It’s a bright new day for the Seattle Sailors. For the second year in a row, the Sailors began the year loudly insisting that they were going to be the team to beat in the West this year. Last year, they were not able to back up their boasts with results. This year, though, the Sailors were good to their word, getting off to a hot start and never looking back. On Sunday, they beat the Dakota Jackalopes 5-0 to officially clinch their first-ever trip to the playoffs.
In the midst of a raucous locker-room celebration, coach Harold Engellund took a moment to lavish praise on his player, and particularly star Vince Mango.
According to team sources, Engellund and the coaching staff met privately with Mango before the season to challenge the star to up his game, noting that other players on the team look to him as an example. Mango has long been criticized for his disinterest in defense and passing, but responded to the coach’s challenge to become a more well-rounded player. He set a career high in assists with __, and he recorded a positive plus-minus rating for the first time this season.
After the team punched its playoff ticket, the coach went public with his admiration for Mango – a rare move for Engellund, who supports his players in front of reporters but tends to be fairly reserved emotionally.
“I love Vince Mango,” the coach began, clutching a bottle of champagne. “He really rose to the challenge this season, and he’s the main reason we’re here now. Before the season, we talked to him about playing hard on both ends of the ice. Scoring is where the glory and the glamor is, but that’s not how you win hockey games. And Vince took those words to heart, boy howdy. He’s less focused on glory and glamor this season, and more on hard work and consistent effort, and it’s paid off big time. And the rest of the team fell in line right behind him, like I knew they would. Vince has shown that you can be a hockey star and a TV star at the same time. I love the guy!”
The “TV star” remark referenced the fact that Mango began producing a reality show called “Meet the Mangos” with his girlfriend last season. The bulk of the show’s filming took place during the offseason, and Mango has been careful to schedule his promotional appearances to avoid missing practices and team events. While Engellund wasn’t wild about the show to begin with, his attitude has thawed since Mango has shown that he can thrive on the ice while meeting his commitments to the show.
For his part, Mango expressed similarly warm feelings toward his coach. “Coach Engellund is an old-school guy, but he’s been patient with the TV stuff, and he’s really taught me a lot about how to up my game to the next level,” said Mango. “He’s been like a father to me this season. I’ve found a way to build my brand while performing at a high level on the ice. But at the end of the day, I’ve got my eyes on the Vandy. That’s what I want more than anything, and we wouldn’t have a shot at it without Coach Engellund leading the way.” Mango then poured champagne over his coach’s head.
Mango’s teammates agreed that the friction that once existed between the coach and the star virtually evaporated this season, and credited that to the team’s winning ways. “Yeah, things were a little rough last year,” said Sailors LW Rod “Money” Argent. “But that’s normal. The way last season unfolded, we should have been mad. Now we’re in the playoffs, and we’re all best friends again. The best thing for chemistry is winning.”
Now that the wins are coming, Engellund and Mango seem to be the best of friends. But will that warmth be enough to get Seattle past the mighty Anchorage Igloos in the division playoff? Only time will tell.