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Out of Bounds: An interview with John Buccigross

Monday, November 11, 2002

By Seth Rorabaugh, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Slumbering in his posh Connecticut residence, ESPN's John Buccigross was startled awake by a phone call from a Post-Gazette reporter bearing nothing but a few Link Gaetz rookie cards and a ton of stupid questions.

How did the "NHL 2Night" host respond to me -- Seth Rorabaugh -- seeking his wisdom? By telling me to go hell. Really. But in a sarcastic manner. I hope.

Born at Allegheny General Hospital in 1966, Buccigross was raised in Indiana, Pa., and moved to Steubenville, Ohio. After finishing college, he moved to Boston and worked in broadcasting in Cape Cod, Mass., and Providence, R.I., before landing a job with ESPN in 1995.

Buccigross hosts "NHL 2Night" with former hockey stalwarts Ray Ferraro, Barry Melrose and Darren Pang, and is known to pepper his commentary with musical references of anyone from Poison to Young MC. What Jizzy Pearl is to Ratt, John Buccigross is to "NHL 2Night."

SETH: Pardon the pun referring to a bad '80s sitcom, but with a wife and three kids, you have a full house family-wise. Does your friend from Detroit or your Greek brother-in-law live in the basement?

JOHN: No, although Ray Ferraro is going to live in my basement when he comes to do "NHL 2Night." He's going to hang all his framed jerseys so he can feel comfy. So I guess you could say there's a lot of Bob Saget in me, which makes me feel less sexy.

SETH: You built an ice rink for your kids in your back yard?

JOHN: I started that two years ago. This is year three. I'm in the process of building now, which is always a painful experience. I've got about 20 feet more of board to put in the ground. You've got to do it before the ground freezes or you're toast.

SETH: How big?

JOHN: It's 60-by-40 [feet], which is pretty decent size. I go out there when I come home at night from shows, or in the afternoon I skate before I go to work. It's big enough to be enjoyable for me and certainly for the kids.

SETH: What do you do with it in the summer?

JOHN: It's actually a full-length basketball court. It sounds pretty elaborate, but it's really not that expensive. It sounds like a multi-million dollar deal that Allegheny County would need an extra surcharge on taxes to produce.

SETH: Are you going to charge to watch games there?

JOHN: Yeah, "PLCL," Personal Lawn Chair Licenses strewn about the lawn.

SETH: Is your kid the coolest kid in school now?

JOHN: I guess between the ice rink, the free NHL tickets, and access to Barry Melrose's hair gel, there aren't too many kids cooler than Brett Buccigross.

SETH: The coolest hockey thing my dad bought for me was a set of 1992-93 Upper Deck hockey cards. Will you be our dad?

JOHN: I'll be your father. Last year was a bad year for the ice rink though. We skated New Year's Eve at midnight, which was really cool. And then skated about five more times because it was so warm. So pretty much it was just me and Melrose in Speedos doing backstrokes with sparklers in our mouths.

SETH: Has anyone told Barry Melrose about his hair?

JOHN: It's been a personal crusade of mine in the five years I've hosted the show. Of course, last year the mullet went away and we've been trying to locate it. We have a number out there, 1-800-MULLET, if anyone has any information on Barry's mullet. I've gotten over a hundred e-mails about it. Slowly it looks like it's coming back. Right now I would say it's a combination of Paulie Walnuts and Randy Johnson.

SETH: Rod Beck had a good mullet going for a while.

JOHN: Well, that's more of a trailer-trash mullet. That's like Al Iafrate. His combed over mullet from the early 1990's is the greatest head of hair on any athlete.

SETH: The hair plugs Rob Brown's had in his second stint with the Penguins were impressive.

JOHN: That was always disturbing.

SETH: That was just wrong. And he dated Alyssa Milano at one time! It doesn't compute.

JOHN: No it doesn't.

SETH: Explain Ray Ferraro's nickname, "Chicken Parm."

JOHN: The moniker was due to a heinous accident that happened prior to an "NHL2Night" three years ago. Ray put his shirt and tie on and proceeded to eat our chicken parm takeout, which always breaks the number one commandment of TV --don't get dressed unless you really have to. A small piece fell off his fork and into a little pool of marinara that caused a tsunami that stained his shirt and tie. So he had to go out there and cover it up and strategically hide it. Between that, NHL players' penchant for chicken parm, and our Italian heritage, we just threw it out there one day and it stuck.

SETH: What do you consider to be your hometown?

JOHN: I consider Indiana to be my home. I lived there until I was 11, and it's still my favorite place I lived. All of my memories of Indiana are good.

SETH: So you and Jimmy Stewart are one and the same?

JOHN: Yes. In Steubenville, you had bullies, pimps, Mafia figures, prostitutes, and a dark, lonely seven years, whereas Indiana was all Jimmy Stewart, "It's A Wonderful Life," and all those things.

SETH: Odd fact about you?

JOHN: I was adopted by Liza Minelli for seven months and that's why I'm all into music and mentally unstable.

SETH: You're in the Ohio Valley Hall of Fame with Dean Martin. You don't sing, "Amore" and drink martinis all day, do you?

JOHN: I do, but I do it with Traci Lords, which balances it out because she's also from Steubenville and is a porn star.

SETH: Any other connections between Tone Loc and Jan Hrdina, other than "Funky Cold Hrdina?"

JOHN: Apparently, they share a time-share in Homer City where they enjoy some good slo-pitch softball and reminisce on days of Homer City past.

SETH: Tone Loc never did well when he was on a line with Jagr, either.

JOHN: Tone Loc is an artist, and Jaromir Jagr wants the puck when he plays, and artists can't function that way. He needs to create and have that freedom, and Tone Loc never had that freedom.

SETH: Favorite Hip-Hop artist?

JOHN: It's Kool Moe Dee now, Kool Moe Dee then, and Kool Moe Dee forever.

SETH: How did you take Jam Master Jay's death?

JOHN: I thought Run DMC was one of the most underrated musical groups of all time. They were the first group where white suburban kids bought black music so en masse. He was certainly a pioneer.

SETH: Have the NHL rule changes made it a better product for TV?

JOHN: I think it has. I still think you should not be able to touch a guy in the neutral zone. The last few years it was like watching NASCAR with their emergency breaks down.

SETH: Will Dick Tarnstrom win the Norris Trophy?

JOHN: My three finalists are Lidstrom, Blake and Tarnstrom.

SETH: In all seriousness, he has been a great pick-up for the Penguins.

JOHN: Certainly. Last year their defense was awful. They're playing better. But I want to see the Penguins beat a real good team like the Red Wings or the Avalanche to get excited.

SETH: Does Ville Niemenem have the biggest mouth in NHL history?

JOHN: I remember covering the NHL two years ago between New Jersey and Colorado. Every time I saw him I would get scared. I look at him, I see the Joker. He was always smiling. I didn't know if he had that, "I like to watch 'NHL 2Night' " smile or "I want to eat your head" smile. I've got a pretty good-sized head. He'd easily swallow my head. But he's the kind of guy that could think of a truck full of cats dying, and because his mouth is so big, a simple maneuver would look like a smile. For him, it's unintentional evil.

Bust a move....names@post-gazette.com.

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