Betfair Big Interview : Barry Melrose (By Betfair Canada)


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Dec 2, 2008
At Betfair UK, we've been getting into ice hockey and staying up late to watch the NHL play-offs for the Stanley Cup - so we decided we'd stay up even later and talk to ESPN's commentator and analyst Barry Melrose to learn a bit more . . .

Hi Barry, we found you when we were channel hopping one night and loved what we saw. It looks like the sport's in a bit of a boom over there at the moment?
Yes it is, we changed the rules a little bit and that made for more offence to our game. The athletes are bigger and better than they've ever been before, just like in every other sport, and ratings are up big time. All the star players have been involved in the play-offs. They've been fantastic already, with the biggest part to come

Okay, so what should we be looking out for when we see it?

It's pretty simple, the only rule you need to know is offside. Basically, the puck has to go into the offensive zone before the man, the man can't just stay in front of the other team's net waiting for a pass, the puck has to go in before him, that's the most important rule. If you learn that it's all you have to know. Other than that if you follow soccer you'll pick it up quickly - get the puck in the net. Give and go, give it to the guy breaking, things like that you'll see in the tactics, so if you can learn offside you'll enjoy it.

You took the LA Kings to the final when you were coaching in 1993. Tell us about that?
We lost it, so that's hard for me to think about. I played for it and didn't win it. It's an unbelievable honour, that's all you dream of as children is to get your name on the Stanley Cup, and I got that close but didn't.

Ok so tell us about the Stanley Cup itself, we know Super Bowl stops the world in America, does this do the same?
Not in the United States, but in Canada it does. The Stanley Cup came from Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor General of Canada, when it was a British colony, donated the cup in 1892 and we've been playing for it ever since. It's the oldest trophy in American sport that's played for, probably three times older than the Super Bowl or any of the other championships in the United States, and what makes it special is it's a cup.

Well obviously...

No, you see the Super Bowl is not really a trophy, it's a title, but in hockey you actually play for the Cup, that makes it a bit unique in American sport.

So much like the FA Cup here the trophy itself has all the history?

Yep, you've got it, and just like your FA Cup it means it's a dream for every child in the world who first plays the game to win it.

We liked the idea that all the winning players get to have the trophy for a day each...
It's really unique, it's not just the players, it's the trainers, the owners, the scouts, everybody in the organisation gets the trophy for one day. There are unbelievable stories, I know it was found at the bottom of Mario Menieux's swimming pool, you get everything, guys who eat cereal out of it with their children, I've seen pictures of babies laying in the cup, it's been lost, it's been thrown in the river, you've got a tremendous history. Now they have a guard who goes with it everywhere. When it goes to a player's house anywhere in the world the guy goes with it 24 hours a day.

Detroit Red Wings are the holders and are through to the last four, but nobody's retained it since they did in 1998. Why is that?
Well number one it's very hard physically to win it. To win the Stanley Cup you have to win four rounds of seven, so you could be playing 28 games, and you could be playing them in two months, so you are playing once every two days for two months and it really takes a pounding on you. It goes to the middle of June, and the camps open up on September 1, so you basically have just two and a half months off if you got to the Stanley Cup final. It's hard to get guys willing to pay that price two years in a row. And of course the teams that didn't win all re-tool and get better, and as you're playing your butt off, and all your guys are getting hurt, the others are getting trade-ins and getting better. There's so much parity in the NHL right now that a couple of players here and there change it completely.

When we have play-offs here the teams with momentum at the end of the season do best. Is it the same - we noticed Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks both finished fourth in the regular seasons but were first into the semi-finals...

It's exactly the same. It's much more important how you are playing when you enter the play-offs than where you finish. We've already seen the number one seed in the whole thing go out in the first round, San Jose Sharks, and the number two seeds Boston went out last night to Carolina. It's much more important how you are playing at the end of the season. Both Pittsburgh and Chicago were going great going into it with winning streaks at the end of the season, I think Pittsburgh went something like 17 and 3 the last 20 games. They were on a roll.

Tell us about Sidney Crosby, the Penguins big star...

He's unbelievable, he just beat Alex Ovechkin in game seven to take his team through. He's 21-years-old, not even in the prime of his life yet and he's the best player in the world. He's the face of the NHL, all the marketing campaigns are built around him, he's just a fabulous, fabulous player.

Penguins have got Evgeni Malkin as well so that's two of the top three players on the points rankings...
Well Malkin is only 22 band he won the scoring race this year in the NHL but he's still second to Sidney. Crosby is the star of the show.

Is that unusual to have two players so young in a team?
Well, hockey players turn pro at 18 and if they are good enough they can go right in. But to be honest there's only one or two every year that are ready.

So the big question, who's your fancy to win the trophy?
I've liked Detroit from day one, they won it last year and added Marian Hossa to their team, they know how to win, they are playing great. I think it will be Detroit and Pittsburgh in the finals.

ESPN America (Sky Channel 417 & Virgin Media Channel 533) has the most comprehensive coverage of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, available every weeknight until the end of the season, including the Finals and highlights show, NHL On The Fly. For details visit:

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