Seattle Sailors RW Vince Mango has emerged in his sophomore season as one of the SHL’s top scorers and most colorful personalities. His vigorous and theatrical goal celebrations have drawn both admirers and detractors. However, this week Mango’s showmanship crossed the line, as he snapped an on-ice selfie after scoring a hat trick. His act inspired a violent retaliation and sparked a league-wide discussion that led to the creation of a new rule.
When Mango’s Sailors hosted the Michigan Gray Wolves on Tuesday, few expected much in the way of fireworks. Michigan’s smothering defense seemed likely to shut down Seattle’s attack. But the speedy Mango proved adept at skating past the Wolves’ blueliners. Just more than a minute into the game, he banged home a low slapper past Michigan goalie Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist to put the Sailors up 1-0. Mango celebrated by “playing” his stick like a guitar, which drew a sharp rebuke from Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko.
Less than a minute into the second period, Mango scorched a shot past a screened Lundquist to give Seattle a 3-1 lead. That time, he skated past the Michigan bench, using his stick as an imaginary tommy gun and “shooting” at them. The Wolves responded with curses and upraised middle fingers.
Finally, about four and a half minutes into the third, Sailors D Benny Lambert fed a perfect outlet pass to Mango, who took off on a breakaway. He deked Lundquist, then went top-shelf to complete his hat trick. Mango dropped his stick to the ice, then reached into his sock and pulled out his cell phone. He stuck out his tongue and flashed three fingers, then snapped a selfie with the Wolves goalie sprawled in the background. He then posted the shot to his Instagram account.
Before Mango could celebrate further, he was confronted by an angry Beruschko, who slammed his stick into Mango’s head and freight-trained the Sailors star into the boards. Mango suffered a concussion, a bone bruise on his shoulder, and several loose teeth. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher, and is expected to be out of action for at least the next couple of weeks. Beruschko was ejected from the game, which the Sailors won 4-2.
A furious Sailors coach Stewart “Popeye” Corrigan attempted to jump onto the ice to attack Bersuchko as he headed to the dressing room. Corrigan was restrained by several of his players and was unable to get at the Wolves winger.
After the game, Corrigan called for Beruschko to be suspended. “If he did that outside of the arena, he’d have been arrested for assault,” the Seattle coach fumed. “My guy was just celebrating a job well done, and he gets knocked into next week by this thug. Vince had a shot at the scoring title, but this [injury] might cost him his chance. Berzerko better hope he doesn’t cross my path in the parking lot, or I’ll take care of him.”
In response, Wolves coach Ron Wright blasted Mango’s selfie stunt. “Look, what Vlad did was over the line, I’ll grant that,” Wright said. “But I’m getting sick and tired of Mango’s punk moves on the ice. A lot of teams around the league feel the same way. He should get hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for those idiot celebrations he does. But the league just looks the other way. And now he’s pulling out his goddamn phone on the ice? It’s childish and irresponsible and dangerous. Vlad shouldn’t have hit him as hard as he did, but do I understand why he did? Absolutely. Somebody’s got to draw the line.”
The SHL reviewed the incident and assessed Beruschko a one-game suspension. The league also passed a rule forbidding players from bringing phones onto the ice during a game. “It’s a player-safety issue,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell. “When players are on the ice, they need to be alert, and if they’re on their phones, they’re not paying attention. We also don’t want to see any copycat incidents in the future.”
For his part, Mango said that he has no regrets. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and I’m glad I got it,” the Seattle star said. “And thanks to the new rule, no one else will ever get a shot like that, so that’s cool.” Asked if he had a message for Beruschko and the Wolves, Mango said, “They owe me a new phone. Mine got broken when I got hit.”