College hockey getting more spotlightGRAND FORKS — ESPN’s John Buccigross had enough.
By: Brad Schlossman, The Dickinson Press
GRAND FORKS — ESPN’s John Buccigross had enough.
After months of bickering between the NHL and the NHLPA, he decided it’s time to move on.
“It’s almost comical that players and owners, and you the fan,” he wrote last month, “are relying on two men with not one hockey cell in their body to determine your fate. I won’t let that happen with my love of the sport. I’ve moved on to other hockey. I watch, read and follow more college hockey than ever before, which will continue whether or not the lockout ends.”
Buccigross, who has been a big follower of college hockey since covering the 1995 NCAA Frozen Four in Providence, R.I., is one of a handful of national media people who have given the college game an extra spotlight this season.
Buccigross has been consistently posting college hockey info on his Twitter account, which is followed by more than 100,000 NHL fans.
Just this week, he tweeted a link to a video of Danny Kristo’s near highlight goal against Denver, saying “Danny Kristo might have the sauciest paws in the nation.” He’s been tweeting injury updates about the University of North Dakota’s Friday night opponent, Michigan Tech, this week as well.
“The players are so good today,” Buccigross told the Herald. “Like the NHL, the elevation of skill since that 1995 Frozen Four is mind boggling. The skating and skill is off the charts. I just wish the nets were bigger because we would get much more ‘payoff’ from these amazing moves.”
On the television end of things, NBC Sports has sent its No. 1 NHL broadcasting duo of Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire to call college hockey games.
Both broadcasters also have some college background.
Emrick used to call games for CSTV. He called Dave Hakstol’s first game as head coach — a 4-3 UND win at Maine thanks to an overtime penalty shot goal by future NHLer Drew Stafford.
McGuire has closely followed college hockey and has been a key contributor to World Junior Championship and NHL Draft broadcasts in the past.
“I love the passion, spirit and speed in college hockey,” said McGuire, the former Hartford Whalers coach whose father grew up in Grand Forks. “It’s phenomenal. It’s getting better and better all the time. I’ve been able to see students prepare for games, the intensity of practices and how they carry themselves. They should feel good about the future of the game. It’s an exciting time.”
College Hockey Inc.’s Nate Ewell has worked with both broadcasters, helping them prepare for games.
“Their enthusiasm has been outstanding and you can tell in their broadcasts how much homework they put into it,” Ewell said. “They want to make sure, in lieu of the NHL, they are providing NHL quality coverage. I think they’ve done that so far.
“I think it’s a nice treat for college fans to hear how much these guys care about the college game.”
NBC also has put NHL commentators Dave Strader (the network’s No. 2 guy behind Emrick) and Brian Engblom on games this season, while the in-the-studio hosts have been the regulars, Keith Jones and Mike Milbury (both played college hockey — Jones at Western Michigan and Milbury at Colgate).
Even if the NHL lockout ends, expect some of the coverage to stay, Buccigross says.
“I was going to amp up my early season coverage anyway,” Buccigross said. “The lockout has been a blessing for me in that regard. College hockey has gotten my fullest attention.”
Buccigross also said that he will “absolutely” continue the wildly popular #bucciovertimechallenge on Twitter during NCAA tournament games. It’s a contest where fans try to pick who will score the overtime game-winning goal, usually held during the NHL playoffs.
The veteran ESPN announcer also will call the NCAA Frozen Four games — a perk he negotiated in his last contract with the network.
“I love doing play by play and want to begin to make a career shift by doing more play by play,” Buccigross said. “There is nothing like being at the arena. It was a long-term goal when I began doing NCAA Regional games four years ago. I wish I could do more games so I could improve.
“Players and college hockey fans deserve great coverage and a high effort since they give so much on the ice and in the stands. I will work as hard in the booth as the players do on the ice.”