Last week, tensions flared between the Seattle Sailors and Michigan Gray Wolves when Sailors RW Vince Mango snapped an on-ice selfie to celebrate a hat trick and was drilled into the boards by Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko. This week, when the teams met for the first time since the incident, and the bad blood nearly turned into a brawl, with the teams’ coaches nearly coming to blows.
Coming into Wendesday’s game, the Sailors talked openly about avenging Mango, their injured star. “A lot of us weren’t too happy with what [the Wolves] did to Vince,” said LW Rod “Money” Argent. “We’re really fired up to take them on again. We’re not taking this lying down.”
Ordinarily, a matchup between basement-dwelling Seattle and high-flying Michigan, especially with the Sailors’ top scorer sidelined, would likely be a blowout. But the Sailors came in hot and clearly intending to send the Wolves a message. Seattle took an early 2-0 lead, cashing in on a pair of power plays to get ahead. Michigan struck back to tie the game by the end of the period, and took the lead on a second-period goal by C Hunter Bailes.
But Seattle didn’t go down easily, as Argent scored on another power play midway through the third to tie it at 3. When he celebrated his goal using one of Mango’s signature moves, Wolves D “Mad Max” Madison responded by shoving Argent to the ice from behind. Argent popped up and got in Madison’s face, and both teams swarmed in the center of the ice. The teams exchanged some shoves, a couple of face washed, and several dirty looks, but the refs managed to break things up before they came to blows.
Sailors coach Stewart “Popeye” Corrigan took the opportunity to yell at his Michigan counterpart, Ron Wright, between the benches. “Your team is a bunch of [expletive] thugs!” Corrigan shouted. “We’re going to get even with you [expletives]!” Wright largely ignored him.
With three and a half minutes in the game, Bailes scored what proved to be the game-winning goal. As he skated back to the bench, Sailors D Wayne Snelling gave Bailes a shot to the back of the head. The furious Wolves jumped off the bench to go after Snelling. The Sailors raced to their teammate’s assistance.
As the scrum broke out on the ice, Wright and Corrigan popped over their respective partition to yell at one another. Wright accused Snelling of deliberately attempting to injure Bailes, who was sidelined with a concussion earlier in the season. Corrigan shouted back that the Wolves had injured Mango and tried to do the same to Argent. They continued shouting back and forth, until Corrigan reached down onto his bench and grabbed a stick, which he swung at Wright. The Michigan boss shouted “You’re [expletive] crazy!” as he jumped back to avoid the stick.
Corrigan was ejected from the game. Incredibly, no one else on either team was ejected or even penalized.
After the game, both coaches remained irate. “Corrigan is a clown and a psychopath,” said Wright. “I don’t know if he’s putting on a show to try to distract everyone from how lousy his team is, or if he really is that much of a rageaholic. But he’s out of control. The league needs to do something about him. Either they need to send him to therapy or just kick him out of the league. One of these days he’s going to kill somebody.”
In response, Corrigan blasted the Wolves as “a bunch of vicious criminals. Hockey’s a physical game, but what they do isn’t about hockey. It’s legalized assault. Because they won the championship last year, everyone looks the other way. So when they send their goons out and cripple our best player, everyone says, ‘Oh, who cares? It’s just [expletive] Seattle.’ But I’m not taking it, and neither is my team. And you know what? Every other team out there is secretly cheering us on. They won’t admit it, but they’re all sick of the [expletive] Michigan gets away with.”
The league fined Corrigan $3,000 and suspended him for a game – the latest in a long line of disciplinary actions that he has faced in his two years as Sailors coach – while also fining Snelling and Madison $1,000 each for their hits. Wright also received a $500 fine for his part in the hostilities. “While we have no problem with spirited rivalries in this league,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell, “we definitely have a problem with deliberately trying to injure opposing players. Both the Wolves and Sailors should be aware that I will have a zero-tolerance policy for any extracurricular activities between them going forward.”
Responded Corrigan: “How much do you want to bet this ‘zero-tolerance policy’ only goes one way? If one of my guys hits a Michigan player, he’s banned for life. If one of their thugs maims my guy, he gets a stern talking-to and that’s it. I know how this league works.”