Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Hello NY and everywhere else, I'm Bird and once again, you're in the Birdcage.

Hockeybird 2012
One of my favorite features of the Hockeybird website was the "Hockeybird interview". I was very lucky to get a chance to share with the readers the thoughts of many different people that I found interesting. It's fair to say I was very much influenced by my old boss, Denis McNamara at WLIR during my radio days. Even before I worked there I was always fascinated by his interview skills and listened to as many as I could. One of my favorites was when Denis sat down with Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd in one of his early radio interviews. Years later I was contacted by MCA records as it seems I had the only copy. They wanted it to reference in a new box set for release in 1991. I sent a copy off as I was promised a mention in the liner notes but I was denied that honor. In a word, they lied to me.

For the first few years of Hockeybird I was dying to get the interview feature started but it wasn't easy to find a willing participant that would be fitting for the site. Finally, I was contacted by an ESPN personality who agreed to do it. I knew in advance that I was not a journalist and I never pretended to be one so I had a freedom that others didn't when it came to the rules of an interview. None of the rules applied to me and I cut a deal that no news outlet would have ever agreed to. I gave last editing rights to the interviewee. This was never going to be a hatchet job. My concept was to have a fun conversation that the readers would enjoy not to "expose" anyone.

On November 23rd, 2001 Hockeybird published it's very first interview with non other than John Buccigross of ESPN. Not the best career move for the up and coming TV analyst and passionate hockey fan but to his credit, he did it anyway. In addition to his television duties covering the NHL, John had begun penning a website for ESPN and it had a real different feel to it. It was similar to Hockeybird in that it was very conversational and damned funny. John invited his readers to interact and I jumped on the chance when he made himself available. The interview began with this opening give and take.........

OK, we're here in the Bird Cage with John Buccigross of ESPN2's NHL2Night (well, we're not really there and he's not really here). After many years of interviewing musicians for WLIR 92.7 in NY, I thought it would be cool to do some interviews on Hockeybird with hockey people for you guys. John was stupid enough to agree to be the first so here goes.....

1. Oh great....I finally get an interview and the first thing I do is call my guest stupid...... Well, nice to meet you JB.....may I call you JB ?

JB: (nods)

How am I doing so far ?


Well, at least we got started. John was fantastic and he and I communicated after the interview on many topics. I recall when his ESPN page was killed off, I had asked why and he confided in me that ESPN didn't want to pay him for it. I enjoyed having those off-line conversations with the big guy. John still works at ESPN and still does goofy interviews like this one with Puck Daddy.

The interviews usually included non hockey questions as well. I thought it was important to continue the irreverence and humor that I tried to use on the front page in the interviews, something I continued throughout all of them. Sometimes a stupid question would give my guest a chance to let out their "inner self".

Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera or Jennifer Lopez.......who would you most like to take to a Hockey game ? Follow up....why are you taking her to a hockey game ?

Briteny....I'm taking her to a hockey game to show her the art of poke-checking.

John must have enjoyed himself as he agreed to a second interview in 2003, here's a clip;

Larry Brooks, Ranger beat writer for the NY Post has stated that he believes that the NHL does have it out for big spending teams like the NY Rangers. If this is true, why do you think that is ?

John Buccigross:
I dont't know what Brooks is inferring. I think the NHL realizes it's players salaries are too high for all their teams to be profitble. And that should be the goal. Companies should share their wealth with its workers, but they also should be able to make a profit.

Have you ever told Gary Thorne how to correctly pronounce Dale Purinton's last name ? It's not Purr - Ing - Ton , ya know. I won't even get into how he botcthes Manny Malhotra's name.

John Buccigross:
No, I haven't. But, we once hugged at a Shania Twain concert.

Now that I had the first one out of the way, I convinced myself that this was a feature I could develop. I still wasn't sure I could get anyone who had any credibility besides John as few in the hockey world showed much humor in public. So, in 2002 I conned the guy who ran the "Midnight Hockey League", a beer league on Long Island I had played in into coming on and answering a few questions. With two under my belt I felt like it was time to up the ante a little. I called in a favor from a good friend. I'm not sure he wants credit for this but he is very successful in finance and was connected with Orca Bay, the company that once owned the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL. I was put in touch with Stan McCammon, President and CEO of Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment.

One of the most disturbing images ever posted on Hockeybird
This had to be a much more serious interview. So, in January of 2003, I had the pleasure of interviewing a major player in the NHL business world. As usual, I like to have a phone conversation first to kinda set the stage for the email interview. With Stan being such a busy guy I was surprised that Stan took the time, took my call and away we went. At this point, the Vancouver Canucks had already spent a huge sum of money to acquire six time Stanley Cup champion, Mark Messier. When that contract ended the Rangers re-signed Mark in NY and it's been a source of controversy ever since. Stan was very professional (as expected) in this exchange:

BIRD: How helpful was Mark Messier in building this winning attitude that currently exists with the club ?

STAN: Pretty difficult for me to answer as I am not around the team that much. I think Mark is credited with helping some young people understand what it takes to prepare to be successful. He did everything this organization asked of him and we are proud to have had Mark Messier wear the Canuck colors. When Mark was here, he was cited in the press as having said that a turnaround takes 3-4 years; it is just unfortunate for us that he was not able to be here for some of the fun that the city is having currently.

During the 2005 NHL lockout, Hockeybird got very involved in the coverage, something I hope to avoid this time around if there is a lockout this season. I had been in the building for the '04 Cup when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Cup vs. Calgary and while I was no longer a player, my passion for the game had increased. I was upset about the lockout as most fans were. Every so often I'd get some inside info from a source I could publish and many other outlets would be scooped. Hockeybird was the first to announce the new deal and the end of the lockout. This inside info did come from Stan McCammon for the most part. At the time, I could not reveal my sources and many "official" outlets were puzzled by how a little site like Hockeybird got such a major scoop. Now you know how.


You may see from time to time the "Uncle Larry" reference on some websites. Well, that was coined right here at Hockeybird. The story deserves an article of it's own but I'm sure I can edit it down for inclusion here. Larry Brooks covers the New York Rangers and other sports related issues for the New York Post. He's well known in the hockey world both in NY and outside NY. During the early days of Hockeybird, Larry became a favorite target of ours. Readers would love to follow along as we made fun of Larry's articles while linking to them. I am nearly embarrassed by how merciless we could be. Sure, it was funny but I do admit now that the name calling got a bit out of hand. Every so often I'd get an email of support for Larry and the Post but more often that not, the readers and writers got a big kick out of calling Larry out on the contents of his offerings and flat out making fun of him. Well, one day an email came in that was unlike any other. It was a plea that I stop pounding on Larry Brooks.

Of course I had to respond in private on this one. Something told me that this was a unique email and I had to understand the person behind it. Eric from White Plains, NY had the writing style of a young person but there was something passionate about it. Rather than dismiss him or worse, make fun of him, I had an exchange with the young man. To his credit, he was defending his uncle. That's right, it was Larry Brooks' nephew and the kid had guts. We traded a few emails and I believe I referenced this exchange on the front page and issued a challenge, if Larry wanted to set the record straight (or confront us on our comments about him) he could come on Hockeybird and I'd give him a fair shot.

To his credit, Larry Brooks had guts like his nephew and contacted me from his personal AOL account. I explained how I usually have a phone conversation so I could explain in detail what to expect and the next thing I know, I'm on the phone with the guy. We always suspected that Larry read the site as it was hard to ignore us. Well it turns out that he did and he wasn't very happy with us and especially me. I had made some very rude comments and called him some nasty names. Once we got past that I laid out the format and re-enforced my concept allowing him to have final say in the piece before publication. Larry agreed to do it and I began to lay out my questions. This was going to be a very big deal. On Friday - May 23, 2003 Hockeybird posted the first of two interviews with the NY Post writer.

Uncle Larry,....may I call you Uncle Larry ? Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I'm sure you could be doing just about anything else with your time. Why in the hockey gods names are you doing this interview ?

Uncle Larry? Quite all right. I've been called far worse...by you, I believe. Why have I consented to this interview? I'm in the communication business.

The interview went on......I'm only re-posting some highlights.

OK, you knew this would happen....I have to ask about some of the articles you write that include trade rumors. First, on June 28th, 2002, you declared Mike Richter a Flyer with terms and everything. We know that didn't happen. And that is just one of many. How is it that you have been so wrong on so many of these ?

I didn't declare Richter a Flyer. I reported that a source--a team owner, by the way--had told me that the Flyers were preparing to offer Richter a contract. On the larger scale, when I report that the Rangers are interested in a player, or talking to a team about acquiring a player, that doesn't mean the trade (or signing) is assured. I think the only time I've ever characterized a trade as being imminent was the three-way for Keith Tkachuk a few years ago...and it was until Carolina owner Peter Karmanos killed the deal that would have featured Tkachuk, Petr Nedved and Keith Primeau.
Editors note: Let it be known that Mr. Brooks does not select the headline or the photos for his NY Post articles. This means that his story might say that Lindors could be had for the right offer but the headline reads "Lindros On The Block". Two totally different thoughts.

Uncle Larry and I communicated every so often after this and while I did publicly apologize for the name calling, we did continue to call him out on his articles. I don't recall any of the writers ever letting him off the hook. We were still tough on him, just more respectful about it, well I was anyway. To his credit he displayed class and thick skin, even agreeing to a second interview in September of 2003. I also sent his nephew Eric a free Hockeybird shirt.

Any chance that you could mention Hockeybird in one of your articles this coming season?....just asking.

Sure, I'll mention Hockeybird in the same affectionate manner with which I'm referred on the site by my many fans.

Well, the interviews were a huge hit and I continued to seek out subjects who I thought the readers would enjoy and who would subject themselves to my silliness. In July of 2003 I scored an interview with Artimus Pyle, one of the original drummers for Lynyrd Skynyrd. This was a different format as I recorded it over a telephone and posted it, unedited as an MP3. I very much enjoyed commenting about music once in a while on the site and being such a huge fan of the band, I couldn't resist. We even spoke a bit about hockey! However, this was a hard interview for me as I wanted to do a nice piece celebrating his time in the band. I knew about some of the in-fighting that existed in the band and had heard about some ugly issues but I had no intention of discussing them. Artimus felt he needed to address these issues and more. It's quite a listen and I hope one day to fully produce it with music and sound quality improvements.

It ain't easy being Scott Ferrall
If you've ever heard the gravely voice of Scott Ferrall then you know he's always had a passion for the game. He was the radio voice of the Atlanta Thrashers and did all the home and road games for a full season, a real treat for anyone who loves the game like we both do. Scott did his Hockeybird interview in March of 2004, here's a clip;

Bird: Is Bobby Clarke really an idiot ?

Scott: He's a prick! But a legend...

Bird: Were you offended by the Janet Jackson booby issue at the superbowl ?

Scott: I'm rarely offended, except when I hear that scratchy-voiced fella on the radio w/ the foul mouth..he's the devil!

I can't list every interview and tell every story but chatting with a pro scout, the author of the book "The Whiskey Robber" and various others was always fun for me and I hope the readers enjoyed them as well. Of course when you cover the NHL, it's the players that we really follow. Hockeybird was lucky enough to have many NHLer's contact us and we even published a few interviews. I have mentioned "COAT" who is from the Czech Republic in previous articles in this series. He stepped in for me and published the first North American interview ever with fan favorite Petr Prucha just after he was drafted by the NY Rangers. COAT also interviewed Jan Hlavac not once but twice. Many thanks to Coat for his many contributions to the site.

Hugh when drafted in the 1st round 
After the Rangers selected Hugh Jessiman in the first round of the NHL draft a Hockeybird reader put me in touch with him. He came across as a great kid and many of us had high hopes that he'd become a power forward at the NHL level. An ankle injury set him back the year after he was drafted and Hugh never did become an NHL everyday player. Our interview still was fun, here's a clip....

The day you were drafted by the Rangers, two girls posted comments here on Hockeybird about you....fighting like cats. Have you had more "offers" from the ladies and how do you handle them?

Well I guess when I got back to school after the summer I was drafted I started to get some more love from naive freshman girls. I was tired of answering the same questions though, so sometimes I would tell them that I actually play on the badminton team and tell them one of my unsuspecting buddies was me. I might as well have fun with it, right?

Here on Hockeybird's messageboards there has been a raging debate that I'd like your take on.....using Jessica Simpson as a point of reference, at what point does a girls "hotness" outweigh the airhead factor?

Great question. I'll start by saying Jessica Simpson can ask me if buffalo wings were made of buffalos everyday for the rest of my life and I'd still take her in a second. I think before you make the argument, an arguable point of reference must be established. I am generally not a fan of airheads but Jessica Simpson is a no brainer. Look at Nick Lachey; all he does is drink beer and watch tv all day...What a life!

This is an open section.....anything you'd wish to say to Hockeybird readers or Ranger fans....anything at all?

Well, I think in your next interview you should interview Kaspar ( Darius Kasparaitis ). I worked out with him over the summer and he is one of the funniest people I have ever met. Much different guy than I expected and a great guy to be around. And finally, Go Rangers and see you on Broadway!

Matthew Barnaby with his son at home in Buffalo during his Ranger days
Late in the 2004 season the NY Rangers traded one of MSGs' favorite adopted sons, Matthew Barnaby. Matt was always a gritty player in his time in Buffalo but had a tough time in Tampa Bay. When the Rangers picked him up it resurrected his career. He quickly became a fan favorite. Unfortunately his time at MSG was too short and many were disappointed when he was traded in the big "fire sale" by Glen Sather in '04 along with many other players including Brian Leetch. Matt was a Hockeybird reader and he sent me a note, thanking Hockeybird for our support while he skated in the world's most famous arena. I asked him if he'd have time for an interview and to my surprise, he agreed.

 BIRD: You have always taken the time to sign autographs and chat with fans, how cool is it to know that some many fans, not just us here in NY...but all over are fans of yours and appreciate what you bring to the game.

MATT: No need to thank me. I appreciate the fans. I go to bed every night and thank God that he let me make it to the NHL. When I was a kid, if I got a puck at a game, it kept me happy for a month. I dreamed of the NHL, but it was not overly realistic. At 16, I was about 5’8 and 140lbs. I never had a father and my mom and brother went without many times to allow me to buy a stick or travel to a tournament. My mom mortgaged our house to keep me in hockey.
When someone pays to come watch me play, I want them to say “that Barnaby guy is crazy and he never stops.” I think it may be one kids only game that year and I want him to have fun, maybe get a puck and keep following the game.

Matt and I stayed in touch and he agreed to a second appearance on Hockeybird during the lock-out season. Matt and I often chatted about family. We both had small children at the time. I'll reprint a bit from that interview as it may become relevant in the coming months and a players perspective is always important.

Let's get right to some CBA issues. I understand your buddy Rob Ray has an issue with the NHLPA. What's the status of that?

I can't speak totally for Rob, but I think his point is that there are players who want to play. The CBA issues affect players differently - depending on years in the league and pay.

At the beginning of this disaster the NHL was winning the PR wars and many fans believed that the players were wildly over paid and should submit to a cap. Now it seems the fans see the NHL owners and Bettman for what they are. Why do you think the fans were so easily swayed to believe the NHL propaganda early on?

We make a lot of money. The average fan works very hard for their salary and live the best life they can afford. It can be frustrating to hear anyone complain about money when a fan is trying to get his car repaired and has a tailpipe duct taped to the fender. I totally get the frustration. We are fortunate, truly blessed. Hockey is more of a blue collar sport than any other...except maybe football. The fans know the meaning of a dollar. They aren't eating caviar..they are downing brats!

What was your first reaction to the NHLPA offer of a 24% rollback on player salaries? Did you know about this in advance? I got the impression that many players were surprised by this.

I don't want to be too specific on this. We are together in a union. I can say that not all players would have been so quick to agree to this, but all players did want to get back on the ice.

I think it's safe to say that I had a ton of fun chatting with Matt. We've since lost touch so Matt, if you're reading this....send me a note eh!

I very much enjoyed the interviews on Hockeybird and if at all possible I'd like to continue. For now, I'd like to thank all of you who read the site now, those of you who were there way back when and of course, those who participated in the interviews. Stay tuned for the next in this series.

----}- Bird

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