SHL Player of the Week – Week 8

Hamilton PistolsThe SHL selected Hamilton Pistols LW Steven Alexander as its Player of the Week.  Alexander recorded 11 points for the week – including 10 goals – allowing him to maintain the league lead in goals (with 52) and retake the league lead in points (with 64, passing New York’s Brock Manning).  He is the only player in the league averaging more than a goal per game.

Steven Alexander
Steven Alexander

The Pistols are in last place in the East despite having three of the league leaders in points (Alexander, C Rod Remington, and RW Claude Lafayette, who form Hamilton’s top line).  “With the top notch first line that we’ve got, I don’t see how we won’t be a champion eventually,” said Pistols D Raymond Smyth.  “The rest of us have got to work on playing up to the example they set.”

2015 SHL Week 8 Standings

East W L T Pts GF GA
Washington Small Washington Galaxy 26 19 3 55 176 145
New York small New York Night 23 23 2 48 198 197
Hershey Small Hershey Bliss 19 27 2 40 142 171
Hamilton Small Hamilton Pistols 17 28 3 37 162 191
West W L T Pts GF GA
Anchorage Small Anchorage Igloos 33 11 4 70 160 107
Michigan Small Michigan Gray Wolves 30 15 3 63 124 87
Dakota Small Dakota Rapids 24 22 2 50 180 182
Saskatchewan Small Saskatchewan Shockers 10 37 1 21 115 178

Interview of the Week: Hylton Windham

Hamilton PistolsOur interview of the week is with Hamilton Pistols D Hylton Windham.

SHL Digest: This week, we’re interviewing Hylton Windham of the Hamilton Pistols.  Hylton, it’s a pleasure to talk with you.

Hylton Windham: Thanks, I appreciate it.

Hylton Windham
Hylton Windham

SHLD: You’re the first professional hockey player to come from the Bahamas.  How does it feel to be a pioneer?

HW: Honestly, I don’t really think of myself that way.  I think of myself as just a player.  I am proud of my background, but I don’t feel that I am truly a pioneer.  I am just a bit unique.

SHLD: How did you become interested in hockey?

HW: The first time I saw a game, I was 8 years old.  My family was on holiday in Toronto, and we watched a game on TV in our hotel room.  I was enchanted; the ice looked magical to me.

SHLD: I don’t imagine it was easy to find an ice rink to practice on, though.

HW: Absolutely!  The only ice we had at home was in our drinks.  But I had an aunt and uncle who lived in Canada, and my parents sent me to live with them during vacations so I could try it.  Then it turned out I was pretty good, so at age 10 I went to live with them full-time.

SHLD: When did you start thinking you might be able to play professionally?

HW: I found about about a player named Graeme Townshend, who was born in Jamaica and made it to the NHL.  When I saw that a guy like me was in the NHL, I thought, “Hey, maybe I could do that too.”  And now I have!

SHLD: You’re a reserve on a team that has been struggling.  Has that been frustrating for you?

HW: Well, of course we’d all rather be winning.  But honestly, I am just happy to play.  And I am very grateful to play for a great coach like Mr. [Ron] Wright.  He knows so many things about the game, and he is a wonderful teacher.

SHLD: What are your goals for your career?

HW: Of course, I hope to become a starter and to win a championship someday.  But most of all, I hope some young children in the Caribbean will see me play and want to become hockey players as well.

SHLD: Do you think you might be able to make the Bahamas into a hockey country?

HW: I hope so.  Again, I look to Graeme Townshend.  He is trying to get a Jamaican hockey team to the Olympics.  Perhaps someday I will coach the first Bahamian Olympic hockey team.

SHLD: Sounds like a wonderful thing to strive for!  Best wishes with that.  And good luck with the rest of the season.

HW: Thank you!  I am very excited for this season and those to come.

Rapids Play Game at Corn Palace

Dakota RapidsIn what the team says is to become an annual tradition, the Dakota Rapids played a game on Saturday against the Anchorage Igloos at the famous Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.

corn palaceConstructed in 1921, the Corn Palace is a tourist attraction that attracts over a half million people annually.  It is primarily famous for being decorated with a series of annually-changing murals made of corn and other native grains and grasses.  Inside the Palace, however, there is a multi-purpose space suitable for hosting sports and concerts.  The space is most often used for basketball, hosting the Dakota Wesleyan University and Mitchell High School teams, but it can also be used for hockey.

The idea to hold a game at the Corn Palace was originally proposed by Rapids GM Paul Mindegaard, a native of Mitchell.  “When I was growing up, the idea of playing at the Corn Palace was sort of the ultimate,” said Mindegaard.  “We had state basketball tournaments here and stuff, and everyone always loved it.  And I thought it would be a fun opportunity for our guys to experience it.”

The game drew an enthusiastic sellout crowd of 3,200 that cheered on the Rapids with vigor.  About a quarter of the crowd consisted of Rapids season ticket holders who made the four-hour trip from the team’s usual home in Rapid City to catch the game.

“This is really cool and uniquely South Dakota,” said Ralph Lawson, one of the fans who made the trip.  “I love the Corn Palace, and I want to be able to tell our grandkids we were here for this.”

The Rapids generally were very happy about the game.  “The atmosphere here was great,” said RW Elliott Pepper.  “It reminds me of junior [hockey], where you played in those intimate barns where it’s packed to the rafters with diehards.”  C Lars Karlsson and LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston spent a good deal of time before the game taking selfies with the murals (which are always designed around a theme; this year’s is “Rock of Ages”).  “It’s really neat where they’re able to do with corn,” said Airston.   “You try to imagine how much time it takes them to make these, and it blows your mind.”

The visiting Igloos were a bit less charmed with the experience, particularly the travel time involved.  “I mean, it’s already kind of a pain to get out here for games,” said Igloos RW Nicklas Ericsson.  “You have to change planes at least once.  But then you fly in, and you get on a bus and drive for hours out to the middle of nowhere so you can play in a tourist trap.”  Teammate Remi Montrechere disagreed however, saying, “I thought it was going to be a joke before we got here, but to tell you the truth, the murals are pretty great.  The trip’s kind of a pain, but it’s a fun time.”

Mascot Wars Continue

Michigan Grey WolvesAnchorage IgloosThe next salvo in the mascot-based war between the Anchorage Igloos and the Michigan Gray Wolves has been fired.  Two weeks ago, Gray Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko created an uproar in Anchorage when he attacked Igloos mascot Petey the Polar Bear with his hockey stick.  This week, during a game at Cadillac Place, the Igloos struck back against Michigan mascot Wally Wolf.

During a break in action during the second period, Wally came onto the ice to toss some T-shirts into the crowd.  He unknowingly wandered a little too close to the Igloos bench, and C Jake Frost stuck out his stick and tripped the mascot, sending him down to the ice in a heap.  “With his big giant head, he just sort of toppled over,” said one witness to the incident.  Frost then pointed and said, “That’s for Petey, you bastard!”

Wally Wolf
Wally Wolf

While boos rained down from the crowd and Frost and his teammates whooped it up on the bench, the Gray Wolves fumed.  “Blindsiding a guy like that on the ice isn’t right,” said D Frank Mudrick.  “He could have blown out his ACL and ended his career on a move like that.”

Gray Wolves coach Martin Delorme walked to the end of his bench and began pointing and shouting at the Igloos.  Anchorage coach Sam Castor responded in kind, and the crowd roared as the two coaches waved their arms and argued.  “Honestly, I’m not really sure what [Delorme] was saying,” said Castor.  “He might have been yelling in French.  Don’t know.  I was pointing out that his guy started it, and to give it a rest.”

During the first faceoff after play resumed, Mudrick skated up to Frost and demanded a fight.  Frost skated away, and Igloos D Olaf Martinsson squared off with Mudrick instead.  “I’m a lover, not a fighter,” said Frost.

In the third, Wally re-emerged with a large bandage wrapped around his head, as the fans gave him a standing ovation.  Wally walked behind the Anchorage bench, withdrew a pair of water balloons he’d hidden under his shirt, and dropped them on the Igloos, soaking Frost and RW Remi Montrechere.  The mascot ran off before the stunned Igloos could react.

“Good thing he didn’t hit me with those balloons,” said Castor.  “I’d have chased him down and beat the hell out of him.  This suit cost more than his whole wardrobe.”

The SHL fined Frost $500 and Wally $250, issuing a press release that stated, “Okay, you guys have had your fun.  Now knock it off or we’re going to start handing out suspensions.”  But neither side showed any indication of ceasing hostilities.

“This isn’t over,” said Gray Wolves C Hunter Bailes.  “That polar bear better have a suit of armor ready for the next time we play them.”  Replied Igloos D Moose Baker, “Petey’s going to be ready, and we’re going to be ready.  If any of those guys so much as lays a hand on Petey’s fur, there’s going to be a line brawl on the spot.  Mark my words.”

Frost had another suggestion: “I think the only way this can end is for Petey and Wally to settle this on the field of honor.  [The Gray Wolves] can pick the time and place, and I’ll spring for Petey’s airfare.”

Reagle Coaches In Costume Again

Washington GalaxyWashington Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle, looking to fire up his team coming down the stretch, reached into his old bag of tricks.

Last month, Reagle coached a game while wearing cowboy regalia.  This time, Reagle took the bench for Tuesday’s game against Michigan dressed as a vampire, complete with slicked-back hair, a three-piece black suit, and a black-and-red cape.  Whenever Reagle appeared on the Jumbotron, his appearance was accompanied by the organ riff from “Phantom of the Opera.”

Rodney Reagle
Rodney Reagle

After the game, a 2-1 Washington win, he answered questions during his post-game interview in a Dracula-style accent.  “Ve really stuck it to them,” Reagle said.  “Ve sunk our fangs in and ve sucked them dry.”

Gray Wolves coach Martin Delorme wasn’t a fan of Reagle’s attire, noting sarcastically, “Someone should tell Rodney that Halloween is not for six more months.”

But Reagle explained that he was just trying to keep things light.  “Now’s the time in the season when it really starts to grind,” said the Washington coach.  “Those little nicks and bumps you get all through the season start to pile up.  Practically everybody’s playing with some kind of injury.  You’re exhausted from the travel.  The playoffs are close enough that you can feel them, but they haven’t arrived yet.  You’ve got to do things to keep it fresh.”

Asked if he felt his penchant for dressing in costume would lead the players not to take him seriously, Reagle replied, “Well, if it does, then I’m not doing my job, am I?  I don’t think your authority as a coach hangs on being serious and scowling all the time.  You cultivate a relationship with your players, and if it works, it works.  If it doesn’t, no outfit in the world is going to change that.”

Reagle added that in his view, the dress code for coaches is too restrictive.  “I’m not a clotheshorse,” said Reagle.  “Most of the time, my wife picks out my clothes so that I don’t look like a total slob.  I don’t buy fancy handmade suits like Martin has.  But at least I express my individuality.  For most coaches, their idea of going all wild and crazy is wearing a bright orange tie.”

Galaxy RW Jefferson McNeely indicated that the players enjoy Reagle’s costumes.  “I know it gets some people’s undies in a knot,” said McNeely.  “But the way I think of it, it’s Coach’s way of telling us to relax and have fun out there.  He keeps us loose, and that helps us.  God bless him and his crazy outfits.”