Utah Owls C Foster Culp has a reputation as… a bit of a flake. He once got his team detained at the airport for hours by joking that he had guns and drugs packed in his luggage. On another trip, he and a teammate stole a baggage tractor and went joyriding, causing a ground stop at the airport. He once nearly burned down his team’s practice facility by overcooking a microwave burrito. These and other stunts caused Culp to earn the nickname “Bananas Foster.”
Culp has been in the minors for the last couple of seasons, but his goofiness remains undimmed, as he demonstrated this week with a stunt that earned the anger of his coach and a razzing from visiting fans.
The Owls traveled to northeast Ohio on Sunday to take on the Cleveland Centurions. The Centurions’ home, Cleveland Arena, is a 70-year-old facility that is showing its age, as demonstrated last season when some roosting pigeons caused a power failure at the arena. Even in the absence of birds, the arena is considered drafty, dim, and outdated. It’s universally agreed to be the worst facility in the CHL.
Many players have grumbled about having to play there, but Culp took his protest to a new level. During the Owls’ pre-game warmups, the center hit the ice wearing a parka with a miner’s lamp strapped to his helmet.
“Lots of guys complain about the conditions here,” Culp explained, “but no one ever does anything about it. I decided that it was time for someone to take some action. Why not be comfortable out there?”
Unsurprisingly, Culp’s stunt wasn’t popular with the fans in Cleveland. When he first came onto the ice, there were a couple ripples of laughter at the site of his bright-red parka, and a couple more when he turned on the miner’s lamp. But the laughs were quickly drowned out by heckling, as the fans told Culp to “lose the coat” and “act like a man.”
The Centurions didn’t appreciate the display much, either. When Culp wandered toward center ice, Cleveland LW Fendrick Scanlan stuck out his stick and sent his opponent tumbling to the ice, earning appreciative cheers from the crowd. The Centurions’ defensemen also seemed to target Culp for multiple hard hits during the game. Cleveland also punished Culp’s team on the scoreboard, pummeling the Owls by a 5-1 score.
The home team and fans weren’t the only ones who didn’t appreciate Culp’s stint. Owls coach Wiley Kiyotie called Culp out after the game. “Look, I know Foster is a nut job; that just comes with the territory,” said Kioytie. “But a stunt like this just gets the other team fired up, and we definitely didn’t need that, especially not with the beatdown they gave us. I know Culp thinks he’s a comedian, but if he’s looking for laughs, he should go do a stand-up set at the Improv. We’ve got a job to do.”
Culp reacted defensively to the criticism. “I don’t get what all the fuss is about,” he told reporters. “I was just having a little fun, but the way everybody’s reacting, you’d think I body-slammed Miss America at center ice or something.”
In the end, after airing his complaints, Culp’s coach took a philosophical view of the incident: “At least he didn’t burn the building down or get us arrested,” Kiyotie said. “So by his usual standards, this wasn’t a big deal.”