- On Monday, the Dakota Jackalopes activated C Tanner Brooks from the injured list. Shortly before the All-Star break, Brooks suffered an upper-body injury. Although the injury initially did not seem that serious, Brooks wound up missing over three weeks. As the Jackalopes had an available roster spot, they did not need to make a compensating move to activate Brooks.
- Also on Monday, the Hershey Bliss‘ CHL affiliate in Milwaukee placed LW Karl Gjovik on the injured list. Gjovik exited in the first period of Sunday’s 3-1 win over Cleveland after being upended on a devastating check, and did not return. He is expected to miss at least two weeks. To replace Gjovik, Milwaukee signed F Jerry Cazenovia to a short-term contract.
- On Wednesday, the Hamilton Pistols activated C Marco Venezio from the injured list. The veteran center missed 10 games with a lower=body injury suffered just before the All-Star break. In order to make room for Venezio, the Pistols reassigned C Hilliard Macy to their CHL affiliate in Oshawa, and released F Bobby Warner from Oshawa.
- Wednesday was the trading deadline. The following trades were consummated at the deadline:
- The Michigan Gray Wolves traded RW Gordon Lunsford to the Boston Badgers for RW Rory Socarra. (More details here.) After the trade, Boston demoted RW Felix Delorme to their CHL affiliate in Hartford, and recalled F Jacques Bacon from Hartford.
- The Gray Wolves traded LW Misha Petronov, F Cary Estabrook, and D Brandon Arrowood to the New York Night for LW Flynn Danner, F Henry Constantine, and D Anson Brank. (More details here.) After the trade, Michigan demoted LW Fendrick Scanlan to their CHL affiliate in Cleveland, and New York promoted RW Harris Wondolowski from their affiliate in Utah.
- The Dakota Jackalopes traded D Victor Addison to Boston in exchange for D Jackson Creed. After the trade, the Badgers demoted D Bjorn Tollefson to their minor-league affiliate in Hartford.
- Michigan traded C Warren Marlow to the Quebec Tigres in exchange for C Phil Miller, LW Carl Bleyer, and a 1st-round draft pick. (More details here.) After the trade, the Gray Wolves released F Caleb Moulton. The Tigres demoted C Dwight Flynn to their CHL affiliate in Halifax, and signed F Tim Daisey to a minor-league deal.
- On Saturday, the Anchorage Igloos recalled RW Jean Pierre Fleury from their CHL affiliate in Minnesota. The Igloos demoted Fleury to Minnesota during the All-Star break, and he played brilliantly there, recording 19 points in 12 games, including the CHL’s first-ever five-goal game. To make room for Fleury, the Igloos reassigned RW Lionel LaNeige to Minnesota.
- Michigan Gray Wolves fan dj114 on Instagram, reacting to a particularly brilliant save by goalie Dirk Lundquist during Tuesday’s game against Anchorage. Michigan wound up losing in overtime, 2-1.
According to New York Night GM Jay McKay, letting LW Misha Petronov leave in free agency was his biggest mistake. Petronov spent three seasons in New York, but after a mildly disappointing 2019 season, the Night allowed him to walk away and sign a 2-year, $2 million contract with the Michigan Gray Wolves. But Petronov rebounded toward his career norms in Michigan, while New York has badly missed his production on the wing. So McKay reversed his mistake on Wednesday, re-acquiring Petronov from the Wolves, along with F Cary Estabrook and D Brandon Arrowood, in exchange for LW Flynn Danner, F Henry Constantine, and D Anson Brank.
‘We knew we wanted some help on the second line,” said McKay. “And we talked about a number of guys, but in the end I kept coming back to Misha. He’s a guy we know and he’s a good fit for our team, so why not bring him back? Then it was just a matter of making the salaries work.”
In 42 games with the Wolves, Petronov put up 31 points (9 goals, 22 assists) and a team-leading +12 rating. He has generally been less involved on the defensive end and along the boards, which made him a somewhat awkward fit in Michigan’s style of play, but suits New York’s run-and-gun approach perfectly.
McKay said that the winger will slot right back into his old slot on the second line, beside C Rod Remington and RW Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek. “I am glad to be back with my old friends,” said Petronov. “It will be just like my former times again.”
Along with Petronov, the Night acquired a couple young players with potential upside. The 25-year-old Estabrook was the first player signed by the Boston Badgers. He has struggled to convert on his potential in the SHL, due both to the lingering effects of a knee injury he suffered in college and his struggles with alcohol and conditioning. He signed with Michigan in the offseason, and clashed with then-coach Ron Wright virtually from the beginning. He appeared in only 10 games with the Wolves, failing to record a point, and then he was banished to the minors. McKay said that Estabrook would be assigned to New York’s farm team in Utah initially, but he would be called up before the end of the season.
“We believe that Cary has a lot to offer this club,” McKay told reporters, “And I’m a big believer in second chances, and Cary deserves one.”
Arrowood, meanwhile, is a 24-year-old offensive-minded defenseman. He has shown a consistent scoring touch in the minors, but his deficiencies on the defensive end have prevented him from earning a call-up to the majors.
In exchange, New York gave up a pair of prospects that should aid the Wolves as they move into a rebuilding phase. Danner is a 24-year-old winger who has produced regular 50-point seasons in the minors. He made his SHL debut this season and produced promising results, with 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) and a +6 rating in 28 games with New York. He showed some upside on defense as well, with 23 blocks.
“Flynn checks a lot of the boxes we’re looking for,” said Michigan GM Tim Carrier. “He’s a strong 200-foot skater, he can create his own shot, and he puts in good effort on defense.”
Brank, meanwhile, is a 20-year-old blueliner who was drafted by the Night two years ago. He lost a position battle in training camp, but he produced strong numbers in Utah, putting up 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) in 41 games.
Michigan also adds Constantine, a veteran on an expiring contract who can play any forward position. He should be able to fill in an provide some short-term offensive help for the Wolves.
While the Wolves are looking to the long term, the Night are focused on the present. McKay came up with a typically creative trade to bolster their offense. Given the crowded playoff picture in the East, however, the GM will need to hope that neither Danner nor Brank gives him a reason to regret this deal down the road.
At the trading deadline, the Quebec Tigres found themselves where they’ve been most of the season: within striking distance of a playoff spot, but not quite there. Faced with a small but persistent gap between them and the Hershey Bliss, GM Pete Gondret decided not to waste time upgrading around the margins, and instead made a big-ticket acquisition, landing C Warren Marlow from the Michigan Gray Wolves in exchange for C Phil Miller, LW Carl Bleyer, and their first-round draft pick.
“We had the chance for a big move, and we took it,” said Gondret. “Life is too short for weak measures.”
Gondret said that he’d originally engaged Michigan about acquiring veteran winger Todd Douglas, who would have provided some depth scoring for the Tigres. But as they talked, Wolves GM Tim Carrier mentioned that Marlow was available. “And then I heard the angels singing in my ear,” the Quebec GM said with a laugh. “This was a player I have always wanted.”
Center has long been a weak spot for the Tigres, and the 34-year-old Marlow provides a reliable option to fill that need. He has been a consistent two-way threat, averaging about 20 goals per season and providing stout defense. He’s lost a step with age, but he still recorded 19 points (11 goals, 8 assists) with Michigan so far this season. With the Wolves failing to contend this season, they chose to move on from their veteran center.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision to part with Warren,” said Carrier. “He’s given so much to this team over the years. We wouldn’t have won the Vandy [in 2016] without him. But we’re at a stage where we need to get younger, and we had a chance to get a top pick and a prospect. I couldn’t say no to that.”
For his part, Marlow is happy to join the contending Tigres. “Obviously, in Michigan for so many years, we were always in the playoff hunt,” said the center. “And as a player, you get used to that. Being able to get back to a contending team… that’s huge for me. I’m looking forward to helping bring the Vandy to Quebec.”
In the 21-year-old Bleyer, Michigan acquires a promising young winger. He has appeared in a total of 14 games for Quebec over the past two seasons, recording a goal and an assist. With the Tigres’ farm team in Halifax, Bleyer has produced 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 30 games.
“Carl is a prototype Michigan Gray Wolves player,” said Carrier. “He’s good on defense, he’s a hard worker, and he knows how to score. I think he’s going to be a big contributor for us down the road.”
As for Miller, he was primarily thrown in for salary-cap reasons, but it represents another stop for the well-traveled journeyman. Michigan is the sixth SHL team for which the 31-year-old Miller has played in his career. This is the third time that he has changed teams at the trade deadline, having gone from Saskatchewan to Dakota in 2016 and Kansas City to Quebec in 2018.
Miller struggled badly with the Tigres this season, recording only 2 assists and a -10 rating in 27 games before being sent down to the minors.
Regarding his latest relocation, Miller displayed a sense of humor when speaking with reporters about the deal.
“At this point, I keep my suitcase packed around the deadline, because I just assume I’m going somewhere,” said the veteran. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s this; don’t buy any green bananas.”
- On Wednesday, the Michigan Gray Wolves‘ CHL affiliate in Cleveland placed D Gil Calvert on the injured list. The 21-year-old Calvert showed a surprising scoring upside this season, with 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) in 38 games. To fill Calvert’s spot on the roster, Cleveland signed free-agent D Davis McNeely. The blueliner is the younger brother of Washington Galaxy star Jefferson McNeely.
- On Friday, the Quebec Tigres activated D Kevin Buchanan from the injured list. Buchanan has struggled to stay healthy this time around, he missed over a month with an upper-body injury. Injuries have limited the veteran blueliner to just 14 games so far this season. To acccommodate Buchanan’s return to the roster, the Tigres sent D Boris Zhzhynov to their CHL affiliate in Halifax. Zhzhynov appeared in just 5 games for Quebec this season, and did not record a point. In order to make room on Halifax’s roster, the team released D Igor Shovshenkov.
- On Saturday, the Wolves’ Cleveland affiliate activated RW Boris Badenov from the injured list. The winger went down with a lower-body injury before the All-Star break. In order to make room for Badenov on the roster, assistant coach Glenn Reichler, who briefly un-retired to fill Badenov’s roster spot, returned to his bench duties. The 35-year-old Reichler appeared in 8 games for Cleveland, recording two assists.
- Also on Saturday, the Dakota Jackalopes demoted D Victor Addison to their farm team in Idaho. This move was not made due to dissatisfaction with Addison’s performance, but rather due to a blueline shortage on the farm. Idaho is currently missing Ds Rusty Sienna and Clark Blanchard, both day-to-day with injuries. Rather than sign a player to a short-term deal to fill the spot, the cost-conscious Jackalopes sent Addison down to fill the gap. Addison has appeared in 19 games for Dakota so far this season, recording 7 assists.
This week’s interview is with Michigan Gray Wolves interim head coach Roger Stackledge.
SHL Digest: We’re here this week with Roger Stackledge, who was named head coach in Michigan after Ron Wright‘s abrupt and shocking resignation in midseason. Roger, thanks for talking with us.
Roger Stackledge: Hey, sure. Glad to be here.
SHLD: So, we have to ask: was Coach Wright’s resignation as big a shock to you as it was to us?
RS: Oh, yeah, you bet. I’d talked to him and I knew he wasn’t happy, but I never would have seen that coming.
SHLD: So you didn’t know ahead of time that this was coming?
RS: No, no way. He called me after, and he said, “So I just quit. I told them that they should hire you.” And I paused for a minute and said, “Well, that’s something. Thanks, I guess.”
SHLD: So how did you deal with that unexpected news?
RS: Well, for one thing, I was glad I had the All-Star break to prepare. I took a couple days to call all the guys and say, “Okay, this isn’t what we thought was going to happen, but we’re going to move forward, and I’m going to need your help.” I’ve been the assistant here for a couple seasons, so I wasn’t coming in cold.
SHLD: And how are the players taking it?
RS: They’ve been great. They were shocked, obviously, but they know we’ve got a job to do. And that’s what I’m focused on: getting us to the playoffs.
SHLD: So you still like your playoff chances?
RS: Hey, why not? We’ve got a strong veteran core, and we’re not just going to mail it in the rest of the year. We’re going to stay in the battle.
SHLD: What do you think you need to do to catch up in the race?
RS: Obviously, our offense is the big issue. When I took over, I made a couple changes in try to get a spark. But really, the key is to be smart, be agressive, and look for our shot.
SHLD: Tell us a little bit about your career.
RS: Well, I was a stay-home defenseman in my playing days. Big surprise, right? I’m built like a fire hydrant, and I was when I played too. I’ve been coaching for about 20 years now, mostly as an assistant. I’ve been a head coach a couple times in the minors.
SHLD: Ron Wright was famously intense, a disciplinarian. How would you describe your coaching style?
RS: I’m not as intense as Ron is. I don’t think many people are. The way I figure, this is mostly a veteran group here, and they ought to be treated like professionals. Not that I’m trying to be their best buddy or anything, but I think a little lighter touch isn’t a bad thing.
SHLD: When you aren’t coaching, what do you do for hobbies?
RS: I love to fish! I catch walleye, pike, and cod in the lake behind my house. Also, I love to ride my motorcycle. This summer, I’m thinking of riding across Canada.
SHLD: Sounds like fun! Thanks for an interesting interview, and good luck the rest of the season!
RS: Thanks! Should be an interesting ride, no matter what happens.
Michigan Gray Wolves radio announcer Blackie Sprowl puts plenty of color in his color commentary. He has earned a rabid following among Michigan fans, but his blatant homerism and his penchant for jibes at opposing teams and cities have made him considerably less popular elsewhere.
This week, Sprowl made himself a new group of enemies in the SHL’s newest city. The Wolves hosted the Portland Bluebacks at Cadillac Place on Thursday. and Sprowl shared his impressions of the city in a joking rant that inspired condemnation and calls for an apology.
The remarks occurred between periods, as Sprowl was doing a segment with play-by-play man Philip Shelton. Shelton remarked in passing that the had never visited Portland prior to this year, and this set Sprowl off.
“This was my first time there too,” the color man remarked. “And I have to tell you, landing in that city is like landing on another planet.”
“What do you mean by that?” said Shelton suspiciously, already sensing where it was heading.
“Well, for one thing, just try finding a normal meal there,” said Sprowl. “I went out one night, just trying to get a hamburger. And they give me this slab of tofu between blocks of ramen noodles, with… I don’t know, bean sprouts and kale all over it. Then the next morning, I went out to find a café that served bacon and eggs, and all I could find was avocado toast on sprouted-grain bread and espresso-caffe-mocha-lattiatos, or whatever.”
“There are actually a lot of good restaurants in Portland,” Shelton interjected.
“I think the Bluebacks are gonna starve to death before the season’s over, because there’s no real food in that town,” Sprowl continued. “You can’t keep hockey players fed on tofu and avocado toast.”
“Here we go,” said Shelton. “This is going to be like the Anchorage thing all over again. People will be throwing tofu in the arena. Fans, please don’t do that.”
“Also, there aren’t any normal people living there,” Sprowl went on. “Walk down the street, and everybody’s got nose rings and Birkenstocks and beards. The men and women all have beards. Or maybe it’s just men who look like women.”
“We’re going to hear about this,” warned Shelton. “We’re going to get emails.”
“And the tattoos!” Sprowl exclaimed. “What’s with all the tattoos? When I was growing up, it was just sailors and truckers and carny people who had tattoos. But everyone there has them!”
“’Carny people?’” said Shelton quizzically.
“I don’t think they let you move into Portland unless you have a tattoo. It’s a freak show in the streets. In the café I went to, the waitress was a real pretty girl, except for the art show on her arms. It’s like spray-painting graffiti on the Mona Lisa.”
Shelton at this point began a mock disclaimer: “Mr. Sprowl’s views are solely his own, and do not reflect those of the Michigan Gray Wolves or this station.”
Ignoring Shelton, Sprowl concluded: “Apart from being a city full of freaks who eat hippie rabbit chow, Portland’s not bad. And it’s a way shorter flight than Anchorage, so that’s a plus.”
As Shelton anticipated, Sprowl’s comments drew quick condemnation. Leading the way was Bluebacks owner Jared Carmichael, who stood up for his home city. “Blackie Sprowl’s remarks are full of the lazy, stereotypical thinking that too many Americans have about Portland,” said Carmichael. “Granted, I have a beard, I wear Birkenstocks, and I have tattoos. No nose ring, though, so I’m only three-for-four on his stereotype checklist. We may seem ‘weird’ to Sprowl, but we’re proud of it. I’d take our vibrant, artistic, diverse, beautiful, and weird city any day over the regressive, white-bread, 1950s fantasy world of his imagination.”
Portland coach Harold Engellund took a different tack, but expressed similar sentiments. “I’m sure not about to go get a tattoo or a nose ring myself,” Engellund said. “That’s not my style. And a lot of the young folks around Portland don’t look like me or dress like me. But who cares? And why should the young folks care what Blackie or I think? America’s a free country, and that means the freedom to be different. All this talk about who’s ‘real’ and who’s a ‘freak’ is tearing us apart, and I don’t want to hear it.”
Star Bluebacks RW Vince Mango, meanwhile, took a different tack. Mango, a noted foodie, offered to take Sprowl on a food tour of the city. “If he wants hamburgers or bacon and eggs, I can show him where to find those,” said Mango. “But if he’s up for opening his mind a little, I can show him what an amazing food city this is, and how much exciting stuff there is out there. If he can look beyond the tattoos and the one-liners about avocado toast, I can change his life.”
The Wolves issued a statement that said they were “disappointed in Mr. Sprowl’s remarks” and would consider disciplinary action.