Gene Kennedy has been a fan favorite in most of the cities where he’s played. Even though the 2y-year-old forward has generally been a lightly-used depth guy throughout his career, his quick wit and his penchant for pranks and colorful quotes have won him fans in Washington, Hershey, and Boston.
Like most players, Kennedy wants as much ice time as possible. Unlike most players, when Kennedy doesn’t get the opportunities he wants, he doesn’t hesitate to go public with his protests. It’s a quirk that’s either endearing or infuriating, depending on your perspective.
Back in 2017, Kennedy wasn’t getting into games with the Bliss, so he crashed a between-periods “Pee Wee Playtime” youth hockey scrimmage, claiming that he was “just trying to get my work in.” This season, Kennedy signed with the Anchorage Igloos. As in Hershey, he’s at the bottom of the forward depth chart, and he’s appeared in only a handful of games so far. This week, he once again decided to skate with the kids – but in a slightly different way.
On Sunday afternoon, Kennedy was a healthy scratch as usual. Typically, healthy scratches on the Igloos will spend the first period in the weight room or on an exercise bike, and then will watch the rest of the game from the press box. Kennedy spent the first period riding the bike, but then did not join his fellow healthy scratches in the press box at the start of the second. This led to a brief period of concern, as the Igloos wondered if something bad had happened to him.
The Igloos checked with their clubhouse staff, who said that Kennedy had grabbed his uniform and equipment bag and left the arena. A couple staffers then set out to look for him. Within 45 minutes, they’d located him at an outdoor rink about a mile from Arctic Circle Arena, playing shinny with a group of local teenagers.
“It’s been a while since I got in a game, so I just got the itch,” said Kennedy. “Afternoon bag skates just aren’t the same thing. Sometimes, it take a game to really get the blood pumping. You can’t experience the thrill of competition from up in the press box, you know?”
While the Bliss largely laughed off Kennedy’s 2017 stunt, Igloos coach Sam Castor reacted to this incident with annoyance. “Everyone knows Gene’s a flake, and I think this was mostly Gene being flaky,” Castor told reporters. “But if this stunt was about embarrassing me into giving him more playing time, I’m not impressed.”
“If he’s not happy that he’s not getting a sweater, he should come to my office and we can talk about it like men,” the coach continued. “My door’s always open, and I’d be happy to talk about what he needs to do to earn more ice time. But we’re in a tight playoff race, and you have to earn a sweater. In the meantime, he should pay attention to the guys who do play and try to learn something, instead of playing hooky to play shinny with a bunch of kids. I’d expect a little more professionalism.”
Kennedy apologized and said that he was not trying to embarrass Castor or the organization. “Honestly, I didn’t think anyone was going to miss me or notice I was gone,” Kennedy said. “From now on, I’ll only play shinny on my off days.”