Ex-Cane Battaglia celebrates ‘Amazing Race’ win

calexander@newsobserver.comMay 6, 2013 

— “The Amazing Race” itself took a month to complete.

The celebration? That may run twice as long.

Bates and Anthony Battaglia have a million dollars to split and countless memories after winning the 22nd edition of CBS television’s “The Amazing Race.” While the competition ended in the middle of December, the finale wasn’t shown until Sunday night as the Battaglias hosted a viewing party at Lucky B’s, the Glenwood South bar co-owned by Bates Battaglia and Mike Lombardo.

The party was spilling over into Monday when the free-spirited Battaglias, called the “Hockey Brothers” on the show, got together for an interview. Bates Battaglia is a former Carolina Hurricanes forward and both played pro hockey, but they said it wasn’t just their athleticism that was decisive in the “Race.”

“Yes, we’re not just good-looking, we’re smart," Bates said. “We’re just friendly people but if we have to beat you in a foot race, we’ll do it.”

“The Amazing Race” is a reality TV show in which two-person teams compete in challenges as they race around the world. Teams are gradually eliminated and the winner is the first to make it to the finish line in the final leg. This season’s race went through Washington.

In the two-hour finale, Bates Battaglia put on the bulky mascot outfit of the Washington Nationals to catch a baseball dropped by Anthony, who was suspended on a zip line high above the field at Nationals Park in Washington. Bates needed just a couple of tries to make the catch. Another team needed 17.

Told that one of the teams referred to them as “old athletes,” Anthony replied, “They did? I didn’t hear that. That’s OK. We’re still extremely good-looking. And we still won.”

Bates Battaglia, 37, helped the Hurricanes reach the Stanley Cup final in 2002. Now retired from hockey, he played in more than 600 NHL regular-season and playoff games.

Anthony, 33, has never made it to the NHL. He played a handful of American Hockey League games but has spent most of his professional career in the ECHL, a step below the AHL. He played for the Huntsville Havoc of SPHL after the “Race” ended.

The “Race” was filmed from mid-November to mid-December, Bates Battaglia said, and everyone was sworn to secrecy as to the outcome and the winners of the $1 million prize. Which, the brother said, also was part of the fun.

“We like teasing people,” Bates Battaglia said. “Like every week I told people we were losing. And they’d come back and say, ‘I thought you won.’ ”

During the Sunday telecast, Bates Battaglia said losing out in the 2002 Cup final to the Detroit Red Wings was one of his biggest disappointments. The Canes won the first game, then dropped the last four to the powerful Wings.

Bates Battaglia said he missed the intense competition of pro hockey – to the point he didn’t attend many Canes games at PNC Arena.

“You sit up there watching all the boys playing and you wish you were out there,” Battaglia said. “It’s tough.”

But the “Race” got his competitive juices flowing as the teams hopscotched around the world.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I said to Anthony, ‘If we ever get a chance to do it again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.’

“It’s a lot like hockey. It’s very competitive. You’re going nonstop. It gets your competitive spirit going. It’s nonstop racing, just a great time.”

Bates said the frantic pace of travel seen on the show’s telecasts wasn’t the product of good editing. It’s as fast-paced as it appears, as the teams were in such locales as Vietnam, Switzerland and New Zealand.

“Oh, yeah, nonstop,” he said. “You have no time off in-between. You’re going all the time.

“I lost 20 pounds. I left at 210 pounds and came back 190. It was an experience.”

Battaglia laughed when told he now might be more recognizable for being on the show than as a former NHL player, noting, “I wasn’t exactly a superstar in hockey.”

Battaglia said he now plays for the Lucky B’s men’s league team, saying he mostly “tries to give a lot of passes to the guys.” He did take part in the Canes’ Alumni Game last month at PNC Arena and was back on the ice with former teammates such as Ron Francis and Glen Wesley.

“I loved seeing some of the old guys that I hadn’t seen in a while and getting the chance to get out there,” he said. “A great experience.”

The brothers joked they haven’t decided how to spend the money, although inviting half of Raleigh to the Lucky B’s for a celebratory drink could eat up a few bucks.

They also quipped that they may try to encourage some TV producers to give them their own show.

“It’s ‘Battaglia & Battaglia,’ ” Bates said. “Handsome brothers do America! There will be lots of women and lots of drinking. Print that!”

Alexander: 919-829-8945 Twitter: @ice_chip.

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