Thursday, April 14, 2005

 

Media on Ice-John Buccigross

Today's guest is a real treasure to the sport in the US. John Buccigross. John's regular columns on ESPN.com regarding hockey are, to me, written in the voice that hockey should be written in. His gift for conversational writing and his on-air persona never misses....He has a true love for the game and I think that is vital in teaching the sport to those who are just coming to hockey in the USA.. I am a firm believer that if you want to teach someone about something you should teach them to love the thing first, then they will want to learn everything about it. John does that in every article, while reminding us lifelong fans why we fell in love with hockey in the first place. And this past year we have needed a ton of reminding.

EK: How did you end up covering hockey?
JB: I was hired by ESPN in October of 1996.  In the spring of 1998, I got a chance to fill in on NHL 2Night during the playoffs.  The crew on the show was taken by my enthusiasm and knowledge of the game and lobbied to the suits to have me do more shows. I'm very poor at sticking up for myself and stating my case.  Thankfully, others did it for me and I got host job in the fall of 1998. My parents are from New England and my fondest memory of a child is listening to Boston Bruins games on the
radio with my Dad.  I started writing my hockey column on ESPN.Com in the fall of 2001.  I consider myself a writer who is on TV.

EK: What do you enjoy about covering hockey?
JB: I enjoy the game.  I enjoy rinks.  I enjoy hockey players.  I enjoy my backyard rink.  I enjoy skating.  I enjoy the hockey fan.  I enjoy the daily grind of the season.  I watch hockey at work, and when I'm off I watch hockey at home.  The only TV show I watch in the winter is NHL Hockey.  I enjoy Hockey Night in Canada.  I enjoy when a new Hockey News comes to my house.  I enjoy every it all.

EK:What has been the biggest frustration covering the lockout?
JB: Just not having the game as a winter companion.  I was ill more this winter than I ever have in my life.  I never get sick.  Did no hockey let down my immune system that much?  Also, six months of doing basketball highlights and I'm about to blow my brains out.   Thank goodness baseball is back.  Hockey, baseball and golf is all I want to talk about.

EK:Do you feel the NHL and the PA have been honest with the press?
JB: Of course not, but you can't blame them.  They are private entities negotiating a new contract.  They can't give away tendencies or plans in the media.  I've negotiated six contracts in my TV life and I've been lied to with the other party.  But, negotiations are pretty cut and dry. One side has more leverage than the other and it's up to the side with less leverage to essentially make the deal.  This is where the players and the PA cost themselves so much money, careers, and career stat totals.  I've done contracts at ESPN when I have had the leverage and I've done contracts here when I haven't.  I did my last contract myself and it was one conversation, followed by one email, and I had a new deal.  It's not really very complicated.  If you negotiate with Ego you will lose money.  Big time. 

EK: How have your job responsibilities changed at the paper?
JB: I still have my hockey column on ESPN.Com.  ESPN has plenty to do, so, while I have had a few extra days off, I've done a few more sportscenters and ESPN News shifts.  I'm fortunate in that I just signed a three year contract last summer and work at a place that manufactures lots of sports widgets. 

EK: With all the layoffs, do you fear for your job?
JB: Like I said, I got lucky in that I signed a new contract right after Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup.  And I think the NHL will always have a presence at ESPN.  We need programming and the Playoffs is great TV.

EK: Do you want to cover hockey when it returns or cover another sport?
JB:As I stated above, Hockey, Baseball and Golf are the only sports that hold my interest and produce a child like enthusiasm.  I know there are some who feel burned or disenchanted with this work stoppage, by my love is unconditional. I know it's just a business involving ginormous ego's and people who have lost the common touch with the common man.  They are part of the nations elite and have little in common with their fans. But, I still want to listen to Melrose's bad grammar, and write a 3,000 word hockey column every week.  I think the game will come back better then ever.  I have great hope and belief in the game.

EK:Do you think the your relationship with the players or owners will be strained because of an anger you feel if/when hockey resumes?
JB: I don't.  I've had contentious negotiations and once they are completed both sides move on.  What good is it not to?  Both sides will be such a reconstruction mindset, that I believe they will both work
very hard at rebuilding the game.  I can't imagine the players having a strained relationship.  They have owners who pay them huge amounts of money, fly them around the country on charters, put them in great hotels, are sensitive to family situations, give them summers off, provide meal/strip joint money on the road, help provide tickets, and the list goes on and on.  How could they have any resentment?

EK:Has the media done a good job covering this lock-out?
JB:I think that is more of an administrative question.  Publishers, editors, and television executives in the United States have done a poor job giving the work stoppage proper coverage.  The problem is that people in positions of power don't have hockey in their blood.

EK:As Hockey God..what are the solutions to fix the CBA and the sport?
JB:My resolution was somewhat stated above.  Negotiations are about leverage and the owners had the leverage, big time, from day one.  How the players and their leadership didn't see this astonishes me.  I've written all along, that if the players would have accepted a cap last summer, they would have had a better cap number, would not had to offer a rollback or a very small one, not 24% and certainly not the 100% they eventually gave back. Holding a press conference last summer and saying they would accept a cap would have put ALL the pressure on the owners to make a deal. Then the players could have done much better on all the other issues. But, Bob Goodenow had done so much for them in terms of inflating their personal wealth that one could see how they trusted what he was saying and followed his lead.  I get the sense now, the players ready to deal and expect to see a deal before June 1, and we will have a draft.

Tomorrow's Guest Paul Hendrick from Leaf TV



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