2020 Uni Changes Feature New KC Logo and New Alts for Night, Shockers

Earlier this week, the Portland Bluebacks revealed the uniforms for their debut season after relocating from Seattle.  But the Bluebacks aren’t the only team that will be donning new togs in 2020.  Several other SHL teams are modifying their look, in ways both small and large.

The biggest changes came from the Kansas City Smoke, who also rolled out a new logo this season. When the Smoke took the ice for their debut season, their logo was mocked by KC ‘cue heads for omitting a key element: smoke.  “One of the consistent pieces of feedback we got on the logo was that it was about grilling, not smoking,” said team president Eddie Whitmore.  “I’d point out that plenty of people smoke ‘cue in their backyard kettle grill, but what we kept hearing was that it wasn’t real ‘cue.  So we decided to go a different direction.”

The Smoke drew up a new logo that features wisps of smoke, and they put the logo front and center on their uniforms, replacing the old “SMOKE” wordmark that looked like it was being licked by flames.

In addition to that change, they updated their jersey templates with a more modern look that replaces the previous diagonal-stripe-based motif.  The team kept its existing color scheme of gray, black, and burnt red.

“We figured: as long as we’re changing the logo, why not go ahead and freshen it all up?” Whitmore said.  “This gives us a uniform that can stand the test of time, that our fans can wear with pride as we build toward our goal of winning the Vandy.”

The Smoke and the Bluebacks are the only teams making wholesale uniform changes for the coming season, but two other teams are debuting eye-catching alternate uniforms.

The New York Night, aiming to remain on trend, ditched their previous silver alternates for a dramatic gradient look that changes from purple to black.

“Gradients are really hot right now,” said new Night GM Jay McKay.  “This gives us a look that’s flashy but still classy, and full of energy, just like the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps!”

Star RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson was one of the players who modeled the new sweater at the unveiling, and he was audibly impressed.  “Damn,” he was heard to exclaim, “these threads look almost as fine as I do!”

McKay predicted that the new jerseys would become the top sellers in the SHL.  After the unveiling, at least, his words seemed prophetic: local sporting goods stores indicated that the jerseys were flying off the shelves.

The Saskatchewan Shockers, meanwhile, did make changes to their home and road jerseys, simplifying the striping pattern on the socks and sleeves.  But that change was not what had people talking after Saskatchewan rolled out its new look.  Rather, it was the new third jersey the left mouths agape.

For the past couple of years, the Shockers have sported an electric-blue third jersey that they generally wore on Sundays and holidays.  It was eye-catching, but in the same template as their home and road jersey.  Their new third jersey, however, doesn’t match their usual template – or any other, for that matter.

The new jersey is half yellow, half blue, split diagonally with a white lightning bolt.  Immediate reactions were mixed: some fans on social media dubbed it the “Franken-jersey” while others noted its resemblance to the Grateful Dead’s logo.

According to Shockers owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz, the polarizing look was inspired by some of the NHL’s uniform designs from the ‘90s.  “In those days, it was all about trying new stuff and moving the merch.  Yeah, some people think those styles were a complete disaster, but nobody ever forgets them!  And they’re not going to forget us either!”

Saskatchewan’s players regarded the new uniforms a bit warily.  “It’s going to take some getting used to,” said LW Troy Chamberlain.  “It’s definitely different than what other teams are wearing.”

“We’re not going to be able to sneak up on anyone in these,” quipped C Lars Karlsson.

Other smaller changes for 2020 include:

  • Last year, the Michigan Gray Wolves switched from using the “Gray Wolves” wordmark to the wolf-and-moon logo as its primary home jersey. This season, the Wolves are making the same change to their road jerseys. “We wanted to unify our look,” said GM Tim Carrier.  Also, the numbers on the back of the jersey have changed from blue to red.
  • The Washington Galaxy have updated their logo, but their uniforms will remain the same as last year.

Bluebacks Meet Fans, Unveil Unis

The first relocation in SHL history is official, as the Seattle Sailors are now the Portland Bluebacks.  The Bluebacks have already rolled out their logo; this week, they revealed their uniforms for the first time in a meet-the-team event.

The Bluebacks hosted fans and local dignitaries at Portland’s Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which is the current home of the USS Blueback submarine, for which the team is named.

“I’ve been like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for this moment,” said owner Jared Carmichael.  “And now, the moment is finally here!”

Home Uniforms

The team’s uniforms, unsurprisingly, adopt the same color scheme as the logo: blue, green, and gray.  According to Carmichael, the colors are tied to Portland and the Pacific Northwest.  The blue represents the Willamette River, which runs through the middle of Portland and is where the Blueback currently rests.  The green represents the forests that are central to the region’s identity.  The gray represents the submarine itself.

Both the home and road uniforms feature a central element of the team’s logo: a blueback salmon jumping out of a submarine.  The salmon has already been dubbed “Charlie Tuna” on social media, because its coloring resembles the famed StarKist mascot.

The uniforms contains an old-school touch: a lace-up collar.  Thus far, the Bluebacks are the only team in the SHL with this collar; Carmichael had to negotiate with the league’s uniform supplier in order to make it happen.  “Personally, I’m a fan of the throwback look,” Carmichael said.  “And the fact that we’re the only ones doing it… that makes it even cooler.  I bet some of the other teams will be copying us soon, though!”

Road Uniforms

The Bluebacks’ unis were a hit with the players.  “I think we’re going to be the sharpest-looking team in the league!” exclaimed RW Vince Mango, who modeled the home uniform.  “And when you look good, you feel good, and that helps you play good.  I can’t wait to see these jerseys all over Portland!”

“I like that it’s a balance between old-school and new school,” said C Napoleon Beasley, who showed off the team’s road uniform.  “It’s a crisp, clean, classic look, but it has a couple of more modern elements.  And the green really pops!”

Bluebacks GM Taylor Teichman noted that the team was entering a new era by coming to Portland, but promised that their upward trajectory – the team made the postseason for the first time in 2019 – would continue.

“Today, obviously, we’re focused on the new – new city, new unis,” Teichman said.  “But we’ve got continuity in the areas where it counts: out front office, behind the bench, and with our top players.  And our commitment to being a Vandy-winning organization hasn’t changed one bit, either.  And we’re going to prove it to you on the ice very soon!”

For fans who want to see the new uniforms on ice, the Bluebacks have open their season at Willamette River Arena against the Dakota Jackalopes.

Badgers’ Thanksgiving Dinner Ends in Free-for-All Food Fight

Like the SHL’s other 11 teams, the Boston Badgers opened training camp this week.  Thursday was Thanksgiving Day in America, and many of the players were spending the day apart from their families.  In order to ease the sting for them, the Badgers held a team-wide dinner for the players and staff at Shawmut Arena.

“We thought it was a nice way to show our appreciation for how hard they work, and to get ready for the season ahead,” said GM Jody Melchiorre.

Little did Melchiorre know that the dinner would ultimately degenerate into a food fight, as the players blew off steam by flinging Thanksgiving staples at one another.

The team began the morning with a scrimmage, their first time on the ice at Shawmut since the end of last season.  The scrimmage was intended to be no-contact, but the players ignored those instructions, gleefully throwing checks and body-slamming each other to the ice.  Ds Jurgen Braun and Brody McCallan even traded punches briefly.

“The practices the last couple of days have been pretty rough, so I think there was some pent-up energy there,” said McCallan.

After the players showered and dressed, they gathered in the arena’s club level for a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast prepared by the team’s catering staff.  The spread included turkey, ham, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and much more.

At first, the players and staff tucked into their plates with vigor.  But then the players began chirping at each other about the scrimmage, and voices eventually grew louder.  (It should be noted that beer was one of the beverage options.)  Eventually, the disagreements turned physical.

According to sources, RW Rory Socarra was the first one to send the food flying, flinging a spoonful of mashed potatoes in the face of RW Jorma Seppa.  Socarra denied that he started things, claiming that Seppa had chucked a roll at him.  Regardless, it served as the starting gun for what one player described as “a scene straight out of Animal House,” as food and liquid quickly filled the air.

By the time the dust and gravy had settled, the players and the suite were caked in food.  Team sources say that it took two days so completely clean the walls and tables of food.

The story probably would have remained inside the locker room, were it not for the fact that several players videotaped the melee and posted it on social media.

“Obviously, this isn’t what I had in mind when we decided to do this,” said Melchiorre.  “But I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.  This is a fun-loving and pugnacious bunch, which is usually a good thing.  But I’d prefer if we directed that aggression at our opponents instead.”

New coach Kyle Barrow, meanwhile, enjoyed himself thoroughly.  “Best Thanksgiving ever!” he quipped.  “That first week back at practice is always tough for guys, and this was a good way to let those feelings out.  Nobody got hurt and everybody had fun, so that’s a win in my book.”

Barrow had only one regret about the incident.  “I got hit with cranberry sauce on my new blazer, and I don’t think that’s going to come out,” he said.  “Next time we have a team dinner, I’m bringing a poncho.”

For his part, LW Lix Darnholm didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  “I’m from Sweden, and we don’t have Thanksgiving,” Darnholm explained.  “I thought maybe this is how you celebrate in America.  Everyone get together to throw food at your family.”

Badgers Hire Igloos Assistant Barrow as Coach

The Boston Badgers have never finished out of the Eastern Division cellar, but they have grand ambitions for the 2020 season.  After spending a lot of money on free agents – led by G Roger Orion and LW Pascal Royal – last season and planning to pursue the market’s top names again this year, the Badgers intend to contend for the playoffs.  With that goal in mind, Boston hired the most sought-after assistant, the Anchorage IgloosKyle Barrow, to be their new head coach.

“We looked hard to find the right guy,” said Badgers GM Jody Melchiorre.  “And the more we talked to Kyle, the more we knew he was the right guy.”

Kyle Barrow

The 42-year-old Barrow definitely has the championship experience that the Badgers want.  Working alongside Sam Castor on the Igloos bench, Barrow has been to four SHL Finals and won two.  Although Anchorage is best known for its high-powered and fast-paced offense, he traditionally focused on the team’s defense, which has traditionally been very good.  During his introductory press conference, the coach expressed his desire to make Boston strong on both ends of the ice, using the Igloos as an example.

“What’s made the Igloos such a strong team over the years is that we can play any style of hockey, so there’s no one way to beat us,” Barrow told reporters.  “This team has been built around defense and a grinding mentality, but there’s plenty of offensive talent here – Lix [Darnholm], Alain [Beauchesne], Pascal – and there’s no reason we can’t become a two-way threat.”

Barrow has long been talked about as a head-coaching candidate, but until this point, he had a reputation for turning down opportunities.  He had withdrawn himself from consideration in previous coaching searches in Dakota, Washington, and Saskatchewan.  This led to speculation that he was being groomed as Castor’s successor in Anchorage.

So why did he choose to pursue this job?  “There’s so much to learn from Sam; he’s one of the best in the business,” said Barrow.  “I wanted to soak up as much wisdom as I could.  But after this past season, we talked about my future, and he agreed that I was ready, and it was time for me to take the leap.”

Barrow replaces Cam Prince, the Badgers’ inaugural coach, who was fired after two seasons at the helm.  In addition to the Badgers’ poor results on the ice, Prince seemed overwhelmed as he oversaw a locker-room culture that deteriorated badly over the course of last season, culminating in a fight between two of the team’s defensemen.

Barrow believes that winning is the best cure for the team’s chemistry problems, but he also stressed the need to instill a culture of professionalism. “When you’re on my team, your first focus needs to be on winning and improving your game,” he said.  “We’re all adults here, but first and foremost, if you’re not here to play hard and win, you’re out.  It’s not about being a taskmaster or running day-long practices, it’s about making the basic commitment to win.  I’m confident that our guys will get on board.”

Can Barrow’s winning experience be the missing ingredient for a team that finished 33 games out of a playoff spot last season?  That remains to be seen, but Melchiorre remains confident.  “I think we’re going to shock a lot of people out there,” the GM said.  “mark my words: this team is getting ready to take off.”

Galaxy Turn to Shuster As GM

It’s been a swift decline for the Washington Galaxy.  After going to back-to-back SHL Finals and narrowly missing a third straight trip, the Galaxy have fallen apart over the last couple of seasons.  In 2018, Washington lost 19 of their final 27 games to finish below the .500 mark for the first time; that collapse cost coach Rodney Reagle his job.  Last season, under new bench boss Peter James, the bottom fell out and the Galaxy finished only four points out of last in the East.  That fiasco led to the firing of GM Ace Adams at season’s end.

Now, the Galaxy are facing an overhaul of their aging roster and, likely, a multi-season rebuilding effort.  To oversee the rebuild, the franchise is turning to Wilson Shuster, the assistant GM of the Michigan Gray Wolves.

Wilson Shuster

“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” said Shuster.  “I can’t wait to get started.”

The Galaxy’s new GM has experience building a winning organization.  Working alongside GM Tim Carrier, Shuster helped shape the Wolves squad that won the Vandy in 2016.  He specialized on the draft and the minor-league roster.  Shuster’s resume is similar to that of Taylor Teichman, who assembled the core of the Hamilton Pistols team that won last year’s championship before becoming GM of the Seattle Sailors, who made the playoffs for the first time last season.

Unlike Teichman, who took over a team that seemed poised to vault into contention, Shuster is facing the difficult task of disassembling a once-strong team.  One of his first decisions will be whether or not to attempt re-signing franchise cornerstone RW Jefferson McNeely, who is a free agent.  Shuster will likely seek to trade several veteran hold-overs, such as Ds Kevin Buchanan and Leonard Wright and LW Charlie Brooks, and perhaps C Harvey Bellmore or even LW Casey Thurman.

Shuster declined to discuss the future of specific players, but seemed to indicate that a full-scale rebuild was in the works.  “One of the things [owner Perry] Dodge made clear to me when I was hired is that he wants a championship,” Shuster told reporters.  “This is the District of Champions now, after all.  The Caps did it, the Nats did it, and the Mystics did it.  We should too.  So I have to ask myself: which players are going to be on our championship roster?  Those are the guys I’m building around.  We’ll go from there.”

The famously reclusive Dodge, who issued a release rather than holding a press conference when he fired Adams, appeared at this announcement and introduced Shuster to the media.  True to form, though, he refused to answer questions.

Michigan has a reputation around the SHL as a hard-hitting defense-oriented club.  Shuster himself was known as a pugnacious, bulldog defenseman during his playing days in college and the minor leagues.  Will he attempt to build the Galaxy in the Wolves’ – and his – image?  “Ideally, I’d like to find players who are much more talented than I was,” the GM quipped.  “I do think that defense is the bread and butter of championship hockey, and I’ll build with that in mind.  In Michigan, though, we had The Bear [G Dirk Lundquist], and it’s a lot easier to try to win every game 1-0 when you’ve got a guy like him in net.  This team will have its own identity.”

Galaxy Fire Longtime GM Adams

Yesterday, the Washington Galaxy became the second team to dismiss its general manager since the end of the season.  The team issued a statement announcing that it had terminated its GM, Ace Adams, who had been with the team since the beginning of the SHL.

Ace Adams

“The Galaxy organization thanks Ace Adams for his five years of dedicated service,” the press release read.  “We have made the difficult decision to go in a different direction, as we start planning the course that will lead our organization to its first SHL championship.”

In the SHL’s early years, Adams was applauded, as the Galaxy made it to back-to-back SHL Finals in 2015 and 2016.  As the team’s core began to age and the East’s other teams improved, however, Washington seemed unable to keep up.  Initially, coach Rodney Reagle took the brunt of the criticism for the team’s decline, and he was fired at the end of the 2018 season when the Galaxy collapsed down the stretch and finished below the .500 mark for the first time.  But the team dropped even further under new coach Peter James, ultimately staggering to a fifth-place finish.

As the Galaxy’s season wore on, Adams came under increasing criticism for being overly loyal to the team’s declining veterans, rather than seeking to rebuild.  Adams did deal away a pair of veterans, C Eddie Costello and RW Nori Takoyaki, at this year’s trade deadline – but according to team sources, he did so reluctantly.  With the team looking at a potential rebuild and facing offseason questions about whether to re-sign some key contributors – including star winger Jefferson McNeely – owner Perry Dodge reportedly wanted a new hand on the wheel.

Adams defended his record when contacted by reporters.  “I’ll stand by my decisions,” he said.  “I thought a couple of division titles and a consistent record of contention would buy me some more slack.  Yeah, the bottom kind of fell out the last season and a half, but I think our core was solid.  I thought it was time for a retool, but [Dodge] apparently thought it was bigger than that.  In the end, he’s the one signing the checks, so his way goes.  But I gotta say, I wasn’t expecting this now.”

The team’s decision to announce the firing via press release, rather than in a press conference where reporters could ask questions, raised eyebrows around the league.  According to team sources, the publicity-shy Dodge – who has never met publicly with reporters during his ownership of the team – declined to appear in front of the cameras.

Adams said that Dodge telephoned him to deliver the news.  “I asked him for a reason,” the former GM said, “and he wouldn’t say anything besides the fact that they’re going in a different direction.  I thought after five seasons, I deserved more of an answer than that.”

The press release contained no news on a successor for Adams, and team sources said no interviews had been scheduled.  Former New York Night GM Royce McCormick, who was let go last month, is available.  However, it seems unlikely that Dodge would go in that direction.  It seems more likely that the team will tab an up-and-coming assistant who’s shown a good eye with the draft and with young players – someone more like Taylor Teichman, who was hired as GM of the Seattle Sailors last season and guided the team to its first-ever playoff berth.

Night Dismiss GM McCormick, Hire McKay

The New York Night have decided to clean house in their front office.  This week, the Night announced that they would not renew the contract of Royce McCormick, the only general manager the franchise has ever had.  McCormick will be replaced by former Seattle Sailors GM Jay McKay.

“We’ve come a long way in the last couple of seasons,” said Night owner Marvin Kingman.  “But we haven’t gotten to the level I expect.  We haven’t made the playoffs, much less won the Vandy.  And so, it’s time for a new direction.”

Royce McCormick

McCormick exits after five seasons with a record of 140-151-17.  The GM never hesitated to make bold moves or bring in big names, most notably his 2016 trade to acquire C Rod Remington.  But McCormick’s draft record was somewhat spotty, in part due to his penchant for trading away high draft picks.  The Night also struggled to find the additional pieces needed to get the team over the hump and into the postseason.  The top-heavy payroll made it difficult to add quality veteran depth, and McCormick balked at the idea of moving any of the team’s highly-paid stars.

“I felt like we were really close to breaking through here, as soon as next season,” said McCormick.  “But when you don’t deliver the results, you can’t count on unlimited chances.  I think Jay’s coming into a good place, and I wish him the best.”

According to team sources, coach Nick Foster has had an increased hand in personnel decisions over the last couple of seasons, a fact that irked McCormick.  There have been persistent rumors of a power struggle between the two, and this decision indicates that the owner has chosen to side with the coach.

For his part, Foster declined to comment on any role he may have played in McCormick’s dismissal.  “I think Mr. Kingman has made it clear that we have high standards around here, as it should be,” said Foster.  “I’m glad that I’m still around, and I think next season’s going to be huge for us.”

Jay McKay

In hiring McKay, New York adds a GM who is no stranger to big moves.  The 63-year-old calls himself a “hockey vagabond.”  He has spent nearly 30 years in various front-office roles at every level of the game, most recently as general manager of the Sailors.  During his tenure, he built the expansion club from scratch and never shied away from major moves.  Most notably, with the team on the brink of contention at the 2018 trading deadline, McKay made a couple of big deals designed to get the team over the hump.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out, as Seattle missed the postseason and McKay was fired.  This season, though, the Sailors made their first-ever playoff appearance, largely with the same roster he left behind.

“I can’t wait to get started over here,” said McKay.  “We play in the greatest city in the world, and we’ve got a loaded roster.  We’ve got a great coach in Nick Foster.  With a couple of the right moves here and there, I think we can be the champion Mr. Kingman wants to see.”

McKay declined to discuss any specific moves he might have in mind.  “I tell you here, and suddenly the price on the guys I want goes through the roof,” joked the incoming GM.  “But basically, I’m looking to build on our strengths, especially our high-scoring offense, while upgrading our depth and fortifying our D.”

The new boss has a number of big decisions to make right away.  New York has a number of pending free agents, including the entire top line (LW Chase Winchester, C Brock Manning, and RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson), top-pairing defender Tuomas Nurmi, and goaltenders Jesse Clarkson and Sherman Carter.