Behind The ScenesSportsCenter

Inside the wacky, warped world of John Buccigross and his #BucciOvertimeChallenge

Chris McKendry (L) and John Buccigross on the SportsCenter set. (Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)
Chris McKendry (L) and John Buccigross on the SportsCenter set.
(Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

With more than 150,000 Twitter followers, ESPN’s John Buccigross @Buccigross often takes a different approach to his social interactions. His popular #bucciovertimechallenge has spawned fans far and wide and his creative use of hashtags offers an entry into the sharp mind of the 11 p.m. SportsCenter anchor.

Front Row went into OT with “Bucci” as he prepares to watch tonight’s NHL Eastern Conference Finals’ Game 2 between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, for some perspective, some tips and some translations.

How did the #bucciovertimechallenge come to life?
Back in the ‘ole NHL2Night days, if a game went into overtime, [NHL analysts] Barry Melrose, Ray Ferraro and I would pick one guy on each team and throw a dollar on the set. If one of our guys scored, we grabbed the other two singles. If none of our guys scored, we put our dollars back in our pockets and started the show.

So, two years ago, I brought this simple game to Twitter. I just retweeted a handful of winners as I soon realized that on Twitter people crave to be retweeted. I was shocked at the response. Then for some reason, I tweeted out, “What if next year we make up T-shirts?” There was enough of a response that I gave it a shot and that brought the game to another level. Now, it’s become a small part of the hockey community. It’s a fun game that enhances watching OT as you root for one of your two guys to score.

What are the basic rules?
When a Stanley Cup playoff game goes into OT, fans tweet me the names of a player on each team they think will score the winner. If one of those players does score, I send the fan a #bucciovertimechallenge T-shirt. I also sell the shirts and give all of the money to hockey-related charities.

How many T-shirts do you award after each OT?
I usually give away three if I am wrong with my picks and two if I am right. I gave away eight after Red Wings-Blackhawks Game 7. NHL player Justin Schultz (Edmonton Oilers) was one of the winners. I sent him one and still sent seven more to the fans. A few NHL players and lots of college hockey players take part. It’s kind of brought the hockey world together. It’s a passionate, intimate community and that’s why I love it so much. I love when it trends on twitter between #JayZ and #thingsyourhusbandeats. My Twitter page has lots of photos from folks with T-shirts. I encourage creativity.

What is this photo of you and Scott Van Pelt about?

The reaction on Twitter is always strong when Scotty and I anchor SportsCenter. Since I encourage creativity when tweeting pictures, I laid down on the set and had Scotty and I look up at my iPhone. I have very long arms so I can take strong “selfies.” This picture turned out to look like a late 80’s, early 90’s two-man pop music band. One of my followers dubbed it “Important Art,” which is brilliant and funny.

Please define, in one sentence or less, the following hashtags we’ve spied on your timeline:
#cawlidgehawkey – This is taken from the movie Miracle and is how the Jack O’Callahan character pronouced college hockey with his Boston accent.
#sickmitts – A hockey term for someone who has excellent hands and makes nice passes.
#pickinapplesmakinpies – I love music, so when I tweet about the Washington Nationals, I use that lyric from the band The National as a hashtag.
#howboutafresca – Or any line from the move Caddyshack following a golf tweet.
#menwearingmakeuptalkingaboutsports – I occasionally use that line on the Hi/Hello portion of SportsCenter.

What is your favorite hashtag?
#bucciovertimechallenge, of course.

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