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Battaglia gets 'Lucky' with tavern

by Marcie Garcia

Battaglia was traded from the Hurricanes in 2003 and is currently playing for the Maple Leafs. Despite being so far removed, he still calls Raleigh home.
Bates Battaglia and Sam Malone would make friends quickly if television fused with real life.

Battaglia is a left wing on the Toronto Maple Leafs and owner of Lucky B’s Around the Corner, a tavern in Raleigh, North Carolina. Malone, the retired Boston Red Sox pitcher, of course, was portrayed by Ted Danson in the hit TV series Cheers.

Though Cheers is indeed a real establishment in Boston, the character of Sam Malone will only be found in TV Land repeats.

But Lucky B’s and Battaglia are each the real deal. The sports bar, which sits across the street from Battaglia’s condominium complex, is co-owned by Battaglia’s buddy, Mike Lombardo, and run by Battaglia’s father, Richard. The lively tavern, which was voted 2006's Reader’s Choice for Best Overall Bar in Social Magazine, has been a popular Glenwood South District staple since opening three years ago.

Most players would pack up their belongings and start fresh in a new city after being traded, but when Battaglia was traded from the Hurricanes to Colorado in 2003, that was not the case. The bar stayed a big part of his life. And now, despite being five years removed from his playing days in Raleigh, the 31-year-old Battaglia still calls Raleigh home.

“I grew up in a big city, obviously,” said Battaglia, who was raised in Chicago. “You go to Raleigh, this Southern small town, and everyone is so friendly. I’ve been there almost 10 years now and you just get to know the people. I have a lot of friends and family there now and it grows on you. I think it’s like the old Cheers slogan; ‘Where everyone knows your name.’ ”

Battaglia has certainly made a name for himself since being selected in the sixth round (132nd overall) by Anaheim in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.

In the thick of his second season with the Maple Leafs, and ninth in the NHL, Battaglia doesn’t have the time or energy to run a busy bar. He insists he is a hockey player first, and a businessman second. It’s the main reason his father oversees Lucky B’s and updates Battaglia about once a week.

During the hockey season, Battaglia’s absence doesn’t stop the stream of Hurricanes fans from grabbing a drink before or after a Hurricanes game. Battaglia’s presence, it seems, is never far away.

“I have my jersey up there from when I used to play (for Carolina),” Battaglia said. “I also have my Toronto jersey, which is where I’m playing now, hanging up.”

Battaglia has established a solid career. He has played 580 NHL games over nine seasons, highlighted by a Carolina’s run to the 2002 Stanley Cup Final. Battaglia scored a career-high 46 points in 82 games and added 14 points in 23 playoff games that season.

While Battaglia continues his career with the Maple Leafs, he feels comfortable with his dad, who has owned several Italian restaurants in Chicago and Florida, in charge of Lucky B’s.

“When we were younger, me and my brothers used to hang out at the restaurant,” Battaglia said. “He had several places, and we’d always go in there and mess around and do some dishes. We were always too young to be servers or anything, but it was something that was in the family. I thought once I finished playing hockey that I could get into the business and learn the tricks of the trade from my dad, and I guess I started a little early.

Toronto Maple Leafs' Bates Battaglia is co-owner of Lucky B’s Around the Corner, a tavern in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“That’s what I really want to get into, owning an Italian restaurant. But like he (dad) tells me; ‘It’s a lot of work.’ I don’t really have the time for that right now. And he’s no spring chicken.”

That hasn’t stopped the ambitious forward from looking at real estate close to Lucky B’s for a possible future business venture. He thinks the bar has given him a small taste of what’s to come when the timing is right.

“Mentally, I’m ready to do it,” Battaglia said. “I just need to have the time to do it. I consider Raleigh home right now, so I don’t see myself going too far from there, other than playing hockey.”

Battaglia’s first-hand business knowledge will come in handy when he opens the doors to his restaurant. Being a self-proclaimed “foodie” may help. The Chicago native plans on having input about the menu.

Battaglia’s love of cooking stems from his childhood, when his Scottish mother, Sandra, would cook Italian dishes for her Sicilian husband, and children. She learned from Battaglia’s Italian grandmother.

“I’m a huge fan of cooking,” Battaglia said. “I watch the Food Network all the time and I’m always trying new things. My mom is, by far, the best cook in the family. She knows her way around the kitchen. I’m always calling her for hints on certain things. I love cooking. I’m always in the kitchen.”

Battaglia cooks for himself these days and sticks to Italian recipes. He enjoys cooking chicken cacciatore, chicken salten boca, and Italian sausage.

“I’m a single guy and I like cooking for myself,” Battaglia said. “If it’s terrible, I’m the only one that knows. I may not be that great but I can hold my own. I tried something new the other night that I’ve never made before and I’m kind of embarrassed because it’s not my normal hearty food. It was pea and basil soup. I had nothing to do so I thought I’d give it a shot. It turned out pretty good. I surprise myself everyday.”

But don’t expect Battaglia to serve his Maple Leafs’ teammates.

“I don’t really cook too much for the boys,” Battaglia laughs. “If I think it’s good, I may let them have some leftovers. … Maybe.”

For now, he’ll stick to passing the puck.

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