It’s been a difficult season for Boston Badgers RW Cary Estabrook. The 23-year-old winger signed with Boston last year – the first player ever signed by the Badgers – while he was rehabbing from a major knee injury. He made the team out of training camp, but he has struggled badly this season. Estabrook’s injury seems to have robbed him of some explosiveness, and he has struggled to adjust to the speed of the professional game. He has yet to record a point this season.
An already difficult season got worse for Estabrook this week, as a couple of incidents got him in hot water with Badgers coach Cam Prince.
Prince has been trying to impose some discipline on his young and struggling team, holding additional practices and meetings. The coach called a team meeting on Monday morning to discuss the team’s work ethic, which he felt has been lacking. Estabrook overslept and missed the meeting, and didn’t show up until halfway through that day’s practice.
“I just forgot to set my alarm, I guess,” Estabrook told reporters. “I knew we had a meeting, and I was planning to go, but then I woke up and looked at the clock like, ‘Oh [expletive], I’m late.’”
Prince responded by fining Estabrook $500 and benching him for the next day’s game against the Hershey Bliss. “We’re all professionals here, and part of that is taking responsibility and getting where you need to be on time. If Cary had bothered to show up for the meeting, he would have heard me talk about that.”
Estabrook was back in the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Michigan Gray Wolves, although he saw his minutes significantly limited. In the middle of the third period, the puck was flipped out of play and into the Badgers’ bench, where Estabrook was sitting. The winger decided to flip the puck over the glass to a fan sitting behind him. Unfortunately, the puck didn’t get the height that Estabrook intended, and it wound up failing to clear the glass… and striking his coach straight in the forehead.
Prince clutched his forehead and doubled over as the trainer and assistant coaches rushed to his aid. As Estabrook turned around and realized what he had done, his heart sank. “God, that’s the last thing I needed,” the winger said. “That’s how bad my year is going: I try to give a fan a souvenir and I wind up beaning my coach in the head. I just can’t keep the ball out of the gutter.”
Although the puck opened up a cut on Prince’s forehead that bled profusely, he was able to get things under control and did not require stitches. He was initially upset about the incident, but he softened after Estabrook apologized and explained what happened.
“There’s always a risk of flying pucks when you’re on the bench, but you don’t usually expect friendly fire,” Prince told reporters after the game. “I know Cary and I have been butting heads lately, but I believe he wasn’t out to get me. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that can happen to anybody.”
Estabrook now faces the tougher challenge of getting his lost season back on track. Rumors around the team suggest that the winger, a Rhode Island native whom the Badgers hoped would become a face of the franchise, is struggling with the weight of expectations and has been drinking and partying to excess to relieve some of the stress. According to those rumors, his “oversleeping” on Monday was actually the result of a hangover.
Estabrook denied that specific charge, although he was vague on the subject of his late-night habits. “It’s been a hard time for me all around,” he admitted. “I’m not going to respond to rumors or anonymous quotes. The bottom line is, I’ve got to buckle down and get myself straightened out. That’s all there is to it.”