Front Row caught up with ESPN NHL analyst Barry Melrose, who served as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1992 to April 1995. In his debut season, his team, led by Wayne Gretzky, advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. The Kings and Montreal Canadiens played a cross-country series won by the Habs. He can relate to this season’s duel between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins, which he is covering.
FR: What’s it like to participate in the Finals?
BM: Competing for the Stanley Cup is what you dream about since you were a little kid. Everybody’s goal is to carry the Cup around. To finally get there is fantastic. It’s something you will remember for the rest of your life. I certainly do. It’s really dreamlike since very few people get to do something they’ve dreamed of their entire life.
FR: What’s the best part?
BM: I didn’t get the best part because we didn’t win. Winning is the best part, touching the Cup, carrying the Cup and getting your name on the Cup. That’s the best part. Even just playing for it is unbelievable, knowing you’ve reached the pinnacle of your sport.
FR: What is the worst part?
BM: The worst part is losing. There is a saying that I use all the time – losing hurts more than winning feels good. I don’t think there is a truer statement in sports. I really think the feeling of losing the Cup is a much stronger and deeper feeling than the feeling of winning. I remember the last second of the game, Montreal cheering, them raising the Cup, shaking hands. I’ll remember that until the day I die.
FR: You picked Vancouver to win the Stanley Cup before the season started. What did you see in the Canucks?
BM: I loved the way they played last year. They had a great playoff. I watched what they did in the summer, signing defensemen (Dan) Hamhuis and [Keith] Ballard. I saw the emergence of (Ryan) Kesler last season and some of their other young players. I thought they got better in the right spots. I’ve always been a [Roberto] Luongo fan. I projected where I thought they would be and it turned out I was right.
FR: What do you think of Vancouver’s Green Men?
BM: I like them. They did it first and are very creative, imaginative and daring. They’ve been copied many times, which is the sincerest form of flattery. You have to tip your hat to those guys. Of course, they are at the Finals and keep it fresh by doing different things. They created it and they haven’t let it get dull. I think the Green Men are great.
FR: When LA played Montreal you and your team travelled cross country as the Bruins and Canucks will. How does that travel impact the players?
BM: If there are six or seven games, it becomes a factor. This will favor Vancouver because the western teams travel so much more than the eastern teams that they are used to it. They know how to sleep, what to eat and how to stay hydrated.
FR: Should the NHL adopt a 2-3-2 format?
BM: I’m not sure it would be fair since home ice means so little in the playoffs. It would be easy for a team to go in and steal the first two games on the road and then have three straight at home. Travel-wise, though, I would be in favor of a 2-3-2.
FR: How many suits did you pack? How do you keep them wrinkle free?
BM: I packed seven; Levy only packed six. I keep them hanging up to keep the wrinkles out. I also send my suits to the cleaners on the road when they need a little spruce up. I take care of my stuff, unlike Levy!
FR: I have to ask…is the mullet ever coming back?
BM: Of course it will. Long hair is a great form of expression. Everybody looks better with long hair and people will realize that soon.
Melrose is on site for every game of the Stanley Cup Finals between Vancouver and Boston. He and Steve Levy, who have worked the Finals together since 1994, will provide insight and analysis across ESPN platforms.