Interview of the Week: Cary Estabrook

This week’s interview is with Boston Badgers F Cary Estabrook.

SHL Digest: Today, we have a unique opportunity.  We’re speaking with the Boston Badgers’ first-ever player, Cary Estabrook.  Cary, welcome to the SHL!

Cary Estabrook

Cary Estabrook: Thanks!  I’m really excited about this.

SHLD: So, how did you become the Badgers’ first player?

CE: Well, [Badgers GM] Jody Melchiorre had scouted me for Anchorage when I was a senior at Western Mass, before last season’s draft.  But I wrecked my knee just before the end of the season, so the Igloos didn’t draft me.  But obviously he remembered me.

SHLD: Obviously, he thought well of you!

CE: Well, the surgery was successful, and my rehab’s gone well, so we felt confident that I’d be ready to go for ’18.  And the fact that I’m a local boy didn’t hurt.  I’m from Rhode Island originally.

SHLD: How does it feel to be the only Badger so far?

CE: It’s really exciting, but it’s a bit of a mixed blessing, you know?  I mean, no matter what I do the rest of my career, I’m going to be part of SHL history.  That’s definitely cool.

SHLD: No question about that!

CE: But I don’t just want to be the answer to a trivia question, you know?  I want to be remembered for being a great player.  I’ve got to keep working hard to make that happen.

SHLD: Do you think you’ve got a good chance to make the team?

CE: Hard to be sure until I can see the competition, right?  But Jody assured me that I’d have every shot to make it as long as I can stay healthy.

SHLD: If you were to compare yourself to a current SHL player, who would it be?

CE: Maybe a guy like Vonnie McLearen.  He’s a guy who worked hard to get where he is; he’s not the hardest shot or the fastest skater, but he’s a real competitor who works hard and plays solid on both ends of the ice.  That’s my game too.

SHLD: Have you had a chance to meet any of the fans in Boston yet?

CE: Yeah, actually.  We just had a season-ticket-holder event on Friday.  Jody said that we’ve already got over 5,000 season ticket holders, which is huge.  I love the fans here; they’re really smart, dedicated, totally into hockey.  Our arena’s in Southie, so we’re gonna draw those great working-class fans.  The atmosphere is gonna be off the charts.

SHLD: Can’t wait to see it!  Well, thank you for your time, and best of luck with your SHL career.

CE: Thanks.  No offense, but I’m really waiting for the next time you guys interview me.  That time, I’ll know you’re talking to me because I’ve made it.  That’s the dream for me.

Boston Badgers Name First GM

The expansion Boston Badgers won’t take the ice until next season, but this week they hired the man who will serve as primary architect for the franchise.  On Wednesday, Badgers owner Paul Galette held a press conference to announce that he had hired Jody Melchiorre as the team’s first general manager.

Jody Melchiorre

“I’ve talked to a lot of people trying to find the right person to build this team,” said Galette.  “But as soon as I started talking to Jody, I knew I’d found my guy.”

The 44-year-old Melchiorre had been the assistant GM for the Anchorage Igloos.  Galette is close friends with Igloos owners Leslie and Colin Mills, and they reportedly recommended him highly for the position.  Melchiorre’s primary area of responsibility has been the draft; in his tenure with Anchorage, he selected quality players such as C Derek Humplik, D Sebastian Pomfret, and D Tony Citrone.

“Seeing the kinds of talent that Jody was able to find even with the low picks that Anchorage has had,” said Galette, “tells me that we’re dealing with a great judge of young talent.  That’s exactly what we’re going to need.”

Melchiorre is a native of Worcester, and grew up idolizing Boston Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque.  He went on to star in high school and college, where he earned the nickname “Zorro” for his cunning and quick-strike ability, as well as his penchant for dressing in all black.  An injury ended his playing career in the minors.  He wound up coaching at various levels for almost a decade before moving into a front-office role, which he said better suited him.  “I didn’t have any great ideas about strategy or motivating players,” Melchiorre admitted, “but I was real good at figuring out who the real prospects were.  So I figured I’d better try to become a GM.”

Melchiorre said that he plans to build a scrappy, hard-working, hard-hitting team.  “Boston is a blue-collar town at heart, and they like blue-collar teams,” the new GM said.  “We’re going to be looking for the kind of players with that kind of hard-work ethic, the guys who hustle and get the most out of their talent.”  He suggested that he would likely look to build around defense, citing the Michigan Gray Wolves and Quebec Tigres as examples.  However, he noted that his approach might vary based on the available players in the expansion and entry drafts.

The new GM intends to start identifying and interviewing coaching candidates within the next several weeks, and plans to make a hire before the end of the season.  He said that he would like to involve the coach in player personnel deliberations.

The other 2018 expansion team, Kansas City, has yet to announce a GM.  In fact, they have yet to announce a name.  Owner Hal Messinger plans to unveil the team’s name later this month, and rumor has it that he hopes to introduce his general manager at the same time.

SHL Expands to Boston, KC for ’18

Starlight Hockey LeagueThe SHL announced this week that it plans to expand to 12 teams for the 2018 season.  Commissioner Perry Mitchell held a press conference on Friday to reveal that the owners had voted to accept Boston and Kansas City as the next expansion pairing.

“Based on the tremendous success the league has had so far, we believe there’s an appetite for us to grow,” said Commissioner Mitchell.  “We are confident that we have a couple of strong, well-organized ownership groups and markets that will only make us stronger.”

The timing of the decision was a bit of a surprise.  The general consensus around the league was that expansion was likely in the coming seasons; however, it was reported that the owners were divided on which cities to add.  However, Commissioner Mitchell said that the vote was unanimous.  “When all was said and done,” the commissioner added, “these two bids stood head and shoulders above the rest.”  He noted that the timing was partially driven by a desire to give the new teams more time to prepare.  Last year’s decision to add the Quebec Tigres and Seattle Sailors was announced in midseason, and both organizations agreed that they felt rushed in getting their teams ready to take the ice this season.

boston-badgersThe East’s new addition will be the Boston Badgers.  Principal owner Paul Galette, an entrepreneur in both the media and fashion industries, is well-known within the league; he is a close associate of SHL co-founders Colin and Leslie Mills.  He was a finalist in last season’s expansion derby, although he ultimately lost out to Quebec.  This time, his bid won out over Baltimore and Cleveland, among other cities.

Galette is said to have helped design the team’s logo and uniforms.  He reportedly chose the “Badgers” name himself, having long had a fascination with the animal.  “Badgers are dangerous animals,” said Galette.  “If you’re smart, you won’t mess with them.  You can’t turn your back on them or they’ll claw your eyes out.  That’s exactly the kind of spirit we want to have on our team.”

The Badgers will play at Shawmut Arena in south Boston, conveniently located on the T.  “It’s going to be a place with a lot of great atmosphere, and people will love to watch games there,” Galette said.

Kansas City’s team, which will join the Western division, won out over reportedly strong bids from Chicago, Milwaukee, Portland, and San Francisco.  The team does not yet have a name; owner Hal Messinger said that he plans to let the fans submit names for the team and vote on the finalists.  “This team is going to be for the fans, and we want them involved every step of the way,” the owner said.

Messinger is a veteran of the sports business.  The agribusiness tycoon also owns the UBA’s Kansas City Knights, and he held a minority stake in baseball’s Kings, a team that played in the Mid-Western League for several seasons.  The new hockey team will play alongside the Knights at the Heartland Telecom Center, built in 2007 in the Power and Light District.  “The Power and Light District is the place to be in KC, and adding this new team will only make it that much more popular,” said Messinger.  “The entertainment options in this city are really taking off.”

The owners also voted to expand the playoffs to four teams beginning with the 2018 season.  “As the league gets bigger, it only seems fair to expand the playoff field as well,” said Commissioner Mitchell.  “Adding an extra round of playoff excitement will be a big hit with our fans.”