The Western teams made a swing through New York this week. After games against Dakota and Saskatchewan, Rivers was asked for a general assessment of the level of competition in the division. Instead, Rivers launched into a soliloquy about market size.
“I tell you, I can’t figure how we’re supposed to consider this a major league when we’re playing in podunk towns like that,” said Rivers. “I mean, Saskatoon? River City [sic]? Talk about flyover country. If you have to change planes three times to get somewhere, there shouldn’t be a team there.”
The New York coach alleged that big-city teams like his were subsidizing the smaller-market teams to an unreasonable degree. “Teams like us and Washington are basically paying welfare so that we can play in glorified barns in the middle of nowhere. It cheapens the image of the league.”
Rivers concluded by calling for the whole Western Division to be cut loose: “I mean, look at what you’ve got out there. You’ve got a team full of goons [Michigan], two teams in farm villages, and one team on the dark side of the moon [Anchorage]. It’s ridiculous.”
Dakota Rapids coach Harold Engellund, a native of Fargo, took personal exception to Rivers’ comments. “This is the heart of hockey country,” Engellund send. “A lot of our best players come from the ‘podunk towns‘ he can’t stand. We’ve got real cities here with a lot of true hockey fans, and I’m sure they’ll give him a nice welcome next time his team comes to town.”
Anchorage Igloos coach Sam Castor had a more subdued response, saying, “I notice he didn’t actually answer the question. Probably because he’d have to admit we kick his butt every time his team plays us.”