82 games). The next year it's down to 215. Then 231. Down again to 225. Lemaire leaves the Devils, and they jump up to 248 goals. Then 251. Then, in 2000-2001, New Jersey nets 295.

8. Ray Sheppard retired

7. Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux

Their talent and style were emulated by everyone because they had what most young men dream of: lots of money and lots of women. If a study was done, I bet you would find more women wore hockey sweaters in the late '80s, early '90s than today.

Donna ain't droppin' down 200 bucks for no Richard Smehlik sweater.

6. Thirty teams

There are too many players in the league who can't play. So they cram creatine shakes down their pieholes all summer long, bench press a copier machine, squat zambonis and skate all around the ice, clogging passing lanes without any threat of creating a play. The rest of the players are scared of these maniacs.

5. Too many men on the ice

There was a time hockey was 7-on-7 (goalie included). Now, it's 6-on-6. Maybe it's time to go 5-on-5 (again, include the goalie). Skaters are bigger and faster, and there is less and less room on the ice. Basketball and hockey need to increase time and space. The space has stayed the same while the games have sped up. Baseball, golf and football have always had and will always have, plenty of time and space.

4. Boring rinks

The rinks are too cavernous and boring, and the players are often uninspired. What inspires a baseball player more? Fenway Park or where the Tampa Bay Devil Rays play? The stage matters. If I eat chicken wings at a Hooters or the ESPN cafeteria, I guarantee you my heartbeat rate will differ. For the love of Howard Roark, how did these architectural bores get built? Why didn't the Hawks and Bruins build modern replicas of their perfect hockey rinks? There was a reason why this year's baseball postseason was rich -- Fenway and Wrigley.

3. The Curse of Cam Neely

Since Steve Kasper benched Cam Neely during the 1995-96 season, goal scoring, the Bruins, and big-haired girls from the North Shore have all gone downhill. Cam retired after that year. He now lives on the North Shore.

2. Goalies are too big

If I were commissioner, no NHL goalie could exceed the height or weight of Pat Sajak.

1. The nets are too small

Most things would be better if the nets were four inches bigger. So, four inches higher and four inches wider on the nets, please. There is no going back with the goalie equipment. It is what it is. We'll all have to live with Garth Snow's tail. The Atlanta Thrashers starting goalie in 2004-2005 will be Kari Lehtonen. He'll be 6-foot-3, 200 pounds with all that 21st century goalie gear. George Vezina was 5-6, 185. Jacques Plante was 6-0, 185. Fifty years from now, there will be a goalie in the NHL that is 6-6, 225, and he will move like Darren Pang in a spin cycle. And his name will be Ray Sheppard III. And when grandpa tells him he scored 52 goals, the Coca-Cola Philadelphia Microsoft Flyers goaltender will respond: "In your career?"

Ray Bourque carries himself like he has a continuous loop of Mark Knopler's "Sailing to Philadelphia" and Steve Winwood's "While You See a Chance" playing in his head. Cool, smooth, and unshakable. Whether running a power play, golfing or driving to pick up his son at prep school, that's how you'll find Bourque. What's up with Ray? I thought about that last week, so I called him. He was on his way to pick up his son Chris at prep school.

No. 1: What's your average day like?
Bourque:
If I don't have any major business commitments, I'll get up and take my 12-year-old son, Ryan, to school. Then come back home and work out and make some calls. Sometimes I'll play golf before going to pick him up from school. Basically, whatever I can get in between dropping Ryan off and picking him up from school.

Ray also has a daughter who attends the University of New Hampshire.

No. 2: Are you on the ice much these days?
Bourque:
Well, I coach Ryan's team in the Metro League with Steve Kasper, whose son is also on the team. I'm on the ice as much as I can, two practices and about two games a week.

Ryan Bourque plays on a top-level bantam team.

No. 3: I understand you were co-best man in Gord Kluzak's wedding in Greece. Did you sweat more during Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup final or Kluzak's wedding?
Bourque:
It was so hot that the rice that they threw at the wedding was sticking on me.

Kluzak was the first overall pick of the 1982 draft. He played 299 games before retiring at the age of 27 due to knee injuries. He now is a television analyst on Bruins games and is very good.

No. 4: Are you surprised at all the corporate appeal you still have?
Bourque:
I work at it. I just signed a deal with Banknorth that I hope is long term. It's a lot of work and I've had good relationships with nice people and good companies. I also have some wireless stores around Boston with friends of mine, like Reggie Lemelin. It's been great because it's all around my family schedule. I miss very little. I haven't been on the road all that much.

The Red Sox were talking to Ray about throwing out the first pitch at Game 1 if they had reached the World Series.

No. 5: Has your golf game improved since retirement?
Bourque:
This was the first summer that I worked on my game. I saw a pro once a week for a month or so and practiced hard. I went from a 6-7 handicap to 4-5. I want to continue to improve, and it's harder to improve the better you get.

No. 6: What was your best score this summer?
Bourque:
I shot 71, 1-under at Salem Country Club. It was the first time I shot under par. I birdied Nos. 17 and 18 to do it. Also, last summer, the day after Gord Kluzak's stag party, I got my first double eagle. My son Ryan was a forecaddie and he saw it go in. He was screaming, "I SWEAR TO GOD!! IT's IN THE HOLE!!!!"

No. 7: Can the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup with an inexperienced goaltender and all those offensive forwards?
Bourque:
Well, I think so, if they stick to the program and pay attention to detail. Once playoff time comes around, if you don't keep the puck out of your net it doesn't matter how many goals you score. It's like all great teams, like when the Oilers and the Wings had their great offensive teams, they never won until they figured that out. You have to be committed when you don't have the puck to pay attention to detail in all areas of the ice.

No. 8: What is your feel on a possible work stoppage next season?
Bourque:
I'm wishing for the best but expecting the worst. I don't think it's going to be resolved. Management is committed to major change. I don't think there will be any hockey. There's middle ground there, but probably tough to get to for a while.

Life of Podes

If you are new to this segment, I strongly urge you to click on my archives and find all of last year's installments. Shjon Podein is currently an unsigned unrestricted free agent, working out and hoping for another chance to raise the Stanley Cup. This summer in Chicago, while having a couple of late-night beverages, Podes eyes grew moist talking about what the quest and ultimate clutching of Lord Stanley's Cup meant to him. It was a moment I'll never forget. How perfect is Podes for the Avs' third or fourth line? Unrelenting, experienced and popular. While we wait for Podes to return to NHL ice, we enjoy his behind-the-scenes look of life on the road:

Shjon Podein
Available: Third- or fourth-line winger.
So, I'm in my rookie year in Edmonton and it's my birthday. We had just come home from one of our infamous 15-20 day road trips and my family is there to celebrate. So, the family and I go out to have some dinner and drinks. We're just relaxing when one of my brothers gives me a four-foot high, inflatable tyrannosaurus rex for a birthday present. My other brother gives me a sombrero.

We get back to the hotel and get mom back in her room. As we're leaving mom's room, my brothers jump me and rip my suit off in the hotel hallway, leaving me with just my boxers, a sombrero and my 4 foot high inflatable tyrannosaurus rex.

So I'm wandering the hallways of the hotel trying to find where my room is. We'd been on the road for 15-20 days, it's late, and I can't remember my room number. I stick my room key in a number of doors, hoping to find the right one. All of a sudden, I look up and there is one of Canada's finest security guards.

I go, "Hey, what's going on!"

The security guard says, 'We've had a complaint that some guy is walking down the hall in his boxers, wearing a sombrero, with a bottle of Bud in one hand and an inflatable dinosaur in the other, making too much noise.'

I looked at him and said, "You've got the WRONG GUY, brotha."

Mr. Buccigross --
Let me start this e-mail by proclaiming your dominance over the hockey world.
Matthew Dubnik
Georgia

YOU CAN END RIGHT THERE, MATT.


My Rangers lack the two most important things in the NHL right now. Speed and tenacity. No forecheck, no puck pursuit, no one willing to go the extra mile, and SLOW. The other night versus Atlanta, I saw three players try hard. Three! And two of them were Chris Simon and Joel Bouchard. That's frightening!! The team reminds me of the Radiohead song "Scatterbrain." Unless Brian Leetch comes back and performs a miracle, it's going to be tough year. My nose is starting to bleed.
Brandon C.
NYC


Bucci -
I'm stuck here in Kuwait, sweating over the fact that after my deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom, the only hockey I may see when I return to the States will be on a PlayStation or my old tapes of the Penguins in the '91 final. Keep up the good work, and keep up the faith John. Same thing I tell myself about going home and getting to see Marc-Andre Fleury play in net for the Penguins.
Specialist Brian Stevens
Camp Victory, Kuwait (by way of Pittsburgh)

Be well, Brian.


Bucci,
I know little about life and even less about music. So perhaps you can provide me with additional insight. On a recent flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis, I came across a copy of Spin magazine. What is emo and how does Ken recognize it when he hears it?
Peter F. Finkel

Emo is short for emotional music. It is music written by bored, post-teenage suburbanites who have no edge in their lives, so they get a piercing below the neck, a tattoo, wear pants with no belts, and feel like shopping mall punk rockers. Wait, that's a little harsh. Every generation has different outlets for rampant boredom I suppose. Labels on music is stupid. They're like little fraternities where someone can feel safe and sheltered. Make your own freakin' identity. Like Martin Brodeur in net. I like Jimmy Eat World, Weezer, Fugazi and Dashboard Confessional and they are considered emo, I guess.


John,
I'll be willing to bet you dinner that the Caps will make the playoffs this year.
Dan Ingram
Washington, D.C.

You're on, Dan. If I win, I want 46 pieces of bacon, a vat of pudding, and a live pigeon.


Jeff Conine
Conine
Jeremy Roenick
Roenick
By the way, Jeremy Roenick looks much more like Jeff Conine, than James Woods.
Rob Steffens
Los Gatos, Calif.


John,
The official 2003-04 H+L NHL predictions: Vancouver over Toronto in 6.
Swedish Elite League: Djurgården over Frölunda
Tomas Larsson
Brooklyn, N.Y., via Sweden

Hakan Loob is the official Swede of this column.


As excited as you are about TiVo, it is weird to think, you are being TiVoed right now?
Heather Higgins
Your devoted gal in Beantown

Hold me Heather. Pour me some scotch and Hold me.


John,
How is it possible that you now have the worst hair on NHL 2 Night? You're the TV-hair equivalent of the '02-03 Hurricanes. Otters are cool, but don't follow their grooming advice.
Ben Craft
Hoboken, Joisey

When you have bad hair, you never have a bad hair day.

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.

John Buccigross | email

SportsCenter anchor
John Buccigross joined ESPN as an anchor in October 1996. He currently can be seen as an anchor on "SportsCenter." Buccigross frequently contributes to ESPN.com during the season.