Buccigross: Give me Lemieux Gardens

Updated: July 27, 2005, 12:20 PM ET
By John Buccigross | Special to ESPN.com

Here are some random hockey thoughts as I try to un-squint my eyes that were trying to see those microscopic NHL logos during last week's NHL Draft Lottery:

  • If I'm Paul Kariya, I'd sign with the Penguins and play with Super Mario and Sid The Kid.

    Sidney Crosby
    We won't mention his name here, but he wears No. 87 because he was born in 1987 and his birthday happens to be Aug. 7 (8/7).

  • Attention, Pittsburgh Penguins: Please consult me before designing your new arena. You have a baseball park beyond compare, so expect and demand the same for the house The Kid built. Here's a few of my 1,000 ideas:

    1. It should hold no more than 17,000. The smaller the better. It doesn't matter how big a football stadium is, but baseball parks and hockey rinks are meant for a more intimate setting. See Fenway Park, PNC Park, Wrigley Field, Boston Garden, etc.

    2. Reserve a section behind one of the nets made especially for a band. I'm talking college pep band. Invite a different college or high school band to every game. Bring a college vibe to the arena.

    3. Iron City Ice Girls. PLEASE. This is very important.

    4. Build a huge outdoor ice skating area on the shaded side of the arena and call it The Craig Patrick Backyard Rink. The outdoor rink should have a statue depicting Patrick helping a young child to skate. Charge $5, keep $2.50 for facility maintenance and give $2.50 to Children's Hospital. Keep a running total of money contributed under the statue in perpetuity.

    5. Whatever you call the barn, don't use the word "Arena" or "Center." They are cold, lifeless words. Give me a Lemieux Gardens. For the other 995 ideas, hit my cell.

  • The Blackhawks continue their marketing genius by announcing they will continue their policy of not televising home games. But they will provide courtroom sketches at participating Denny's.

  • I bet you $500 Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz can't name all 30 NHL teams.

  • If the Boston Bruins don't offer Joe Thornton a four-year, $28 million extension, they are nuts. Thornton is ready to take off. He will win the scoring title this season.

  • Brian Burke will draft USA Hockey's Jack Johnson at No. 2 because he knows how important Ed Jovanovski was to the Canucks' rebirth.

  • If the Atlanta Thrashers can sign a couple of bought-out defenseman at a good price, they can be a playoff threat. I wrote it here last year and I'll say again: If healthy, Eric Lindros should sign with the Thrashers. He is exactly what Atlanta needs and Atlanta would be good for him. Back to Thornton. … If you were the Wings, would you trade Pavel Datsyuk for Thornton, or wait and try to get him in free agency?

  • How am I getting ready for the NHL's Opening Night (including all 30 teams) on Oct. 5? Seeing U2 Oct. 4 in Boston. I'll be the guy in the Cam Neely sweater with my pet otter.

  • I'm writing a hockey column and have yet to type the name of the No. 1 pick in this year's draft. No. 87's scoring totals this year? I'll go with 38-63-101. If I were the Penguins, I would have a No. 87 Bobblehead Night every night. I'm dead serious. That would guarantee 41 sellouts.

  • If I'm the Bruins I have 10 Bobby Orr Bobblehead Nights, 10 for Ray Bourque, 10 for Cam Neely, 10 for Joe Thornton, and one for Moe Lemay.

  • Part of me still doesn't believe we are going to have hockey this fall.

  • Who gets more goals? No. 87 or Alexander Ovechkin?

    The Mailbag

    John,
    I was shocked to hear Jeremy Roenick's comments challenging fans to stay home if they didn't like the state of affairs with the lockout. He claims jealousy is what is motivating fans because of the players' high salaries.

    Doesn't he get it? I am not jealous because they make a lot more than I do.

    I'm disgusted by the inability of two parties to get a deal done when there really is enough money to go around. The players' insistence on making NBA or NFL money when the league is fighting to get any kind of TV revenue just shows that even hockey players, the last bastion of the humble athlete, are losing touch with both their fans, and reality. If he is looking for sympathy from us because they are going to have to cough up a 24 percent reduction and a salary cap from the previous CBA (the most player-friendly one signed by a "major" sport), I doubt he will find it. He seems to be oblivious to how much fans have given up -- primarily escalating ticket prices.

    Ken,
    Campbell, Calif.

    Jeremy Roenick was born and raised in the United States and knows exactly how the U.S. media machine works. He knows precisely how he can get a rise out of the U.S. media. He sees the NHL is getting very little mainstream coverage and wanted to cause a buzz. He just picked the wrong words.

    Jeremy IS fan friendly and media friendly. He plays hard. He may be a bit disingenuous at times, but if you were to rank the negatives of the NHL and the issues the league now faces as it opens for business again, Jeremy Roenick's mouth ranks about 812th.

    John,
    Thank goodness for J.R.! For over a year we have heard nothing but gloom and doom, weeping and gnashing and suddenly J.R. has changed all that. Please someone ask Brett Hull for his opinion.

    Ann Cartmell,
    Altamont, N.Y.
    Brett is too busy stuffing his face with Cinnabon classic cinnamon rolls to say anything right now.

    Hi John,
    After reading your article on Cam Neely, I donated $88 to The Neely House in the name of my mom, who passed away from cancer. The news of Neely's selection to the Hall is the first time I've smiled about the NHL in years, and reminded me how much I used to love the NHL. I still love the sport of hockey, I just can't stand the way it's played and managed in the NHL.

    Take care,
    Joe Gleeson
    Hoffman Estates, Ill.

    Hey John,
    I've just had my NHL heart broken and I needed to vent to someone who would understand. I'm a regular reader of your articles on ESPN.com and your mailbag, so you were the first person that came to mind.

    I've been a hockey fan my entire life and a N.Y. Islanders season-ticket holder the last three years (I'm only 23 years old). Today I received my invoice for next season in the mail.

    Accompanying my invoice is a letter offering me many "great benefits" to renew. Skating on the Coliseum ice with Michael Peca. Eating breakfast with Rick DiPietro or lunch with Alexei Yashin. Heck, they even said that I'd be able to make line combination suggestions to the coaching staff. Then, at the very end of the letter, what do I see: "P.S. 2005-06 season tickets are the same price as the 2003-04 season."

    Are they serious? After all that I've been through over the last year? I wasn't expecting much, but a small price break would have been nice -- something to show the fans that they're sorry and that they do care.

    The owners themselves are going to be saving A LOT of money with the new CBA, am I not to expect anything in return? My only incentives to renew are breakfast and lunch dates with the greedy players that caused the cancellation of last season.

    Believe me John, I've missed hockey as much as anyone else, but I am truly insulted and disappointed with the N.Y. Islanders organization.

    Are all NHL clubs treating their fans like this? If they are, the NHL is in for a huge surprise when they finally do start playing again.

    I'm sorry, but I just had to vent. I was starting to get excited about rumors of a new CBA being reached shortly, but there is no way I'm letting the NHL and its players spit in my face and expect me to pretend it never happened.

    A very sad ex-NHL fan,
    Eric Strianese

    That shocks me, Eric. I wouldn't renew. I'd wait until their season ticket base is at 5,000 and they slash their ticket prices.

    John,
    I've read that many of the NHL organizations will have special promotions for season-ticket holders when hockey returns. The Red Wings organization has one for their fans. It's called putting the screws to them. I've been a Wings season-ticket holder since the 1992-93 season. Can you believe they screwed me out of a measly $10 for shipping and handling for the 2004-05 season-ticket package? I received two packs of tickets I couldn't use. I called the season-ticket office to request my shipping and handling fee of $10 is also refunded to me. The door was slammed in my face. I was told to write Mr. Illich a letter. I'm sure the letter would have been personally delivered into his hands. What a joke. Each Red Wing season-ticket holder for the 2004-05 season is owed something by this organization (at least their $10 refunded). I've supported them for 13 years and can't believe this is how I'm being treated. In the meantime, I'll continue to listen to millionaires fighting about how they're going to divide my money.

    Regards,
    Brian Chapman

    Never forget that while the players' association showed a lack of understanding of the marketplace of the NHL and the resolve of the owners, they will never have more arrogance than owners.

    John,
    In your June 15 column you said that the Avs are a goalie away from being favored to win another Cup. I know David Aebischer hasn't signed yet for next season, but assuming he does, your comment has made me question him. He was top 10 in GAA, wins and save percentage last season. Is he not as solid of a goalie as his numbers suggest?

    Russ Grimm

    I don't envision David Aebischer leading the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup. I hope Joel Quenneville isn't a goalie away again from winning a Stanley Cup as a head coach.

    John,
    I loved your column last year about wanting Joe Thornton to play with more passion. My question is, in the last year Thornton's established himself as one of Canada's best international players (World Cup and Worlds). Will that carry over to his next Bruins' season?

    Thanks,
    Mike Doucette

    Judging by Thornton's play on Team Canada is irrelevant to the NHL. Team Canada is the best team in the world and it's EASY to play well on a team like that. Great linemates, no leadership responsibilities. Thornton just turned 26 (July 2) and it's time to grow into an NHL superstar. He has yet to show a will to be great. He is too big and his hands are too good not to be his team's best faceoff man. He shouldn't take stupid cheap shots with his stick that gets him penalized and suspended. But don't forget he had 101 points 2002-03, his plus-minus has improved four straight years and he's had five head coaches. The Bruins would be fools not to sign Big Joe.

    Hi John,
    I don't want to keep pushing the story on Daniel Salerno (the one-armed hockey player) just to get into your column, but I feel I have to comment. I have been a huge hockey fan for several years. I've always looked forward to the day of playing hockey with my son. When he was born two years ago, he had a hand deformity which resulted in him only having two fingers, and not one of them a thumb. You and I both know that won't stop him from doing anything. But I have to admit, the story on Daniel really helped me reaffirm that belief. Whether people like him are comfortable with it or not, they do inspire others to achieve much more out of life. I figure I've got another year or so before I can get him on skates. I can't wait.

    Thanks,
    Scott Kirn
    San Francisco

    John Buccigross' 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.
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