The New York Night have climbed from the basement up to second place in the East, but barring a miracle, they will wind up losing the division to the Washington Galaxy. But that didn’t stop Night coach Preston Rivers from declaring his team the “real champion” in a Friday press conference.
“If you look at the talent on each team from top to bottom and really think about it, there’s no doubt that we’re the class of the division,” said Rivers. “Washington’s not bad, but they really can’t measure up to the standard that we set.”
How to explain the standings, then? Rivers didn’t hesitate to point to a culprit: biased officiating, prompted by jealousy from other teams. “If you look back at the first half in particular, I think you’ll see a pattern of tough calls going against us,” said Rivers. “When you’ve got a number of small-market teams like we do, you can’t let the New York team run away with it, so clearly there was direction from on high to put the squeeze on us. At midseason, we sort of acknowledged among ourselves that the league didn’t want us to win, and we let that fuel us going forward. That’s what has allowed us to come on strong in the second half.”
Rivers added that he had no problem with his team being the “bad guys” in the league, saying, “Hey, we wear black for a reason.”
The SHL responded by fining Rivers $1,000 for his criticism of the officials, and his theory was met with widespread derision around the league.
Anchorage Igloos coach Sam Castor dismissed Rivers’ remarks as “whining and self-pity. If he looks at what happened this season and blames it on the refs instead of, say, his own team’s total inability to play defense, he’s an idiot. The only part of his ‘analysis’ that was accurate is that nobody likes his team.”
Hershey Bliss C Justin Valentine scoffed, “Our season fell short of expectations too, but we’re not out making excuses. We’re looking inward toward what we can do better next season. He should do the same.”
Galaxy RW Jefferson McNeely said, “Every time we play them and I skate by their bench, I hear Rivers telling his guys how great they are and how they should be dominating. If they really were that great, he wouldn’t have to tell them. And he wouldn’t have to call a press conference to say the league was out to get him.”
Perhaps the best response came from Washington coach Rodney Reagle. Informed of Rivers’ comments, he burst into laughter that lasted several minutes, then asked if the questioner was serious. Upon learning he was, Reagle said, “Wow! That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Does he realize what that sounds like? He’s saying that his team should be winning the division, and they aren’t. Isn’t that basically him admitting that he’s a lousy coach?
“I mean, he doesn’t really expect that anyone’s going to buy that biased-ref garbage, does he? I’m pretty sure that if I were dumb enough to give a press conference like that, I’d be fired on the spot. And I’d deserve it.”
Asked if he felt his team was the most talented in the division, Reagle replied, “Well, I’m not exactly an expert. But it seems to me that we get these things called ‘points’ based on how well we do in games, and we’ve got more of those than anyone else in the division. So I think there’s a case to be made that we’re pretty good, yeah. But hey, maybe you get secret extra points for talent that I’m not aware of.”