College Hockey:
Buccigross’ fringe benefit at ESPN: Calling the Frozen Four

The "SportsCenter" anchor, an active proponent for college hockey on Twitter, asked to be the voice of the championship weekend.

When re-negotiating a contract, most people want perk after perk included, along with a massive raise in salary.

John Buccigross just wanted three days away from his ESPN “SportsCenter” duties next April.

And he got it.

Buccigross, a Pittsburgh native and longtime “SportsCenter” anchor, will be doing the play-by-play for the Frozen Four starting next season in his hometown alongside color analyst Barry Melrose.

“My contract was up July 1 and when we started negotiations for a new deal, the one thing I wanted written into the new contract was that I would call the Frozen Four and ESPN saw no problem with letting me do that,” Buccigross said. “I have called regionals for the past four years [with Melrose], but it’s always been a long-term goal to call the Frozen Four.”

Buccigross said play-by-play has always been a passion and it started when, as a child, he would turn the sound down on the TV during games and call the action as if he was there.

“I have always had an insatiable love for sports and especially hockey,” Buccigross said. “I grew up playing pond hockey and street hockey and was even born just a few blocks from the CONSOL Energy Center at Allegheny General Hospital. When I was 12, it started to be a dream for me to be able to go to games and be a part of the whole production. To be able to have that chance next April in my hometown is something I’m really looking forward to doing. And it won’t be just Barry and I having a conversation about hockey. You’ll get all the action.

“When Peyton Manning drops back to pass, you don’t have the announcers talking about something else. They are saying, ‘Manning drops back, looks left, has a man down field, goes deep,’ you know? That’s how my style is. I want you to know what’s happening.”

September 16, 2010 - Bristol, CT - Digital Center: John Buccigross..Credit: Joe Faraoni/ESPN (Joe Faraoni)

John Buccigross quotes James Joyce: "Chance furnishes me what I need. I'm a like a man who walks along, stumbles over something, reaches down to pick it up and it's exactly what I want." (photo: Joe Faraoni/ESPN).

Buccigross works for a company that shows little to no hockey, even on “SportsCenter.” He knows it’s an issue that hockey fans and even media professionals will ask about.

One of ESPN’s few on-screen hockey buffs, Buccigross, 46, started hosting “NHL 2Night” on ESPN2 in 1998 and then started a column on ESPN.com in 2001 that continues to this day and has evolved to include video.

“We made a very aggressive effort to get the NHL back, but all Comcast had to do was match what ESPN was offering,” Buccigross said. “We offered lots of money, I can say that. We gave it a shot, but we still have the NCAA contract and NCAA sports is some great programming.

“Even with hockey not being on ESPN, you’ve got increased TV coverage in the local and regional markets and even online streaming. And a lot of these games are in HD, which is a plus. I drop in little nuggets now and then on “SportsCenter” and I guess in my position, I have the power to do that.”

Buccigross admitted to following NCAA hockey very closely and said he will be ready to go come next spring.

“Where I live in Connecticut, it’s pretty much prime territory for college hockey,” Buccigross said. “You’re not far from New York or Boston and you’ve got Yale, Quinnipiac and Connecticut right here in-state. With kids getting older (Buccigross has two sons, Brett, 20, and Jackson, 13, and an 18-year-old daughter, Malorie), you really realize how much time you have to do all the things you want to do and still be there for the kids. I’ve been fortunate to be able to do both.”

And being an active proponent for college hockey via Twitter (@Buccigross), Buccigross said it’s amazing the power of social media when utilized as a vehicle for networking.

“I’ve met so many great coaches over the years and now with the advent of Twitter, you get to know and meet a lot of very cool people,” he said.

When asked if he’ll drop in a “What Neil Peart was to Rush, Jerry York is to Boston College” analogy at the Frozen Four, Buccigross laughed.

“Not during the game, but maybe in a highlight package,” he said. “The kids deserve all the attention and I think now that I’ve shown I can talk the talk, it’s time to walk the walk and call the games as natural as I can.

“With Barry, a lot of people think that college hockey is beneath him, but nothing could be further from the truth. He has fun during the games and really takes the time to get to know the players and their names. It’s great working with Barry, it really is.”

As for his media presence, the aforementioned video in his columns seems to be the way of the future.

“I do a lot of everything and always seem to have a lot to write about,” Buccigross said. “I’m learning that people love video and podcasts and that long-form is getting less consumed. I think I have a good audience that enjoys seeing what I produce. You have to change with the times and with technology changing and improving exponentially, we certainly have the resources and most people can listen to the podcasts and watch video on their mobile devices.”

Buccigross added that what he does for a living never seems like work and summed it up with a James Joyce adage.

“Chance furnishes me what I need,” he said. “I’m a like a man who walks along, stumbles over something, reaches down to pick it up and it’s exactly what I want.”

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  • Chris

    Good Move, But ESPN Still Sucks For The Most Part With Any Kind Of Decent Hockey Coverage, Luckily Other Networks & The Internet Cover Hockey Now!!

    • ReturntoGoldCountry

      Yes, Hopefully Bucci wil get a change to catch some regular season games on NBCsports, BTN, CBSsports, or the Fox Sports regional broadcasts and not just show up in April for the big show.

  • matt

    What Happens to Gary Thorn? he did a great job, will miss hearing him on the first weekend in April

    • Joe C

      Concur about missing Gary Thorn. He does play-by-play for the Baltimore Orioles, so I hear him 17 times a year when the Red Sox play the Orioles on MASN. Gary knows how to call college hockey, especially with his UMaine references.

      Not so happy with Melrose, who does not seem to be up-to-speed with the college rules (such as intent to elbow/hit to the head) as he is with NHL/Canadian Junior hockey.

      Bucci will be a good play-by-play man, in any case.

      • jake

        Quite honestly, Bucci needs to sharpen up. Totally clueless about the history of the college game and current teams, conferences, etc. He was awful doing the play-by-play in the East Regional in Bridgeport (right next door to ESPN). He’d be a better color man. At least Melrose admits it and knows hockey.

    • steve

      Welcome news for sure!! Thank God they’re finally replacing Thorn!!! He is without question one of the worst hockey play by play announcers & has been for years. He ruins a broadcast. Have him stick to baseball. More his speed!!

  • Paul Stewart’s Yambag

    WHY keep Melrose?WHYYYYY?!

  • Scott

    ESPN’s coverage of College Hockey is awful, they just cherry pick the NCAA’s. I’d much rather NBC or CBS Sports Network get the NCAA Hockey Tournament. Heck NBC may put the Championship Game on NBC itself!

  • Yooper Hockey

    It will be nice when ESPN recognizes how great the New WCHA is and signs a nice big contract. Trophies and traditon reason to broadcast the New WCHA.

    Bye bye NCHC, hello new WCHA.

    • B.D.

      What do you think the victory percentages will be in NCHC Vs WCHA exhibition games for the first year?
      I would estimate it will be >67% in favor of the NCHC teams.

      • ReturntoGoldCountry

        By exhibition games do you mean non-conference games, which will certainly count in the pairwise? Or are you saying that playing NCHC teams is like playing the USNDP U18 team and that they don’t really count?

        • B.D.

          Specifically, the games I am interested in are the NCHC vs nWCHA for th enext year.

    • pevan

      Can’t wait to see ESPN pull in to Houghton. I’m not sure they even know where that is.

    • ReturntoGoldCountry

      You are high. ESPN will show B1G regular season games before the game’s of any other conference. And even that wont happen until after the United States celebrates its Sestercentennial. Seriously, get real.

  • teeve

    good riddence clay mathews. you were awful. had to watch games on mute. i like Melrose but he doesn’t follow the regular season and it shows. Bucci will be great

  • WCHAsaver2013

    I can’t wait till the NCHC announces on Monday they are going to play at the Target Center for basketball, what a joke.

    Good luck to the N$H$ as they play the post season at a basketball stadium. Those teams in the NCHC could have played in the Xcel if they stayed in the WCHA. Why are they so ignorant to want to play in a basketball stadium with bad views for hockey. You should have played in the Denver stadium if wanted bad tv viewing.

    Why are all the decisions based out of Colorado and they don’t even try to use the Pepsi center????

    I hope the New WCHA uses UMDs Amsoil arena for their playoffs. Perfect location because it centrally located for all the teams and is owned by the city of Duluth. Close to eating and bars.

    Get rid of Commish McLeod right now he is not servimg the best interest of the future WCHA. Hire Fred Platesch to run both leagues so he can serve in the best interest of all future WCHA teams.
    Let the NCHC and Big ten teams fend for themselves next season.
    Hire Fred his son plays for Bowling Green so he would be a great person to run the WCHA/CCHA as he could represent those teams right now.

    Have the WCHA offices moved to Madison where the Womens WCHA is already located and the PR is located there already so get the moving vans for the men’s WCHA going for Fred and his family to Madison.

    Let’s react now and not wait for things to happen or the future WCHA teams will be left in the dust.

    By the way welcome UAH Chargers to the WCHA.

  • Yooper Hockey

    Yes ESPN knows where Houghton Michiganis they. were in Houghton Michigan when George Gipp was dug up after laying to rest for eighty years ESPN brought their camaras to witnes as his remains were dug up for a lady who wanted to find out if here DNA was the same as the famous George Gipp who played Back for Notre Dame and Knute Rockne did the famous speech to the team after George Gipp died as the Fighting Irish won. Former President Ronald Reagan was George Gipp in a movie.

    ESPN knows where Houghton, Michigan. And when MTU schedules Notre Dame in Houghton ESPN will have their cameras in the UP talking about the history of hockey and George Gipp.
    Talk about many story lines.

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