Last year, as the new coach of the New York Night, Nick Foster focused his attention on evaluating his players and trying to install strategic changes and a better work ethic. In his second season, Foster has dropped hints that he wants to stoke rivalries with the other teams in the East. “In sports, a little hate makes the world go round, right?” Foster told reporters during the preseason. “When you’re playing against your rival, the game has a little extra juice for the players, the fans, everybody. I’m all for some extra juice.”
This week, the New York coach lit the fire under the rivalry he hopes to start. The target is the Hamilton Pistols, who are off to a surprisingly strong start and look to be a top playoff contender. Foster created a stir around the SHL by proposing a new rule aimed at Pistols LW Steven Alexander, a battle that culminated in a Twitter feud between the coach and the player.
After the Night’s 6-4 against the Pistols on Sunday, a game in which Alexander scored a goal, Foster was asked about the Hamilton star’s scoring prowess. “Well, he’s one of the top goal scorers in the league,” the coach responded. “But that’s not a surprise, because he cheats.”
Asked to elaborate, Foster pointed out Alexander’s habit of chopping upward with his stick to create separation from the defender before shooting. “I mean, the guy guarantees himself good looks by swiping his stick at guys’ nuts like he’s teeing off at Pebble Beach,” said Foster. “So he gets three-four feet of space every time ’cause my guys want to have kids someday. It’s a great trick if you can get away with it. And The Nutcracker gets away with it.”
The Night coach then called on the league to pass a rule outlawing Alexander’s move. “Remember when the NHL created the Sean Avery Rule, ’cause he was always standing in front of goalies and acting like a dick? Well, here in the SHL, we need the Steven Alexander Rule, to outlaw swinging your stick at a guy’s family jewels. The Nutcracker’s career would be finished overnight.”
Sources around the league viewed this soliloquy as an attempt to get under Alexander’s notoriously thin skin. If so, it worked; the next day, the Pistols star fired back on Twitter. “Typical cheap stunt from @TrickyNick,” Alexander tweeted. “Attacks other players to distract from his own failure. Glad I play for a team & coach with class.”
Foster wasted no time in replying. “Hey @MyNameIsAlexander: you cheat, admit it. League looks the other way bc they want ratings, but everyone knows it.”
Alexander shot back with another barb: “Grow up & stop looking for excuses. Ur a pathetic excuse for a leader. No other team would hire you.”
Foster’s response: “Ok, nutcracker. Try 2 score some goals wo cheating & then we can talk abt who’s pathetic.”
Alexander snapped back, “Anytime u want to settle this with fists instead of tweets, come find me.”
Pistols coach Keith Shields stood up for his player. “The idea that Stevie would ever cheat is just outrageous to me. He’s a fierce competitor who doesn’t give an inch, but he plays within the rules. And to suggest otherwise is just inappropriate. Coach Foster should apologize.”
The league quickly shot down the idea of creating an “Alexander Rule.” “The existing rules are perfectly sufficient,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell. “We certainly have no intention of creating new rules to target specific players, as Coach Foster knows very well. The referees have been instructed to call the rulebook as written.” The commissioner added that both Alexander and Foster would be fined if their Twitter war continued.
Foster declared a ceasefire, though he couldn’t resist slipping in one last shot across the bow. “I guess speaking the truth will cost me,” the Night coach told reporters. “But all right, the commish says drop it, so I’ll drop it. Instead, I’ll just have my guys watch tape of The Nutcracker in action. They might just learn a thing or two for the next time we play Hamilton.”