CHL Update: Minnesota Drink Promo Gets Cold Reception

When you’re a minor-league sports team, getting attention by any means is the name of the game.  That’s what the CHL’s Minnesota Freeze were thinking when they started dreaming up promotions for their inaugural season.

“Anything we can do that will get attention, that will get tweeted, that will go viral,” said Freeze GM Kent Rivers.  “As long as it’s not illegal, I’m in.”

With that goal in mind, Rivers and his staff took notice when Starbucks launched its short-lived Unicorn Frappuccino.  The brightly-colored, flavor-changing drink caused a sensation on social media when it appeared in April.  “We thought, why not do something like that?” said Rivers.

With that in mind, the team developed a slushy beverage called the “Freeze Freeze”, or “Freeze Squared.”  Like the Unicorn Frappuccino, the Freeze Squared changes colors and flavors as it’s consumed, from the dark blue of Minnesota’s home uniforms to the pale blue of the “Freeze” wordmark.  The drink starts out sour and then becomes sweet.

Similar to the Starbucks beverage, the team planned to make the Freeze Squared available for a limited time; in this case, for one home game a month.  “Part of what made the Unicorn Frappuccino so exciting was that you could only get it for a few days,” said Rivers.  “We wanted to capture that same sense of excitement.”

The Freeze Squared made its debut this week, for Minnesota’s game against Virginia on Saturday.  The promotion had the intended effect: the game sold out, and social media flooded with pictures of the drink and fans holding it.

However, once the fans actually began sampling the drinks, the comments were less favorable.  Reviews of the taste ranged from “nasty” to “tasted like seal puke” to “this is poison… u trying to poison us???”

Rivers acknowledged that “manufacturing errors” had led to an adverse change in the quality of the drinks.  “When we tested the samples, they tasted fine,” said the Minnesota GM.  “I don’t know if they had trouble scaling up or if they tweaked the recipe or what, but it definitely wasn’t supposed to taste like that.”

The team has cancelled plans to offer the drink at future games, at least until they can improve the recipe.  In the meantime, fans who were unhappy with the drink can submit proof of purchase to the team and will receive a ticket to a future Freeze game and a concession credit.

CHL Update: Baltimore Bus Breakdown Ends Badly

Life in the minor leagues isn’t always glamorous.  The CHL’s Baltimore Blue Claws learned that lesson the hard way this week, as they saw a simple bus ride turn into an ordeal that nearly ended in tragedy for one player.

On Monday, the Blue Claws played the Cleveland Centurions on the road and lost 2-1.  The next night, they had a game at Harborside Arena.  Rather than spend an extra night in the hotel and fly back the next morning, the Blue Crabs faced a six-hour overnight bus ride to get back to Baltimore.

Unsurprisingly, the long ride after a loss already had the team in a bad mood.  But things went from bad to worse when the bus broke down outside of Pittsburgh at about 3:00 in the morning.

“A lot of guys were asleep,” said Blue Claws RW Alberto Fedregotti. “All of a sudden, the bus started making these terrible noises and we started to slow down.  You could just hear everybody start to groan.  We were thinking maybe we would need to hitchhike back to Baltimore.”

It took over an hour to summon a tow truck, and another forty minutes for a replacement bus to arrive.  The team did not make it back home until around 10 in the morning, as the players staggered back to their houses for a few hours of shut-eye before reporting back to the arena for the game.

When they arrived, they received more bad news: The tow truck that hauled off the original bus got into an accident, causing the bus to plunge into the Allegheny River.  Many of the Blue Crabs’ personal effects were still on the bus, so several players groused about the loss of their sticks, clothes, or jewelry.

Mr. Fluffykins

D Sheldon Harville, however, feared for the loss of something even more precious: his childhood teddy bear, Mr. Fluffykins.  Harville brought Mr. Fluffykins with him on every road trip he’d been on since high school as a good-luck charm.  The bond between the two was practically unbreakable.

When he heard that his precious bear was likely lost, Harville “started having, like, a panic attack.  I knew the guys would give me all kinds of grief if they found out what was up, though, so I tried to play it cool.  But I was freaking out at the thought of not having Mr. Fluffykins anymore.  He’s been with me so long that he’s like family.  I’m supposed to be preparing for the game, and all I can think about is trying not to bust out crying.”

Fortunately, though, the story has a happy ending.  The bus was rescued from the river and Mr. Fluffykins was retrieved, a little wet but none the worse for wear.  “Thank God Mr. Fluffykins was okay,” said Harville.  “If I’d lost him, I might have had to quit hockey.”

And despite their nightmarish bus ride and fitful sleep, the Blue Crabs managed to win that night’s game against the Oshawa Drive, 3-2.  “It’s not really the kind of situation you can plan for,” said coach Roland Tedesco.  “You can plan for what to do if your star player gets hurt or something.  You don’t really have a plan for what to do when your team bus breaks down and one of your guys loses his lucky teddy bear.  This is a strange life sometimes.”


CHL Update: Knorr Scores 4 for Maine

Aaron Knorr

Two weeks into the first season of the Continental Hockey League, the SHL’s minor league, Maine Moose LW Aaron Knorr has made history.  In Friday’s 8-2 pounding of the Baltimore Blue Crabs, Knorr became the first player in SHL or CHL history to score four goals in a game.  For Knorr, who had scored only three goals on the season prior to this game, it was a night to remember.

“This was the game of my life,” said Knorr.  “I never scored four in a game before.  Not in juniors, not even in pee wee.  It seemed like I couldn’t miss.”

Knorr first got on the board a little more than eight minutes into the 1st period, with Baltimore ahead 1-0.  Knorr got on an odd-man rush with teammates Richard McKinley and Jacob Cunniff.  Cunniff deked a shot in the high slot, then flicked a pass to Knorr, who buried it just under the crossbar to tie the game up at one.

Knorr’s second tally came on a power play in the 2nd.  D Kirby Hanlon fed Knorr in the left faceoff circle, and the winger blistered a slapshot just over Baltimore goalie Jean-Luc Menard’s catching glove to give the Moose a 2-1 lead.

Three and a half minutes later, Knorr banked home a rebound off Menard to complete the hat trick.  Since few of the Baltimore fans were willing to toss their hats in on the ice to recognize Knorr’s feat, several of his teammates flung their helmets on the ice instead.

Then with just over three minutes remaining in the 2nd, Blue Crabs LW Alan Youngman went to the box for elbowing.  On the ensuing power play, Knorr slipped one between Menard’s pads for goal #4.  Disgruntled Blue Crabs fans responded to Knorr’s triumph with a hail of boos and a cascade of half-full beer cups.

“I think that’s the traditional celebration when you get four,” quipped Knorr.  “When you get three, everyone throws their hats.  When you get four, everyone throws their beer.”

Moose coach Barney Flintridge said that he was surprised but not shocked by Knorr’s achievement.  “I mean, you wouldn’t expect to see four in a game.  But if anyone could do it, it’s Aaron.  He’s one of the best pure shooters in the entire league.

Miroslav Novotny

Knorr wasn’t the only Maine player to achieve a landmark accomplishment on Friday, however.  Teammate Miroslav Novotny achieved what is known in hockey lore as a “Gordie Howe hat trick”: a goal (on a slapshot with four minutes left in the 2nd), an assist (feeding C Leo Rozmirovich five minutes into the 3rd), and a fight (dropping gloves with Baltimore D Woody Fairwood midway through the 3rd).

“Honestly, I think what Miroslav did is the bigger accomplishment,” said Knorr.  “To get the Gordie Howe hat trick, you need to be strong in all parts of the game: you’ve got to be able to shoot, pass, and fight.”

CHL Update: Meloche Fights His Way to Spotlight

The SHL’s new minor league, the Continental Hockey League, has completed its first week of play.  So far, there aren’t any dominant teams, top-flight goal scorers, or dominant netminders.  In general, the league’s leaders have yet to emerge… except one.

Cedric Meloche

When it comes to penalty minutes, there’s an undisputed leader: Albuquerque Screaming Eagles defenseman Cedric Meloche.  In his first five games, Meloche has already racked up 26 penalty minutes, twice as many as his nearest competitor.  He has earned that lofty total largely through his fists, as he has already gotten into four fights.

“I like to fight,” Meloche admitted cheerfully.

The 20-year-old attributes his professional success to his pugilistic abilities.  “When i we were young, we all wanted to be hockey players,” said Meloche.  “But I was a little guy and could not skate too fast or shoot too good, so I had to fight.  I learned to fight good, so I moved up.”

It took all of 42 seconds for Meloche to get into his first professional bout against the Minnesota Freeze.  When Freeze D “Chilly Willy” Calligan gave Eagles C Vance Ketterman a hard check into his own bench, Meloche took exception and clocked Calligan in the chest, touching off a donnybrook.  Late in the third period, it was Calligan’s turn to take umbrage after Meloche enthusiastically fouled a couple Minnesota players, and the two wound up throwing hands again.

On Saturday, Meloche against fought twice in the Eagles’ game against the Muncie Squirrels.  In the first period, Squirrels C Britt Cadmium leveled Eagles RW Ashton Starhawk with a vicious hit that was not penalized.  Meloche responded by hauling Cadmium down from behind.  Surprised and irked, Cadmium bounced up and stared Meloche down yelling, “You wanna go, little man?”  Meloche replied, “Yes, I wish to go!”  They proceeded to drop gloves and trade blows, with Meloche bloodying Cadmium’s nose before they could be separated.

Two periods later, Meloche and Muncie D Zander Phthalo began jostling vigorously during a faceoff.  The jostling escalated to shoving and then to punching, and Meloche wrestled Phthalo to the ground before they were separated by the referees.

After Saturday’s slugfest, league officials threatened to suspend Meloche if he continued racking up fighting majors at this rate.  Eagles coach Butch Slazenger, recognizing Meloche’s value to the team, also counseled his blueliner to rein it in.  “I love Cedric Meloche,” said Slazenger.  “He’s my favorite player.  And all the guys love that he has their back.  But he’s not just a goon.  He’s strong on both ends, and we can’t afford to have him suspended.  So I told him to pump the brakes a bit.  Try not to get into multiple fights in a game, watch out for instigator penalties, stuff like that.  Don’t give them an excuse to suspend you, because we need you.”

Meloche said he will try to heed his coach’s advice.  “I always play the way I play,” said Meloche, “so I will stand up for my team and fight.  But I know it is bad if they throw me out, so I will maybe not fight so much.  I want to do the best thing for my team.”