It’s no surprise to anyone in SHL circles that the Dakota Jackalopes are a team with a tight budget. They play in the smallest market in the league, and after loading up in an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the power teams in the West, they’ve been cutting payroll the last couple of seasons.
If the Jackalopes players were upset about the cost-cutting, they’ve been quiet about it… until now. G Christien Adamsson touched off a firestorm this week with a series of jokes accusing the organization of being cheap.
Adamsson was interviewed after Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Saskatchewan, and he seemed visibly perturbed before the questions even started. When a reporter asked the netminder if he was learning to coordinate with the team’s young defense, Adamsson snapped.
“Don’t say ‘young,’ say ‘cheap,’” the goalie said. “Call it what it is. This so-called ‘youth movement’ isn’t about building for the future, it’s about getting rid of the guys who make money. You think they traded Wamp [G Dennis Wampler] to build for the future?”
Adamsson cited D Matt Cherner, who is in the final year of his contract, as an example of the team’s frugality. “He loves it here, wants to stay. He’d sign a lifetime deal here if he could. But you know he’s going to get traded because they can’t afford him. Just like Karly [C Lars Karlsson] and Bells [C Harvey Bellmore] last year. Pretty soon, it’ll just be [LW] Ryan [Airston] and a bunch of 21-year-olds making the league minimum. Maybe they won’t even keep Ryan.”
Adamsson finished on a light-hearted note: “We’re thinking about getting jobs at the Hardee’s down the street, or maybe starting a lemonade stand, so we can put a few bucks in the piggy bank and they might be able to keep some of our guys. Every little bit helps, right?”
Adamsson’s jokes further fueled speculation that the Jackalopes were in serious financial trouble. GM Paul Mindegaard firmly shot down those rumors. “Everybody is getting their paychecks, and we’re doing fine financially,” Mindegaard told reporters. “Ask anyone around here. Any of that kind of talk can just stop.”
The GM defended the Wampler deal and the team’s other recent moves, denying that the team was executing a mere salary dump. “Before last season, ownership and I made the difficult decision that the team we had was not built to win a title. Since then, we’ve been looking to move some of our veteran guys, load up on prospects, and give the younger guys a chance to shine.
“Do we have to be careful with our money? Absolutely. But are we just dumping salaries to be cheap? Absolutely not. Coming from Christien, a guy I consider to be a part of our Dakota family, that’s a disappointing remark.”
Mindegaard denied that the team had decided not to re-sign Cherner, saying “we’re actively engaged with Matt and his agent to see if there’s a fit. How that will turn out, I don’t know, but we certainly haven’t closed the door.”
For his part, Cherner declined to comment on Adamsson’s assessment of Dakota’s finances. “I’m letting my agent handle all that; I’m focused on the here and now. All I can tell you is, nobody’s said no yet.”
Other players, while declining to comment on the record, indicated agreement with Adamsson. “A lot of guys are wondering about their future,” said one player. “Once their rookie contracts expire and they start making real money, are they out the door? A lot of guys are watching to see what happens with Matt. If he can’t get a big-money deal from this team, no one can.”