A little 'Jonesy' and future Hall predictions

Updated: November 13, 2006, 2:16 PM ET
By John Buccigross | ESPN.com

Well, the manuscript has been turned in to my publishers at Middle Atlantic Press. The book is called, "Jonesy, Put Your Head Down and Skate: The Improbable NHL Career of Keith Jones."

After hearing a few of the current Versus studio hockey stories, I thought Jonsey's life might make for a nice little hockey book. I also thought it was a good project for someone who has never tried to write a book before. An easy read you could probably conquer in one long sitting, or spread out over two or three days.

I remember checking out Mitch Albom's "Tuesdays with Morrie" from my local library a few years back. I crashed at about 11 p.m. and began reading. I read the entire book that night. My book is no "Tuesdays with Morrie." Not even close. But I hope it's a fun little hockey book with some good stories from a former NHL player you can identify with.

The book will be available in early 2007. I'll keep you posted. Here is an excerpt. With Eric Lindros off to a good start in Dallas and blending in with the rest of the NHL, you might forget just how dramatic his Philadelphia Flyers days were.

SHOT OF THE WEEK
The shot of the week is back! 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 the next week we will use the best ones and provide a new photo.

LAST WEEK:
When one tenor calls in sick. (AP Photo)

Your submissions:
"This is all we get for Chris Pronger?!"
-- Brian Hansen, Orange County

"OK. It's a song. Second word is, arms? Arms! First word is, wide. No, spread, spread! It's not spread? Aaahh, open! "Open Arms" by Journey! "OPEN ARMS" BY JOURNEY!"
-- Tim, Chicago

"Bealzabub has a devil set aside for me ... for meee ... FOR MEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
-- Jonathan Goldberg

"Wow! First row, great seats, I can't see @#$% behind these guys. Sit down!"
-- Craig L. Roberts

"Hemsky, shoot!"
-- Robin Mayne, Edmonton

"We're not lying! The singer from Fall Out Boy is sitting right behind us!"
-- Erik Holmlund, Edmonton

"Carrie Underwood? Ah, come on!"
  -- Gary Stoneberg, Galena, Ohio.

THIS WEEK:

"That baked potato was this big!" (AP Photo)

Excerpt:

I truly believe Eric Lindros meant well. For us players in the dressing room of the Philadelphia Flyers, most of the Eric Lindros drama was outside of our walls and in the newspapers. Like everybody else, we read things in the newspaper about Eric's parents and the Flyers' front office. Like anything else, some of the wild rumors were probably true and some of them probably were not.

Eric had no intentions of bothering people in Philadelphia. He went out of his way to talk to and be nice to kids and the fans. He was great that way. I was his roommate on the road and linemate on the ice, and that was an interesting seat to view everything that swirled around him. The way I look at Eric Lindros is that he was a savior to me. He was saving my career. With the condition of my knee and the quality of my skating, I needed to be carried by a horse and Eric Lindros was that horse.

No. 88 was an extremely talented player who put a lot of pressure on himself to be great. He was reserved and quiet and didn't talk about all the weight that was on his world. The expectations were so high for Eric to take the entire NHL to the next level and there were times he did. I know from playing with him that he was a phenomenally talented player.

I could see why, even if the front office had problems with him and his family for a long time, they still left Eric on the team. He was that good. He was huge, he was strong, he practiced hard, he worked out in the gym hard, and he played hard. No one could question his work ethic. Ever.

Should he have been captain? I think so. Sometimes captains are these overt, emotional leaders. That wasn't Eric's way. He led by how hard he trained, practiced and played. And Eric Lindros really wanted to be captain. I think he really liked it and believed it meant something. Was he a great captain? I think there were better ones.

Sometimes Eric would get in trouble with the third- and fourth-line guys because he demanded, and received, so much ice time. They looked at that as him being selfish and they believed he was taking future money off their table. This was a time when teams played the hell out of their top lines and that would have been my instinct too if I had this horse to ride. But teams that were winning Stanley Cups were playing four lines. Mike Modano, Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic, just to name three, recognized that they needed all four lines to win. Eric demanded to play and I think that's where some of the resentment might have started from a player's standpoint. We were a top-heavy team in terms of minutes played and that's not the best thing for team unity and chemistry.

I think Eric learned from mistakes he may have made, like we all do, before I got to Philadelphia early in 1998. He had six full NHL seasons to learn from before I became a Flyer. Since he left the Flyers, you haven't heard the same things about Eric that you heard when he played in Philadelphia. I think he's learned a lot along the way.

But in terms of not achieving some of the massive hype that was shoveled upon him, injuries became the underlining reason he didn't achieve everything that was expected of him, although when you look at his numbers, they are awesome. He had 22 goals in his first 43 playoff games with the Flyers. Better than a goal every other game in the playoffs is incredible. He played so physical. No other great player played like he did. Other guys who play similar physical games, Neely, Forsberg and others, eventually kept getting more and more injuries. They weren't meant to play a long time at a high level. In fact, if you look at Cam Neely's career numbers and the career numbers of Eric Lindros, they are very close, and Neely is in the Hall of Fame. Plus, Eric has a Hart Trophy on his résumé. It will be interesting to see how voters take into account all of Eric's off-ice drama when the Hall of Fame vote comes up.

*******

As my first season with the Flyers is winding down, we head to Nashville for a game with the Predators on April Fools' Day, 1999. Lindros has just served a two-game suspension for a high-sticking incident against the New York Rangers the previous week and this is his first game back. Eric is having another monster year in 1998-99. As we suit up for this game against the Predators, it is his 71st game of the year. He should have no problem eclipsing his career high for games played in a season. At this point, he has had just one known concussion in his career, and that was over a year ago when he was hit by Darius Kasparaitis in March 1998 that sidelined him for 18 games. His previous high was 73 games played and we have seven games to go in the 1998-1999 season.

Up to this point, No. 88 has 40 goals and 53 assists for 93 points. He continues to build a young and bulging Hall of Fame résumé. So, we go out and beat the Predators, 2-1, on Rod Brind'Amour's 22nd goal of the season. Eric plays 21:16 and everything seems pretty normal, although he complains of some pain in his ribs. I play with Eric and John LeClair for most of the game, while the second line is Brind'Amour centering Mark Recchi and Mikael Renberg. That line accounts for both of our goals.

After the game, Lindros looks a little uncomfortable and I ask him what is the matter. He says he has pain in his chest and rib area. He gets some ice and electrical stimulation after the game, but still feels some soreness. He feels fine to head out with the boys for the night.

Keith Jones
Robert Laberge/Getty ImagesKeith Jones, now an NHL analyst for Versus, came oh-so-close to earning a Cup finals berth with the Flyers in 2000.

So, we all shower and go out to have a couple of beers and a burger there in Nashville. Eric still isn't feeling well with his ribs, so he just has a Diet Coke and heads back to our room at the Renaissance Hotel. Also, while we are out, Recchi, who has been battling concussion problems, has his arm go numb right at the restaurant.

So, Mark leaves the restaurant early, as well, gets nauseous, and calls our trainer John Worley and they go to the hospital for the night where Mark gets a CAT scan. Later that night, I head back to our room to go to bed. Eric is still awake watching a movie and not feeling well in his rib area. I ask him if he wants a couple of Advil, he says yes, and I give him a couple. Then I go to sleep.

A couple of times during the night I hear the bathtub running. I don't think much of it, because when you play hockey sometimes guys will hop in the tub and try to give the body some relief, so I just assumed that's what Eric is doing. The next morning, I get up and ask Eric how he is doing and he says his ribs still hurt. I say, "You look really pale."

He says, "Yeah, I don't feel good." I say, "I'll call John Worley." So, I call Worley's room, but he isn't there because he is at the hospital with Recchi dealing with his concussion issues.

Meanwhile, Eric is getting worse and I call Worley again and reach him around 7:30 or so in the morning. He has just gotten back from a sleepless night at the hospital with Recchi. So, he says he just wants to clean up and he'll be up to the room after getting his bearings back. I know John is going to come and see Eric, so I go down and have some breakfast in the hotel. I come back up and Eric is back in the tub, pale and in even worse shape than he had been. I say to him, "Something is wrong here. Maybe it's something internal. I'll go get John right now. I think we got to get you to the hospital."

I then go to find Worley. As the elevator opens, John is there on his way to our room. Meanwhile, the team is getting ready to leave for Boston. So, I take Eric's stuff down to the bus and that's the last I see of anybody in Nashville.

While we are heading to Boston, they take Eric to Baptist Hospital in Nashville. When we land in Boston, we find out that Eric had punctured his lung in the Predators game, the lung filled with blood and collapsed. He had surgery in the emergency room. Later, it was determined that if Eric had flown with us to Boston, he could have died. Who knows?

His condition was so bad, there is no way he was even going to get dressed and drive to the airport much less get on our plane. The more he was around the medical staff, the more it was obvious he was going to go to the hospital. After Eric had his surgery and everything was going to be fine with his health, he held a news conference.

The first thing he says is, "I want to thank Keith Jones for saving my life." Oh, boy. Bob Clarke just looooves hearing that.

Did I save his life? I don't know. I just noticed he wasn't looking good and left it up to the medical staff to take care of it. I get a lot of credit for something that I'm not sure I deserve. I guarantee you everyone's intentions were to make sure the right thing was done to help Eric. What was already a bit of a circus involving Eric, his parents, and the Flyers inflated to Big Top status.

As players, we just go about our business. Eric was hurt and you move one. That's what you do in professional sports. As players, we don't talk about injuries or injured players because we are only one hit from having something happen to us. So, as a result of his punctured right lung, Eric misses the final seven games of the 1998-99 regular season, and the playoffs, as well. I think it would be the end of the Lindros-Flyers soap opera. But the best, or worst, was yet to come.

[Fast forward to the 2000 Stanley Cup playoffs]

… Amazingly, we are doing this all without Eric Lindros. The win in the "Hey, that's my plus" Game 4, five-overtime game against the Penguins evens the series at two. From there, we win Game 5, 6-3, and Game 6, 2-1, to advance to the Eastern Conference finals against our archrival, the New Jersey Devils. The Devils were a 103-point team in 1999-2000, finishing two points behind us in the Atlantic Division, and scoring the second-most goals in the NHL behind the Detroit Red Wings.

Earlier in the season, Eric has a good start as our 26-year-old center is in the prime of his life. Then, in late December, he gets the second recorded concussion of his career after Calgary's Jason Wiemer's hit forces Lindros to miss two games. That was only the beginning to one of the most bizarre seasons in NHL history. A couple of weeks after the Wiemer hit, Lindros is hit twice in the same shift in a game against the Thrashers and misses four games. Then, in March, Eric gets his third known concussion of the season after Boston defenseman Hal Gill checked him hard. Lindros plays a few games before missing the rest of the regular season and says the team's medical staff didn't treat his injury seriously enough. Bob Clarke then took the "C" away from Eric and named Eric Desjardins our new captain. Then, on May 4, 2000, the exact same day that we win our five-overtime game in Pittsburgh, Eric gets his fourth concussion of the season while practicing with the Philadelphia Phantoms farm team when he collides with Francis Lessard.

The conference finals begin against the Devils and we lose 4-1. I play 13:40, but don't get much done. New Jersey leads 3-1 after one and proceeds to get only eight more shots on goal the rest of the game, four in each period. We answer the Game 1 loss by winning the next three games in a row. I play 16:27 in Game 2, get an assist and finish a plus-2. Not bad on one leg. In Game 3, I break a 1-1 tie in the first period with my third goal of the postseason playing on a line with Keith Primeau and Rick Tocchet. We also win Game 4, 3-1, to take a 3-1 series lead. In that game, my boy Craig Berube scores the go-ahead goal with 7:02 left in the game. Everyone is celebrating on the bench and I look over to Tocchet and say, "That's all well and good, but what in the hell is he doing on the ice!"

Eric Lindros
AP Photo/Chris GardnerAfter Eric Lindros took that infamous hit from Scott Stevens, his future in Philly was put into doubt.

The team chemistry is outstanding. Everyone feels like they are contributing. We have a real good thing going and feel destiny is on our side. We had a blast together.

We return home with a chance to clinch the series and advance to the Stanley Cup finals against the Dallas Stars, but fall behind early and lose, 4-1. At this time, rumors are starting to swirl that despite a Texas hat trick of concussions, Eric Lindros is going to return to the lineup for Game 6.

He does, plays well, scores, had another disallowed, but we lose 2-1.

You would think adding a player of Eric's caliber would be a no-brainer, no pun intended. But I really believe Eric's return changed the complexion of our team. It's nothing against him personally. We were a team of "us against the world." This veteran group of guys wanted to prove to the world that we could get to the Stanley Cup finals. We were on a mission to prove we could win with what we have. It really didn't have anything to do with the fact that it was Eric Lindros. It just changed the dynamic of being that team that was going to defy all odds. We lost that edge of being the little old engine that could.

So, we bus home from New Jersey to Philadelphia after losing Game 6 and having the series evened at three games each. I'm sitting in the back of the bus saying to myself, "Here we go again." I had been up 3-1 as a member of the Capitals, and up 3-1 in a playoff series as a member of the Avalanche, and lost them both.

In an attempt to loosen things up on the way home, we stop for some beers to get our minds off possibly blowing a 3-1 series lead and the big Game 7 in two days. At the hotel bar, we are drawing up power-play diagrams on beer napkins.

Now, in December 1999, Roger Neilson had been diagnosed with bone marrow cancer and had a successful stem cell transplant a month before this playoff run began. He received medical clearance to return to the bench for this series with the Devils, but the Flyers decided to keep things the way they were with Craig Ramsay behind the bench. Craig was the best assistant I ever had, but he didn't have the personality of a head coach, and the veterans on our team pretty much ran the show in the 2000 postseason.

So, at the morning skate before Game 7, my teammates tell me to go into Ramsay's office and do something with our lines. So, I go into Rammer's office with Wayne Cashman. As much as he was resenting it at the time, Craig did respect my mind and how I was in tune with the guys on the team.

I say, "We got to move things around here."

I give my instructions for the lines and then I tell Craig, "Luke Richardson and Dan McGillis should play against the Jason Arnott line. They played with them in Edmonton, he knows them, and maybe we will get an advantage."

So, Game 7 begins, Lauren Hart belts out "God Bless America," and I'm reunited on a line with Eric Lindros and John LeClair. I take a roughing penalty at 6:24 of the first and 20 seconds later, Patrik Elias makes it 1-0 New Jersey. Shortly thereafter, Ramsay sends me, Lindros and LeClair back on the ice. Eric is all wired and really wants to get the game back to all square. He gets the puck just outside our zone with just over 12 minutes left in the first period, turns to his right and starts barreling through the neutral zone staring down at the puck like it had a picture of a swimsuit model on it.

I'm behind Eric at the time, as I usually am considering his speed and agility vs. mine, and I am screaming, "Get your head up! Get your head up!" It was a bad habit Eric got into and Scott Stevens came across, actually leaving John LeClair wide open on the wing, and nailed his shoulder pads into Eric's head. If Eric had his head up, his great agility and size could have absorbed the hit, and he could have slid the puck over to LeClair, who would have broken in on net alone. But Eric was a bull in a china shop and just put his head down and went.

We couldn't retaliate at that time and jump Stevens. People's perception at the time was that we didn't do anything because it was Lindros, but that wasn't the case. We were down 1-0 in Game 7. The building goes silent and it was an eerie feeling watching Eric leave the ice in the state, but the team responds fine. We had been playing and winning without Eric at the end of the regular season and the first 16 playoff games. It's not a shock to our system when he leaves the ice. In fact, we go on to play the best game of the series!

We come out in the second period and outshoot the Devils, 15-8. I have three of those shots. At 6:01 of the second, Tocchet ties the game at 1-1. This really gets us going, but we can't get another one past Martin Brodeur; 1-1 after two periods. The third period is, once again, classic late-20th-century playoff hockey. Clutch, grab, violate, slow hockey. There are eight shots on goal in the third period, four for each team and no penalties called. Then, with just over two minutes left in the game, Elias scores the game winner for the Devils and they win 2-1. The third time I'm on the losing end of blowing a 3-1 series lead.

As we skate off the ice, Wayne Cashman puts his arm around me and says, "Well, you got your first loss, son." I say, "What do you mean?" Cash responds, "Your first coaching loss."

In the end, it's really amazing how far that team went. For a month and a half, we went through so much together. Beating Hasek, the five-overtime game, and up 3-1 on New Jersey. Man, is it painful.

More painful than my knee, which was on its last leg.

Question from John Buccigross: How are things going in Dallas?

Answer from Eric Lindros: It's going really well. I'm not really surprised. It's a good group here. We've got good goaltending and a lot of depth.

Eric Lindros (88)
AP Photo/Paul ConnorsEric Lindros, right, is now thriving in Dallas.

Q: What do you miss most about playing center?

A: You are very rarely standing still when you play center. Therefore, your game always has a little momentum to it. It's easier to get going. When you play the wing, it's a little more challenging to get moving and still be an outlet for your defense with a clean lane to pass to you. There is obviously a difference in defensive zone coverage. I have to stay high and don't go down too much.

Q: You played a lot of minutes when you were in Philadelphia. This season, you are averaging just over 15 minutes. What kind of adjustment has that been?

A: Well, we have a lot of depth here, so that's going to be the case on a good team. We are fresh in the third period and that's been a part of our success.

Q: Where is your gold medal you won with Canada in 2002?

A: I'm not sure. Actually, it's kind of in storage. I'm having some renovations done at the house and it's tucked away but polished.

Q: What do you do away from the game?

A: During the year, it is all hockey, all the time. You play, practice, rest and that's about it. Maybe just keep in touch with some friends. During the offseason, I like to play a lot of golf, fish and cook. We caught a 50-inch muskie last summer. Any good meal is one where I don't have to clean up.

Q: Who is your best friend in the world?

A: A buddy back in Toronto named Pete O'Connell.

Q: What's your career road map from this point on?

A: I'm really enjoying my time here. I'm not really looking beyond this year. I signed a one-year deal and I'm looking forward to having a good regular season and hit the playoffs running.

Q: What was your reaction when you heard Bobby Clarke resigned as Flyers president and GM?

A: I thought you were going to ask me about Donald Rumsfeld.

Q: Impressive current events reference! But you had no reaction to that personally?

A: No.

It's Hockey Hall of Fame week. Patrick Roy, Dick Duff, Herb Brooks and Harley Hotchkiss are the newest inductees.

How about the 2007 nominees? Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Ron Francis, Al MacInnis and Adam Oates are all worthy. One of those players will be left out because the Hall bylaws allow for a maximum of four players to be inducted in one year. Oates is sixth all time in assists and will probably be the one left off. Wow.

Martin Brodeur
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesMartin Brodeur is one of Bucci's future picks for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

But let's look even further ahead. Let's look at 10 current players, at least 30 years old, that I believe are most worthy of a Hockey Hall of Fame induction when their time comes. There are others besides these. These are in no particular order.

• Jaromir Jagr: Five-time scoring champion. If he plays three more seasons, he should retire with 700 career goals and 1,000 assists; 155 points in 149 career playoff games; 1999 Hart Trophy winner.

• Joe Sakic: Off to a great start in 2006-07. He will score his 600th career goal sometime this season. If he comes back in 2007-08, he can reach 1,000 career assists; 2001 Hart Trophy Winner; 1996 Conn Smythe winner.

• Nicklas Lidstrom: Four-time Norris Trophy winner, one more than Denis Potvin, one fewer than Ray Bourque.

• Martin Brodeur: Two-time Vezina winner; 1994 rookie of the year; Olympic gold medal; three-time Stanley Cup winner. He should be able to reach 600 career wins and will hold that record for a long, long time.

• Ed Belfour: Like Brodeur, two Vezinas and rookie of the year honors; Stanley Cup winner. Only Roy and Brodeur have more wins than the billionaire Eagle.

• Dominik Hasek: Six-time Vezina winner; two-time Hart Trophy winner. Has a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal.

• Scott Niedermayer: I wish he could have played his whole career like he's played since arriving in Anaheim. He is given complete free reign and is able to use all of his gifts. Speed, grit, hands and smarts. I'm going to drive it into everyone's skull this year. Scott Niedermayer is the Norris and Hart trophies winner. If I could skate like one player playing today, I would choose "Nieds."

• Teemu Selanne: He has yet to reach 1,000 career NHL games, but he is a few tallies away from 500 career goals. Rookie of the year in 1993; two first-team NHL selections and two second teams. Very productive international player. Best forward at last year's Olympics (20 goals in 25 games). Might be raising a Stanley Cup in June.

• Peter Forsberg: He has not played 700 career games, yet his résumé is stacked: 1995 rookie of the year; 2003 Hart Trophy; Olympic hero, and remember, international play applies to Hockey Hall of Fame nominees. Massive playoff performer. Most players' numbers go down a little in the oven of the postseason. Forsberg's go up.

• Eric Lindros: Shanahan, Modano, Sundin, Nieuwendyk, Pronger and Modano are Hall of Famers and perhaps a couple more have cases, but I'm taking the Big E here. Seven really big seasons and two more very good ones. He was an MVP, the biggest force in the game for a stretch and those other players can't say that. Pronger is close because he has won the Hart Trophy, as well. I have no problem in number accumulators, for there is value and honor in that, but Lindros still has a chance to do that on top of his dominating run.

John,

I predict that in the 44th minute of the 44th game of the season (versus Phoenix on 1-9-07), Eric Lindros will score his 44th point of the season on an assist from No. 44 Jaroslav Modry. This chain of events will activate the flux capacitor buried deep within the chest cavity of Eric, sending him back in time to the year 2000, where an older, wiser Lindros will tell his more youthful self to keep his friggin' head up while carrying the puck and playing against Scott Stevens. After spreading this small, albeit important nugget of common sense upon himself, the elder Lindros will track down Bobby Clarke, and proceed to high stick him in the teeth. While performing this penalty, lightning will strike the shaft of his aluminum Easton stick, sending 1.21 jigawatts of electricity back into the flux capacitor, and propelling big No. 88 Back To The Future, where he will help the Dallas Stars win the Stanley Cup.

Thanks, and Go Stars!
David Durst
Frisco, Texas

"Back To The Future" opened on July 3, 1985, and grossed $210 million in the U.S., making it the highest-grossing film of 1985. Eric Lindros was 12 at the time, bringing raw meat and a dozen eggs to school in his lunchbox. Every day.


John,

What do you think the NHL will do once all the space for the yearly champion's names on the Stanley Cup runs out? It is hard to imagine a second Stanley Cup, but it appears to be inevitable. Thanks.

Brandon
Wasilla, Alaska

Brandon, once the Stanley Cup is "full" of champions, they peel off the top row (it's a thin band of metal) and put that in the Hall of Fame. Then, they move all of the other rows up one level. Then, you are left with a blank bottom ring to begin engraving new champions.


John,

A commenter raised a fascinating question. What would Ovechkin's "This is SportsCenter" commercial be like?

Eric Coulson
Section 108, Row D, "Phone booth"

ESPN has bought an abandoned building across the street in order to expand. They need to demolish it. To save money, they hire Alexander Ovechkin. He fires a slap shot across the street, hits the building and the building implodes. The anchor says, "Thanks, Alex." Alex responds, "No problem."

A different ending: After Alex implodes the building with his slapper, the anchor says, "Ahhh, Alex. That was the wrong building." Alex responds, "My bad."

FYI: I just did a "This is SportsCenter" spot with David Ortiz. It's pretty funny, based around how he spits on this hand and claps them in between pitches.


Mike Ditka
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBucci doesn't want to take on big, bad Mike Ditka. They're in the same office building!
John,

As a Bruins fan and an Econ major, I can't imagine why you'd buy Boston right now. As long as Buffalo resident Jeremy Jacobs owns the team, and his son (who admits to having no preference between the Sabres and B's) is the executive VP, I don't see any earnest efforts for greatness by the ownership.

Black and Gold,
Tony F.

The Bruins are a bit disjointed, they have average goaltending and they have a key player out of the lineup. From what I've seen though, they are giving a lot of effort and have lost a few games very late. Now, that's where the average goaltending and the lack of cohesion comes in. My take is that there is time to grow together, play better, and make a run at the No. 8 spot. Like I said in my preview, I wasn't going to pick them to make the playoffs until I was talked into it by someone. Well, I will expose him now: Ray Ferraro. Damn you, Chicken Parm!


John,

On Monday, you said about the Leafs: "Toronto Maple Leafs: SELL. Off to a good start, but I just have a bad vibe here and I can't explain it. Sorry."

Two days later -- "Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin will be sidelined three to four weeks because of a torn ligament in his right elbow."

NICE CALL!

Mike
New York

I love Mats, so I would never celebrate a vibe victory at his expense. My Budweiser Hot Seat vibe of the week this week is that I will eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat. In fact, the over/under is seven. Another vibe? Peter Forsberg eventually ends up in Toronto. Or Ottawa.


John,

In your commentary about the Penguins, you wondered if anyone has ever shaved 100 goals off their goals-against the previous year.

Please double-check, but I believe the Islanders did this from 1972-73, their first season, to 1973-74, the first year Al Arbour was behind the bench and Denis Potvin's rookie year.

Thank you for allowing me to remember a happier time while I wait for the team to get out from under both Yashin's contract and their joke of a management structure.

Lee Kinberg

YOU ARE CORRECT, SIR. The Islanders gave up 347 goals during the 1972-73 season. The next season, Denis Potvin's rookie year, they allowed 247. They still missed the playoffs. The following season, 1974-75, the Islanders allowed 221, and they made the playoffs for the first time. Denis Potvin note: He was a plus-71 during the 1978-79 season. Also, reader Bob Herpen from Philadelphia reminded us the Winnipeg Jets did it from 1985-86 to 1986-87. In 1985-86, they finished 26-47-7 and gave up 372 goals. In 1986-87, thanks to the rookie goaltending tandem of Pokey Reddick and Daniel Berthiaume, the Jets improved to 40-32-8 with 271 goals against.


John,

Seriously, did the other enforcers in the league not get the memo regarding Boogaard? Stop. Fighting. Boogaard. Who would win in a tag team match: Boogaard and Mike Ditka vs. Chuck Norris and Bob Probert?

Thanks,
Austin Lindstrom

There is no such thing as global warming. Derek Boogaard was cold, so he turned the sun up. Derek Boogaard is the reason why Probert, Chuck Norris and Waldo are all hiding.


John,

Yesterday, I was at my local community center to vote. As I was leaving, I walked by the hockey rink and through the window in the door, I noticed the Zamboni making its rounds. Since I love the smell of fresh ice, I walked in to the rink. When I got inside, I noticed some kids, probably 7 years old or so, getting ready to start practice. I watched them skate/fall around in circles during their warm-up. Then, I watched them do their drills, and I ended up sitting down in the empty arena. I could have gone to Joe Louis Arena and spent $27 dollars on a Red Wings ticket, $10 on parking and $8 for a beer, but I think I was having just as much fun watching kids play. A half hour passed and I remembered that I needed to get moving. I also forgot why I entered in the first place. I took a nice deep breath as I walked out. I figured you of all people would appreciate and experience like that.

Matt Knippenberg
Detroit, Mich.

Imagine watching your flesh and blood play as you sit in that rink. That is hockey. That is life.


John,

Please congratulate me on being named the "Esa Tikkanen" officer on the "New York Rangers" facebook group. It is with great honor I represent the third most disfigured bruiser of the last 10 years (behind Tie Domi and Rod Brind'Amour, of course).

Adam Rothenberg,
West Chester, Pennsylvania

Sometimes, I get e-mails to which I don't know how to respond. When I do, I provide random facts from last week:

• Sharks coach Ron Wilson announced that his daughter Kristen Fischer gave birth to her first child, Riley, on Nov. 9, making Wilson a grandfather for the first time.

• Nils Ekman's natural hat trick last week came at 15:37, 18:19 and 19:47 of the second period against Tampa Bay goalie Johan Holmqvist. The 4:10 between goals represented the shortest period of time for one player to score three goals in Penguins history. The previous record was held by Lowell MacDonald, who had three in a 4:17 span of a 5-2 win against Minnesota on Nov. 13, 1973.

• Guillaume Latendresse scored his first NHL goal. Latendresse, at 19 years and 167 days, was the youngest player to score a goal for the Canadiens since Eric Desjardins scored his first career goal on Nov. 24, 1988, when he was 19 years, 163 days old.


John,

I have a hard time believing that the Flyers are really as bad as they are playing. With the long-term deals they have with guys like Hatcher and Rathje, do you think we can expect them to miss the playoffs for several more years?

Rob Wardrop
Langhorne, Pa.

Salary cap leagues are very volatile leagues. It's very hard to be bad for long if there is any kind of passionate and competent people in charge. The Flyers can reshape their team relatively quickly. Yes, the Hatcher and Rathje contracts were somewhat debilitating. Hatcher has two years left after this season and Rathje three more years. Both make around $3.5 million. I'm sure Hatcher will be bought out after this season if that is plausible and beneficial. Simon Gagne is certainly a guy the Flyers could use to rebuild. They could get an asset and cap room.

Peter Forsberg is in the final year of a $5.7 million deal. I'm sure he will be a trade deadline guy. He makes about $800,000 a month, so every month that ticks by, his remaining salary decreases and he becomes more affordable depending on where a team is in relation to the cap. A team with plenty of room could gamble now, but it probably behooves the Flyers to wait, hope Forsberg gets healthy, and get a No. 1 pick and a young player for him. Either way, his $5.75 million comes off the books after this season. The most important move for the Flyers is the hiring of a man in charge to change and establish a new culture in Philadelphia. I can't believe there wouldn't be a long line of qualified people wanting this job. The Flyers are one of the premier organizations in the league. They are at the bottom. They will have a lottery pick next summer. I would take this job in a heartbeat.


Bucci,

I agree with your assessment of USA Hockey's new "standard of play." I think what is truly being missed is blows-to-the-head elbows. I wonder how many kids will stop playing hockey because of the repeated blows to the head? Refs need to pay attention to this and stop calling phantom trips.

I also think that kids should start checking when they are mites. When kids start checking at 11 and 12, they are full of hormones and want to do as much damage as possible. If they started checking earlier, it would be old hat and not a big deal and would make the game at the pee wee level even more enjoyable to watch.

Regards,
Bill Walters

We all see different things, but from what I've seen, USA Hockey has done a good job with the blows-to-the-head calls. As far as checking, my son is a little over 40 pounds. He has a couple of kids on his own team, that if were allowed to hit, would absolutely obliterate him and very likely injure him. I think there are too many Mites, like Jackson, who just don't have the strength to withstand a check from an early developed 8-year-old. You might be able to sell me on Squirts, but I think USA hockey has it right on the checking rules.


John,

I saw Five for Fighting in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. Here's a great story that will make you like them even more:

I don't always pay a lot of attention to lyrics, and had a sense that the title song on the new "Two Lights" CD was a love song. In the concert, he told a story about having lunch with father and son Marines. The son was about to head back to Afghanistan, and the father expressed a mixture of pride and fear. The gruff old vet even started to mist up a bit. John O. said he went home and wrote the song "Two Lights" that same afternoon. It's about a father who hears only that a soldier in his son's outfit has died. He goes off on a drive, and asks his wife to turn on "Two Lights" if she learns that their son is still alive. Now, listen to the lyrics. In a way, it is a love song.

Thanks for your column. I'm looking forward to your book. (Jonesy is about the only good thing with the Flyers this year).

Bill Whiteside

From that other e-mail to this. I get a few e-mails this time of the year as to why some NHL coaches and announcers are wearing small, circular, red flowers on their lapels. Well, each November, poppies blossom on the lapels and collars of over half of Canada's entire population. For those of you with the NHL Center Ice package, you've noticed the red flower on the lapels of NHL coaches and announcers. Since 1921, the poppy has stood as a symbol of remembrance, a visual pledge to never forget all those Canadians who have fallen in war and military operations. The poppy also stands internationally as a "symbol of collective reminiscence," as other countries have also adopted its image to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. You're seeing them because Remembrance Day in Canada is on Nov. 11.

In May 1915, on the day following the death of fellow soldier Lt. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, John McCrae of Guelph, Ontario, wrote his now famous work, an expression of his anguish over the loss of his friend and a reflection of his surroundings -- wild poppies growing amid simple wooden crosses marking makeshift graves. These 15 lines, written in 20 minutes, captured an exact description of the sights and sounds of the area around him. A reader below sent the poem below the same day I got the e-mail above.


John,

I know how you appreciate the Canadian anthem. Here is another "anthem" that this weekend will be recited in memory of those who have passed, those we can't forget.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
-- John McCrae

Carol
Edberg, Alberta

To all of you serving, especially those of you who love the great game of hockey, we say thanks for your courage and service. We hope that you get home soon and can take in a game.

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.