On Thursday, the Los Angeles Kings announced that ESPN personality John Buccigross will serve as the official host of Hockey Fest ’09. LAKings.com recently caught up with the SportsCenter anchor.
LAKings.com: We have seen hockey markets in places like Chicago and Boston recently explode. A lot of people see the Kings as a "team on the rise." What would it mean to the National Hockey League for Los Angeles to again be big players in this league?
Buccigross: I think we saw in the spring of 1993 how the Kings can inflame Los Angeles with passion. That's more my concern than a national stage. It's important for the Kings to succeed, yes, but to also be interesting. That will get the attention of customers and children. Sports franchises need the entertainment dollar from adults and the attention of children to continue the steady growth of a franchise. They need to grow the bubble of Kings fans with interesting players and great marketing.
LAKings.com: Defenseman Drew Doughty came into the league this year as an 18-year-old rookie playing big minutes at a difficult position. What are your thoughts on him?
Buccigross: Well, he obviously has all of the tools. Good size, good hockey sense. Forecasting any young player is difficult unless you can get deep into his soul and find out how serious he is about improving and winning. I have been on the Sidney Crosby train as the game's best player since he entered the NHL because he appears to be very serious about being great and winning. I like that, and that's the difference between the Capitals and the Penguins. The Penguins are led by a serious, professional superstar in Sidney Crosby. He is a great model for young players. How high the ceiling is for Drew and the Kings’ other young players is how serious they are about being the best player at their position and how badly they want to bring a Stanley Cup to Los Angeles. NHL playoff hockey is serious business.
LAKings.com: You are good friends with former Kings/NHL forward Ray Ferraro. How did that relationship begin?
Buccigross: It began on the set of NHL 2Nite. Ray began his broadcasting career during his playing days. We met during one of those stints and we became fast friends. My closest friends I can count on one hand and Ray is certainly one of the fingers. And I gave him the nickname "Chicken Parm" which re-branded him and gave him new life. He owes me big time.
LAKings.com: Your ESPN.com column has a very interactive-feel. Can you talk about the approach you take while penning a piece?
Buccigross: Well, the column began in 2001 and looking back it has always had a blog feel even before there were really blogs. I felt that the NHL fan deserved a national column that reflected their passion, humor and originality. That was how I approached the first column I did for ESPN.com and that's how I still approach them. With so many hockey oriented blogs now there is more competition but I also have more contacts in the league so I am able to provide more information from inside the locker rooms and to break some stories. I just wish I didn't have this pesky television job otherwise I think I could create an even better weekly piece of art.
LAKings.com: As a SportsCenter anchor, do you find yourself "defending" hockey to other colleagues who might rather focus on other sports?
Buccigross: No. I also don't defend Ben Folds, Sufjan Stevens, Pete Yorn or REM if people don't listen to their music. I'm not an angry hockey fan. My interest in something has nothing to do with how popular it is.
LAKings.com: ESPN has moved a part of its operation to LA Live, across the street from STAPLES Center. How does that impact ESPN on the whole?
Buccigross: It provides better hours for those on our late show. When the 10 p.m. (PT) SportsCenter is done here in Bristol, and it still is on Saturday nights, I don't get home until 3:15 a.m. and don't get to sleep until 4 - 4:30a.m. The only time I want to be awake at 3 a.m. is when I am at a Denny's after a night out of enjoying beverages with friends. I think it was a great move by ESPN to get immersed in the culture of LA. Hopefully, it will also eliminate some of the East Coast bias thing.
LAKings.com: Away from work, you are a big golf fan. What is the golf scene like in Bristol?
Buccigross: Connecticut has a very healthy golf scene. It's a beautiful state with superb topography for excellent golf courses. I love to play so I am really looking forward to playing when I come out to LA at the end of August for the Kings' Hockey Fest. I bought one of those "Top 100 Golf Courses in the U.S." plaques a couple of years ago as sort of a lifelong goal/kick in the butt to play as many great courses as possible in my short time on this earth. Riviera, LA Country Club, Bel-Air and Torrey Pines are all on my plaque, so hopefully I can check those off the list in August.
ABOUT JOHN BUCCIGROSS
John Buccigross serves as a SportsCenter and ESPNEWS anchor and occasionally hosts ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. He joined ESPN as an ESPNEWS anchor in October 1996, prior to the launch of the 24-hour sports news network that November. Buccigross was the primary host of NHL 2Night, ESPN2’s 30-minute program dedicated to hockey highlights and news from 1998 – 2004. Since 2001, he has also been a weekly ESPN.com columnist.
Prior to joining ESPN, Buccigross had been at WPRI-TV in Providence, R.I., since December 1994. He started as the station’s weekend sports anchor, and later became weekday anchor. Before WPRI, Buccigross worked at a local news network, Cape 11 News, in Massachusetts from August 1989 to December 1994.
Buccigross, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., received a communications/theater arts degree from Heidelberg College in 1988.