Interview of the Week: Timothy Winston

This week’s interview is with Boston Badgers D Timothy “Cyclone” Winston.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week with one of the Boston Badgers’ top blueliners, Timothy “Cyclone” Winston.  Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Tim.

Timothy “Cyclone” Winston

Timothy Winston: Glad to do it.  When you’re on a last-place team, you don’t usually get a lot of interview requests.

SHLD: That’s the first question we wanted to ask.  You’ve had a strong season on the top pairing for Boston.  Obviously, one upside to playing for an expansion team is that you have the opportunity for a lot of ice time.  The downside, of course, is that you know you’re not going to be in contention.  How do you feel about that tradeoff?

TW: Well, I like to look on the bright side.  And I appreciate being able to skate on the top pairing; that’s a great opportunity.  Would I like to compete for a title?  Sure, but I’m still young and I’ve got plenty of seasons left.  There’s time.

SHLD: At the deadline, the Badgers traded a couple of your fellow defensemen, Shane Gladchuk and Scott Hexton.  Were you glad to be sticking around, or was there a part of you that would have liked to go with them?

TW: I knew I wasn’t going to go.  The week of the deadline, [GM] Jody [Melchiorre] called me into his office and told me they weren’t looking to move me.  He said that unless they got a deal that blew them away, they were looking to keep me and build around me.  I was really excited to hear that.

SHLD: Let’s hear about your nickname.  When did they start calling you “Cyclone”?

TW: When I was about 11 years old.  I had a big growth spurt that year, and I was still getting used to my body.  So a lot of times, I’d start moving up the ice or I’d be skating through behind the net and I’d just spin out of control.  Sometimes I’d take out one or two of my teammates with me.  So the coach started calling me “Cyclone Timmy,” because no one was safe when I was on the ice.

SHLD: Pretty funny!  Obviously, you managed to improve your self-control as you got older.

TW: For the most part, yeah.  Every once in a while, I’ll lose an edge and go down out there, and I’ll hear Coach Williams in my head saying, “Batten down the hatches, Cyclone Timmy’s on the loose again.”

SHLD: Obviously, there are a lot of young players on the Badgers.  Have you been trying to act as a teacher or mentor to them?

TW: Oh, absolutely.  Not so much with on-ice tips — we’ve got coaches for that — but more with handling the off-the-ice game.  How to pass the time on the road, how to spend your money wisely, places to go and places to avoid, stuff like that.  There’s a lot to learn when you’re a young guy on your own for the first time, and I want to help our guys avoid some of the traps that you fall into.

SHLD: Things like women, nightclubs, like that?

TW: Exactly.  Now, guys are going to go out, meet women, have a good time.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But there’s some places and some situations that you’re just better off steering clear of, you know?  And I want to help these young guys figure that out, rather than them learning the hard way.

SHLD: One more question. Was that escape room adventure last week as crazy as the stories made it sound?

TW: Oh, it was even crazier than it sounded.  Trust me.  I also maintain that my team would definitely have won, if we hadn’t had to keep Bruiser and Wamp from killing each other.

SHLD: Good to know!  Well, thanks for an interesting interview.  Good luck next season!

TW: Thanks!  I’m looking forward to it.

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Badgers Find No Escape on Bonding Trip

Cam Prince

As the Boston Badgers have struggled through their inaugural season, coach Cam Prince has looked for ways to encourage bonding among his players.  And with a number of new faces on the team after the recent trading deadline, Prince felt it was especially important to give his players a chance to get to know each other better.

With that in mind, on the Badgers’ trip to New York this week, Prince decided to take his players to an escape room.  In this increasingly popular form of entertainment, a group of players is locked in a room and must solve a series of riddles and puzzles in order to get out.  The Badgers’ trip to the room proved highly entertaining, but there were several surprises along the way that got in the way of the bonding aspect.

Since there are limits on the number of players that can share a single escape room, Prince divided his squad into four groups.  One group consisted of the top two forward lines; C Jens Bunyakin captained that group.  Another group included the third line and reserve forwards; F Randy O’Connor was in charge of that group.  The third group included the top two defensive pairings and starting goalie Dennis Wampler, with D Timothy “Cyclone” Winston as captain.  The final group included the bottom defensive pairing, reserve blueliner Horst Hasenkamp, and backup goalie Carson Wagner as captain.

The squabbles began as soon as the teams were announced.  Ds Jurgen Braun and Moose Baker argued over which of them was a second-pairing defender and thus belonged with Winston’s group; Prince ruled in favor of Braun.  Bunyakin asked to trade RW Gene Kennedy to Winston’s group for Wampler, a known puzzle enthusiast; Prince said that there would be no trades.  Wagner suggested scrapping the groups altogether and letting the captains pick teams; that request was also denied.

“If our guys don’t make it in hockey, they should all become lawyers,” said assistant coach Mark Morganhurst.  “They’re all great at arguing.”

Once the groups were locked away in their respective rooms, further hijinks ensued.  In Bunyakin’s group, RW Jorma Seppa and Kennedy were chained together, and had to find a key to free themselves.  Unfortunately, this confinement brought out a previously unknown claustrophobia in Kennedy, who suffered a panic attack and had to be calmed by Bunyakin until the key could be found.

“Fortunately, I have a 3-year-old at home,” said Bunyakin, “which equipped me perfectly to deal with Gene.”

In Winston’s room, there was a jigsaw puzzle that the team had to assemble in order to find a clue.  Wampler and D Brody “Bruiser” McCallan both wanted to be in charge of assembling the puzzle.  The disagreement became so heated that the two nearly came to blows and had to be separated by their groupmates.

“Wamp’s giving up at least 70 pounds to Bruiser in that fight,” said Winston, “so I knew we had to stop it.  I didn’t want to explain to Coach that we had to put our starting goalie on the DL because Bruiser broke him in the escape room.”

O’Connor’s group managed to figure out all of the clues well within the 60-minute time limit.  But when they tried to leave their room, they found that they couldn’t.  Escape room staff spent an additional half-hour just trying to free the trapped group.  As it turned out, the prank-loving Kennedy had jammed the lock to their room.  When O’Connor finally emerged, he had to be restrained from choking Kennedy.

“I hoped that this evening would bring us closer together,” said Prince.  “I’m not sure if we succeeded in that, or if we brought guys closer to killing each other.”

Wagner’s group wound up getting out first, despite being the smallest group of the four.  “Maybe we’ve just got a head for these things,” said Wagner.  “Or maybe it’s because we just focused on getting out instead of trying to fight each other.”

Prince said that he would continue to seek out bonding opportunities for his team.  He doesn’t plan to try another escape room, though.  “I’m pretty sure that once this story gets out,” said the Boston coach, “we’ll be banned from every escape room on the continent.”

Banks Out for Year With Injury

Patrick Banks

Back in 2016, defenseman Patrick Banks was riding high.  He’d just won the Vandy with the Michigan Gray Wolves, and he headed into free agency with the chance to land a lucrative multi-year deal; he ultimately signed with the Washington Galaxy, where he was expected to be a rising two-way star on the blueline.

Since then, though, things have gone downhill.  He had a dismal year in Washington, putting up only 2 goals and 15 assists and finding himself a frequent target of boos at the Constellation Center.  The Galaxy were sufficiently discouraged by his poor performance and sizable price tag that they left him unprotected in the expansion draft, where he was claimed by the Boston Badgers.  And now, in the middle of a decent but unspectacular season, Banks has suffered a major leg injury that will sideline him for the rest of the year.

“This is just heartbreaking,” said Badgers coach Cam Prince.  “All of us feel awful for Banksy.”

Banks’ injury occurred in the third period of Sunday’s 3-0 win over the Saskatchewan Shockers.  Banks was skating through center ice as he brought the puck up.  He was looking to connect with LW Lix Darnholm and start and odd-man rush, but he didn’t see Shockers LW Tadeusz Adamczyk drawing a bead on him.  Adamczyk seemed to duck a bit as he collided with Banks, and the Boston blueliner wound up cartwheeling in the air and landing in a heap near the red line.

“We knew there was an issue when he didn’t pop right back up,” said Badgers C Jens Bunyakin.  “Banksy’s a tough customer; it seems like you could hit him with a freight train and he’d walk away without a scratch.  But he stayed down.”

Trainer Jordan Klifford rushed out to tend to Banks, who was writhing in obvious pain.  Klifford and Bunyakin had to help Banks off the ice; the blueliner wasn’t putting weight on his right leg.  The crowd at Shawmut Arena fell dead silent, sensing that something was terribly wrong.

As it turned out, the fans were right to be concerned.  Examination revealed that Banks had suffered a fractured tibia and a torn ACL.  He will undergo surgery and will not play again in 2018.  Prince said that the team is “cautiously optimistic” that he will be back in time for the beginning of the 2019 season, but that it’s too soon to be sure.

“This sucks,” said Banks about his injury.  “There’s no better way to say it; it just sucks.  I thought things were looking up for me, and now this happens.  I’m just frustrated and pissed.”

The injury also ended any hope Banks might have had for getting traded to a contender.  Though the Badgers were reportedly not shopping him, sources close to the defenseman say that he was hopeful that a deal might be worked out.  Now he’ll stay in Boston, and try to get his once-promising career back on track next season… whenever he’s healthy enough to play.

Night Ship Garcia to Badgers for Gladchuk

Amid the flurry of activity at the trading deadline, with contenders making both small and large moves to load up for a playoff push, one deal wasn’t like the others.  It was a trade between two non-contending teams that involved no big-name players.  Arguably, there was only one reason that the deal was made: to satisfy Diego Garcia’s trade demand.

Garcia, a 26-year-old winger, has had a productive season with the New York Night’s minor-league affiliate in Utah; his 41 points this season led the team.  But when it became clear that the Night had no intention of promoting him to the big club, Garcia grew disenchanted and demanded to be traded.

Diego Garcia

Three weeks later, New York accommodated Garcia’s demand, sending him to the Boston Badgers, an expansion club that is thirsty for offense.

“We took Diego’s demand seriously,” said Night coach Nick Foster.  “I’ve always been straight with my guys about my plans for them.”  After Garcia made his demand, Foster said that he called the disgruntled winger to talk about his place in the organization.  “I told him my thinking and how I saw our forward situation, and what I thought he’d need to do to crack the lineup here,” the coach told reporters.  “After we talked, Diego felt like he’d prefer to go somewhere that he would have an opportunity right away, and we looked for a chance to make that happen.”

In Garcia, Boston acquires an undeniably talented player, but one whose lackluster work habits and prickly personality have caused him to wear out his welcome in multiple cities.  He posted 9 goals and 22 assists over pieces of three SHL seasons with Dakota, Hamilton, and New York.  He has a reputation as a player who can contribute on offense, especially as a passer.  However, he is considered weak on defense, which makes him an odd fit for a Badgers team that is supposedly built around defense and hard work.

On the other hand, Boston’s need for offense is so acute – they are last in the league in goals scored by a considerable margin – that they may be willing to explore unorthodox choices.  Head coach Cam Prince was an assistant in New York during Garcia’s time there, and he likes what the winger brings to the table.  “Diego is a talented guy who has the explosiveness to make things happen,” said Prince.  “We could use a little extra pace and a spark on offense, and I think he can give us that.”

Shane Gladchuk

In exchange for Garcia and 19-year-old defenseman Horst Hasenkamp, the Badgers sent the Night a pair of players.  The prime return for New York is 29-year-old defenseman Shane Gladchuk, who put up 2 goals and 10 assists in 40 games with Boston.  Gladchuk, who is in his second tour of duty with New York, is expected to join Andy Ruger on the Night’s bottom defensive pairing.

In addition, the Night acquired Alvin Fawn, a 19-year-old prospect who scored 7 points over 36 games in the minors this season.

“Shane is one of those guys who doesn’t grab the headlines, but he does a good steady job,” said Foster.  “We’re looking to tighten up in our own end, and Shane’s just the guy we need to help with that.  If everything works out the way I think it will, I hope we’ll be able to lock him up long-term.”

Estabrook’s Troubles Come to A Head

Cary Estabrook

It’s been a difficult season for Boston Badgers RW Cary Estabrook.  The 23-year-old winger signed with Boston last year – the first player ever signed by the Badgers – while he was rehabbing from a major knee injury.  He made the team out of training camp, but he has struggled badly this season.  Estabrook’s injury seems to have robbed him of some explosiveness, and he has struggled to adjust to the speed of the professional game.  He has yet to record a point this season.

An already difficult season got worse for Estabrook this week, as a couple of incidents got him in hot water with Badgers coach Cam Prince.

Prince has been trying to impose some discipline on his young and struggling team, holding additional practices and meetings.  The coach called a team meeting on Monday morning to discuss the team’s work ethic, which he felt has been lacking.  Estabrook overslept and missed the meeting, and didn’t show up until halfway through that day’s practice.

“I just forgot to set my alarm, I guess,” Estabrook told reporters.  “I knew we had a meeting, and I was planning to go, but then I woke up and looked at the clock like, ‘Oh [expletive], I’m late.’”

Prince responded by fining Estabrook $500 and benching him for the next day’s game against the Hershey Bliss.  “We’re all professionals here, and part of that is taking responsibility and getting where you need to be on time.  If Cary had bothered to show up for the meeting, he would have heard me talk about that.”

Estabrook was back in the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Michigan Gray Wolves, although he saw his minutes significantly limited.  In the middle of the third period, the puck was flipped out of play and into the Badgers’ bench, where Estabrook was sitting.  The winger decided to flip the puck over the glass to a fan sitting behind him.  Unfortunately, the puck didn’t get the height that Estabrook intended, and it wound up failing to clear the glass… and striking his coach straight in the forehead.

Prince clutched his forehead and doubled over as the trainer and assistant coaches rushed to his aid.  As Estabrook turned around and realized what he had done, his heart sank.  “God, that’s the last thing I needed,” the winger said.  “That’s how bad my year is going: I try to give a fan a souvenir and I wind up beaning my coach in the head.  I just can’t keep the ball out of the gutter.”

Although the puck opened up a cut on Prince’s forehead that bled profusely, he was able to get things under control and did not require stitches.  He was initially upset about the incident, but he softened after Estabrook apologized and explained what happened.

“There’s always a risk of flying pucks when you’re on the bench, but you don’t usually expect friendly fire,” Prince told reporters after the game.  “I know Cary and I have been butting heads lately, but I believe he wasn’t out to get me.  It’s just one of those unfortunate things that can happen to anybody.”

Estabrook now faces the tougher challenge of getting his lost season back on track.  Rumors around the team suggest that the winger, a Rhode Island native whom the Badgers hoped would become a face of the franchise, is struggling with the weight of expectations and has been drinking and partying to excess to relieve some of the stress.  According to those rumors, his “oversleeping” on Monday was actually the result of a hangover.

Estabrook denied that specific charge, although he was vague on the subject of his late-night habits.  “It’s been a hard time for me all around,” he admitted.  “I’m not going to respond to rumors or anonymous quotes.  The bottom line is, I’ve got to buckle down and get myself straightened out.  That’s all there is to it.”

“Badger Emporium” Thrills Boston Fans

The Boston Badgers are dedicated to providing their fans with “a game-day experience they can’t get just anywhere,” in the words of owner Paul Galette.  In their first week of existence, they’ve managed to do just that thanks to a unique feature at Shawmut Arena: the Badger Emporium.

At first glance, the Emporium – located on the first floor of the arena – appears to be a typical team store, with a variety of Badger apparel and merchandise available for sale.  But the middle of the Emporium contains something quite different from your average store.

The highlight of the display is an enclosure that contains real live badgers, reportedly from the owner’s personal collection.  The enclosure is home to nine badgers in all (as it is well known that nine is the ideal size for a group of badgers).  The accommodations include beds, toys, and exercise equipment.  Fans can watch the badgers at work, rest, and play.  Not only that, they have a chance to feed the badgers (safely, behind a Plexiglas screen).

“The badger is more than just a mascot to us,” said Galette, “but it represents the kind of team we’re putting on the ice: fierce, industrious, and kind of terrifying.  We want to give our fans a chance to see what that’s like.”

Scratch

Next to the enclosure, there are a couple of video games that allow fans to enjoy a more immersive badger experience.  One game, aimed at kids, features Boston’s mascot Scratch.  The fans have the opportunity to dress up scratch in a variety of outfits, from hockey gear to police and fire uniforms to rock star costumes.  Once they’ve got Scratch in an outfit they like, fans can send their creations to their devices or post them on social media.

“My favorite so far was when we had a Fall Out Boy concert just before the start of the season,” said Galette.  “Somebody did three Scratches, which they dressed up like the band members and called them ‘Fall Out Badgers.’  That was fantastic!”

For older kids and adults, there are virtual reality helmets that give fans the chance to experience life as a badger (the animal) or a Badger (the hockey player).  As the animal, they can dig burrows, hunt for food, or spend time with the other members of their clan.  As the player, they get to be on the ice next to actual Boston players, trying to score the winning goal.

“The VR helmets have been a big hit!” said the Badgers owner.  “We actually had to add a couple more because so many people wanted to use them.  I love it because it brings the fans closer to the team and to the animals.”

The fans certainly seem to agree.  11-year-old Jacob Findlay of Peabody, who visited the Emporium between periods of Tuesda’s 4-3 win over Hershey, came away with an ear-to-ear grin.  “I got to feed the badgers, then I scored the game-winning goal on a slapper from the blue line.  It was awesome!”