As anyone who regularly watches ESPN knows, baseball, football and basketball get the lion’s share of coverage. A hockey fan may be hard pressed to find Sports Center coverage of their favorite NHL team, although there is something to be said for covering one of the fastest growing sports in the country. While Barry Melrose makes an appearance every once in a while during the NHL season, there is one ESPN anchor who continuously interjects hockey highlights and gossip into his anchor slot: John Buccigross.
He usually hosts the late night ESPN segments, and can be considered a vanguard of hockey coverage on the show. Interjecting college hockey stories and highlights along with NHL news and notes from around the league, Buccigross caters to hockey fans more than any other anchor on the ESPN network. In addition to being one of the main faces of ESPN’s hockey coverage, Buccigross dedicates his time to his beloved hockey community outside of the television studio. Through his passion and charity, Buccigross helps the sport of hockey and those less fortunate.
I had not heard of John Buccigross until about three years ago when a teammate of mine suggested I follow him on Twitter. New to the Twitter-sphere, I was eager to follow as many hockey minds as I could, and the fact that this guy came so highly recommended enticed me further. I was soon glad I pressed the follow button for the amount of hockey knowledge I received from Buccigross was something I had not seen before.
What drew me in was his intimate knowledge of the sport, as well as his personal stories with many of those who play it. His interactions with his followers made him approachable and friendly, and his twitter was always busy with fan questions as a result. It was on an almost daily basis that you would see him giving his thoughts on who had a better chance to win the Stanley Cup; what to expect from that particular fans favorite team; and which golf courses he thought were the best.
In addition to tweeting out facts and numbers about the sport, “Bucci”, as he is commonly referred to by his followers, made everything funny. Whether it was his use of the term “50 sets of 50” (50 sets of 50 pound weights) to describe an athlete with massive arms, or “thin mints” to describe when a player goes top shelf for a goal, Buccigross has consistently put a smile on my face with his quirky quips and funny mannerisms-my favorite of which is his yearly tradition of eating a 14-piece bucket of fried KFC chicken before he goes on air for ESPN. Whether he is dancing on set as he goes to commercial break, or referring to himself and co-anchor Scott Van Pelt as #MenWearingMakeupTalkingAboutSports, Buccigross has a way of keeping the sometimes overly serious world of sports fun.
While his tweets are something to enjoy, Buccigross is most well known on Twitter for his #BucciOvertimeChallenge. This hashtag is when a hockey game goes into overtime, you pick two players-one from each of the two teams-that you believe will score the game winning goal in OT. You tweet your predictions at Buccigross and use that hashtag in your tweet. If you are right, you may win a free Cawlidge Hawkey t-shirt, Hockey Soda, a stick, or any other kind of Cawlidge Hawkey gear. If you are wrong, better luck next time. The game is like going to a casino: You know going in that you probably won’t win but you play anyway because there is always that chance for glory. Just because you guess right, however, doesn’t mean you will get the gear. He only picks a select few to win and more likely than not, that person won’t be you. I myself have picked the right player to score in OT numerous times and have been passed over for other people.
To give you an idea of the fandom surrounding this, look no further than the playoffs this past season where there were over 20,000 people who used that hashtag in the hopes of winning the Overtime Challenge. The “Cawlidge Hawkey” slogan was inspired by the Jack O’Callahan said the phrase “college hockey” in the movie Miracle. Written as it is said by those with a New England accent, Buccigross has made this one of his calling cards in order to express his fondness of the college game. While it’s fun to play the game, the slogan is more than a way to bring light to the NCAA, it is Buccigross’ way of giving back to the hockey community.
While the Overtime Challenge is free to play, Buccigross’ end goal is to bring awareness to the Cawlidge Hawkey brand so that he can add money to a pool which he then donates to hockey-related charities. Last year alone, Buccigross made approximately $100,000 from those who bought his Cawlidge Hawkey gear, and subsequently sent the majority of that to charities and gave around $10,000 to pay for a club hockey players’ tuition. Ultimately, the money he raised is the result of the fans buying his product, it takes a selfless person to shrug off the idea of pocketing the money for himself.
In addition to sending money to hockey charities such as the Cam Neely Foundation For Cancer Care (a cancer care foundation that has donated $27 million dollars to cancer research since 1995), the You Can Play (a foundation that ensures equality and respect for gay and straight athletes) and the Jack Jablonski Charity (a charity set up to benefit those with spinal cord injuries), it is important to note the $10,000 donation to Dar Faroughi, an ACHA DIII hockey player at Xavier. According to Buccigross, Dar’s father and he met at a bar in Ohio after an Ohio State hockey game. The two got to talking about the price of school, a conversation which ultimately led to Buccigross donating $10,000 to Dar Faroughi in the hope of allowing him to play at Xavier.
It is important to recognize the power of social media and its role in the spread of Buccigross’ Cawlidge Hawkey slogan. Retweeting pictures daily of Cawlidge Hawkey wearers from places such as Australia, Norway, Iceland, and Greece, it is plain to see that Buccigross has struck a chord with the hockey community, one that seems to be growing with every NHL season. As hockey’s presence continues to spread throughout the U.S and the world, Buccigross’ slogan seems to be tagging along with it, creating a fun and addictive way of getting involved in an NHL game.
The Cawlidge Hawkey mantra is a great advertisement. People see “Cawlidge Hawkey” on a shirt or hat ask the wearer what it is about, sparking an interest which may result in that person buying Cawlidge Hawkey gear himself, thus perpetuating the cycle. The slogan also is incredibly popular among the NCAA and ACHA hockey playing community since it is a way to show off that you play in the college ranks. Speaking from personal experience, many of my college hockey playing friends own at least one piece of Buccigross’ gear (in the interest of full disclosure, I own a shirt and a winter hat emblazoned with the Cawlidge Hawkey name).
Whether it is by donating to a charity or simply giving someone a ride home from work, it is increasingly important to remain generous, and Buccigross has done that. He has combined his love of the game along with his desire to help those less fortunate. Hockey is a powerful force. It brings people together and unites a caring and giving community of fans and players and I, for one, am proud of what this community has accomplished and will accomplish in the future.
For a list of all charities who receive “BucciOvertimeChallenge” money or if you wish to buy some gear, check out www.bucciovertimechallenge.com.