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.

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Interview of the Week: Brock Manning

This week’s interview is with New York Night C Brock Manning.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week with one of the SHL’s all-time leading scorers, Brock Manning of New York.  Brock, thanks for speaking with us.

Brock Manning

Brock Manning: I’m always happy to get the word out to the fans.

SHLD: It’s been an exciting season for the Night, as it looked for much of the season as though your team might make the postseason for the first time.  In the end, however, [it looks like] you came up a bit short.  How would you assess your season?

BM: Obviously, our goal is to win the Vandy, and we didn’t [probably won’t] even make the playoffs, so we can’t call that a success.  But we’ve reached the point where the other teams have to take us seriously as contenders, and where we take ourselves seriously too.  And that’s a big step.

SHLD: You mention taking yourselves seriously as contenders.  What do you think has been the key to that?

BM: Coach [Nick] Foster deserves a lot of the credit for that.  I know a lot of people think all he does is fire insults at other teams, but within the locker room, he’s really challenged us to get serious about playing as a team and doing what it takes to win.  And some of the more senior guys like myself, he’s challenged us to step up and be leaders, hold each other accountable.

SHLD: And the team has met that challenge?

BM: Yeah, I’d say we have.  Guys used to be focused on themselves and their own stats first, and now we’re thinking more about how we can help the team succeed.  We want the whole to be greater than the sum of our parts.  Before, we were just parts, and we weren’t even trying to fit together.

SHLD: Obviously, Coach Foster has gotten a lot of flak for his comments about other teams, especially Hamilton.  Is that the way he is in the locker room too, or is that just a public show?

BM: A little of both, really.  He takes rivalries seriously, and he encourages us to play with a chip on our shoulder.  We know that because we’re from New York and we’ve got a lot of star players, it’s easy for fans in other cities to hate on us.  We don’t back away from that; we let it fuel us.

SHLD: Especially with your black uniforms, you’ve got a little of that old Oakland Raiders mentality.

BM: That’s the kind of thing we go for, yeah.  But at the same time, some of the crazier stuff [Foster] says?  That’s for the media, mostly.  He likes to call it “laying down cover fire.”  He takes the heat and stirs the pot, and it gives us some space to just play our game.

SHLD: You’re one of the top offensive talents in the SHL, and you have been throughout the history of the league.  However, you’ve always had a reputation as a one-way player, and critics say that New York will never win because your team doesn’t care about defense.  How would you respond to those critics?

BM: I’d say two things.  First, winning hockey games is all about possessing the puck and outscoring your opponent.  There are lots of ways to do that; winning 5-4 counts just the same as winning 1-0.  We play a high-octane style, but as long as we’re keeping the puck in the offensive zone, the other team isn’t scoring.  The second thing is that there are a lot of so-called “hockey purists” who think that winning with defense is the only “real” way to win.  You have to have a team full of battering rams like Michigan or Quebec, clog up the neutral zone, and choke the game to death.  But where’s the fun in that?  Fans have a lot more fun watching our games than a Quebec or Michigan game.

SHLD: One more question: You’re often acclaimed for having the best flow in the league.  Do you have any hair care secrets to share?

BM: (laughs) Thanks!  I guess if I have any secrets, it’s to take care of your hair and it will take care of you.  I use a dry shampoo that my girlfriend turned me onto, and I always condition.  Helmets are tough on hair, obviously, but I do what I can.

SHLD: On that note, we’ll wrap it up for the week.  Thanks for the time, Brock, and good luck the rest of the season!

BM: Just know that we’ll be back next season, and we’ll be dangerous.

2019 SHL Week 13 Transactions

  • On Monday, the Hamilton Pistols demoted RW Michael Jennings to their farm team in Oshawa, and called up D Russ Klemmer from Oshawa.  This move reverses a transaction made at the end of last week, when the Pistols called up Jennings to fill a spot opened up by Claude Lafayette‘s injury.  The return move proved necessary when Oshawa LW Troy Blackwood got hurt, leaving the Drive short a forward.  Jennings’ second stint of the season in Hamilton lasted a grand total of one game; he failed to record a point.
  • On Wednesday, the New York Night activated RW Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek from the injured list.  Trujwirnek was out for the last two and a half weeks with an upper body injury.  His absence was a major blow to the Night’s depth, as he was a key contributor on their second line.  Recently acquired Nori Takoyaki had filled in on the second line during Trujwirnek’s absence.  To make room for Trujwirnek on the roster, the Night sent RW Sylvester Catarino to their farm team in Utah.  The 22-year-old Catarino, a New York native, was a fan favorite, but struggled to put up the numbers to keep himself in the lineup.  In 34 games with New York this season, Catarino registered 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) and a +4 rating.
  • On Friday, the Pistols activated G Lasse Koskinen from the injured list.  It’s not a moment too soon for Hamilton, which has been treading water in the absence of their starting netminder.  The 22-year-old Koskinen posted a 17-10-2 record with a 2.30 GAA and a .922 save percentage prior to his injury.  With Koskinen returning, the Pistols returned G Hector Orinoco to Oshawa.  The 23-year-old Orinoco went 2-0-0 with a 2.00 GAA and an .878 save percentage during his stint with Hamilton.
  • On Saturday, the Kansas City Smoke demoted RW Adriaen van der Veen to their CHL affiliate in Omaha, and promoted RW Andrew “Lucky” Fortuno from Omaha.  This transaction reversed a move the Smoke made right after the All-Star break, when they sent Fortuno down and called van der Veen up.  In 18 games with Kansas City, van der Veen put up only 3 points (2 goals, 1 assists) while recording a -14 rating.  Fortuno started the season with the Smoke, and was demoted after recording 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) in 24 games.

2019 SHL Week 11 Transactions

  • On Monday, the Quebec Tigres activated D Ward Jones from the disabled list.  Jones had missed more than a month with an upper-body that he suffered before the All-Star break.  To make room for Jones on the active roster, the Tigres reassigned D Serge Rimbaud to their farm team in Maine.  The 18-year-old Rimbaud appeared in 13 games with Quebec, recording 8 assists and a +1 rating.
  • Also on Monday, the Hamilton Pistols placed goaltender Lasse Koskinen on the disabled list.  Koskinen suffered an upper-body injury during Sunday’s 7-4 win over New York.  He is expected to miss 2 to 3 weeks, a serious blow for a Pistols team that is trying to snatch a playoff spot in the East.  To replace Koskinen, the Pistols called up Hector Orinoco from their affiliate in Oshawa.  The 23-year-old Orinoco has gone 13-11-0 with a 2.69 GAA and a .902 save percentage with Oshawa this season.
  • On Tuesday, the Tigres placed LW Stellan Fisker on the disabled list.  Fisker suffered an upper-body injury during the Tigres’ 3-0 win over Hershey.  He is expected to miss 3 to 4 weeks.  To replace Fisker on the roster, the Tigres called up LW Carl Bleyer from their farm team in Maine.  Bleyer has put up 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists) with the Moose on the year.
  • Wednesday was the trading deadline. The following trades were consummated at the deadline:
    • The New York Night traded RW Mickey Simpson, D Andy Ruger, and a 3rd-round draft pick to the Washington Galaxy for RW Nori Takoyaki.  (More details here.)  After making the trade, the Night promoted D Craig Werner from their farm team in Utah and signed D Sheldon Harville to a minor-league contract.
    • The Galaxy traded Ruger to the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for a 3rd-round pick.
    • The Michigan Gray Wolves traded RW Cleo Rodgers, G Gus Parrish, and a 2nd-round pick to the Smoke in exchange for LW Kevin Starkey and D Scott Hexton.  (More details here.) After the trade, Kansas City called up Parrish and LW Veikko Sikanen from their CHL affiliate in Omaha, and demoted G Jim Fleetwood to Omaha. They also released G Toby Kemper.  Meanwhile, Michigan released D Igor Shovshenkov, demoted F Yann Eberlein to their affiliate in Cleveland, and signed Kemper to a minor-league deal.
    • The Saskatchewan Shockers traded C Tanner Brooks to the Dakota Jackalopes in exchange for D Rusty Anderson. (More details here.) After the trade, the Shockers demoted D Valeri Nistrumov to their farm team in Virginia.  They also released D Knute Skoeglin and signed F Marvin Cascio to a minor-league deal.
    • The Hamilton Pistols traded C Pat Collistone, D Buster Kratz, and a 1st-round pick to the Galaxy in exchange for C Eddie Costello.  (More details here.) After the trade, the Pistols called up D Russ Klemmer from their CHL affiliate in Oshawa, and demoted RW Michael Jennings to Oshawa.  They also signed D Gresham Sourwine to a minor-league contract.  The Galaxy demoted Kratz to their affiliate in Baltimore and promoted C Tucker Barnhill from Baltimore.  They also released D Sheldon Harville.
    • The Quebec Tigres traded D Kirby Hanlon, C Jacob Cunniff, and a 1st-round pick to the Jackalopes in exchange for D Matt Cherner.  (More details here.) After the trade, Dakota released RW Omar Zdurchek; Quebec then signed him to a minor-league deal.
    • Finally, the Seattle Sailors traded D Serkan Mratic to the Galaxy for D Stan Gallagher.  (More details here.)
  • On Saturday, the Jackalopes activated D Rodney Black from the injured list.  Black, who was sidelined in only his second SHL game, missed two and a half weeks with an upper-body injury. Since Dakota was one player short of the roster limit, they did not make a corresponding move.
  • Also on Saturday, the Hershey Bliss placed LW Lance Sweet on long-term injured reserve.  Sweet was carried off the ice on a stretcher after being crunched into the boards late in the second period during Saturday’s 6-3 win over Saskatchewan.  Sweet underwent surgery on his right leg, and is expected to be out for the rest of the season.  To fill Sweet’s roster spot, Hershey called up D Seth Dowd from their CHL affiliate in Milwaukee.  The 33-year-old Dowd, who last played in the SHL in 2016, recorded 27 points with Milwaukee this season.

Night Strike First, Acquire Takoyaki from Galaxy

With the SHL trade deadline approaching on Wednesday, the New York Night made the first move.  With the team’s grip on a playoff spot slipping and with a crucial injury on the right wing, the Night picked up RW Nori Takoyaki from the Washington Galaxy in exchange for RW Mickey Simpson, D Andy Ruger, and a 3rd-round draft pick.

“Being hard up against the cap, there was only so much we could do,” said Night GM Royce McCormick.  “But we saw a need, and we were able to fill it fairly cheaply.”

Takoyaki, who is the SHL’s only player of Japanese ancestry, had played with the Galaxy since the SHL’s beginning.  He continued to produce solid numbers (6 goals, 15 assists) even in the midst of a disappointing season in the nation’s capital.  He has a reputation as a weak defender, but he’ll fit right in with the Night’s shoot-first philosophy.  With New York, Takoyaki will plug immediately into the open right-wing slot on the second line, which became vacant when Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek went down with a lower-body injury at the end of last week.

“Obviously, we all want Trainwreck to get healthy and get back in the lineup as soon as possible,” said Night coach Nick Foster.  “But with Tako here, he should help us keep humming and keep the wins rolling in.”

When Trujwirnek returns, Takoyaki is expected to slot in on the third line, where Sylvester Catarino has struggled this season.  “The deeper we are, the better we are,” said Foster.

The 22-year-old Simpson is the prize of the deal for Washington.  Simpson has shuttled back and forth between the Night and their farm team in Utah this season.  In 10 games with New York, Simpson recorded 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) and a -5 rating.

“Right now, we’re a team in transition,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams.  “We’re focused on picking up prospects and giving our young guys some opportunities to shine.  We’ll miss Tako and everything he did for our team.  But I can’t wait to see what Mickey can do for us.”

The 30-year-old Ruger was a solid defender for the Night (he put up 4 points and a +2 rating in 11 games this season), but he was included solely to help the deal fit under the salary cap for the Night.  The Galaxy also retained $500,000 of Takoyaki’s salary for this reason.

Immediately after the deal was completed, Washington turned around and dealt Ruger to the perpetually defense-starved Kansas City Smoke in exchange for future considerations.

2019 SHL Week 10 Transactions

  • On Saturday, the Hershey Bliss placed D Steve Cargill on the disabled list.  Cargill, who has had a sensational rookie season and played his way onto Hershey’s top pairing, was crunched hard into the boards during the third period of Saturday’s 6-4 win over Boston, and did not return.  He was diagnosed with an upper-body injury that is expected to keep him out for 3 to 4 weeks.  To replace Cargill on the roster, the Bliss promoted LW Gabriel Swindonburg from their CHL affiliate in Milwaukee.  The 20-year-old Swindonburg, who was Hershey’s first-round draft pick this season, has scored 22 goals (tied ofr the CHL lead) with Milwaukee, and earned a trip to the CHL All-Star Game.
  • Also on Saturday, the New York Night placed RW Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek on the disabled list.  Trujwirnek suffered a lower-body injury while blocking a shot during the Night’s 7-4 loss against Hamilton.  Trujwirnek’s situation is described as “week-to-week.”  With Trujwirnek on the shelf, New York recalled RW Mickey Simpson from their farm team in Utah,  Its the second stint in New York for Simpson, who was called up during LW Lee Fleming‘s injury back in late January.
  • On Saturday, the Hamilton Pistols terminated the contract of LW Diego Garcia.  The 26-year-old winger had been playing with Hamilton’s CHL team in Oshawa.  After being bench due to a disagreement with Oshawa coach Harvey Williams, Garcia left the team.  The Pistols deemed him in breach of contract.  More on the story here.

Bliss, Night Get Nasty in Division Showdown

The Eastern Division race is as hot as it gets right now.  With the trading deadline coming next week, both playoff spots are up for grabs, and four of the division’s six teams have a real shot at the postseason.  With such a fierce and wide-open competition, the stakes of each game are heightened – especially when two contenders face off.

Sunday’s game between the Hershey Bliss and New York Night was a case in point.  Neither team is particularly known for playing rough; they generally focus on scoring rather than fighting.  But this time, they produced a notably chippy, nasty game in a 5-2 Hershey win.  If this is a preview of coming attractions down the stretch, the East could be in for a wild ride.

“There was a lot of hate out there on the ice today,” said Night D Dominic Sanchez.  “It was fun and scary at the same time.”

This was the back end of a home-and-home between the Night and Bliss, who entered the game tied for first place in the East.  Hershey came into the game hungry for revenge: New York had won Saturday’s game 3-2 at the Chocolate Center, handing the Bliss there fourth straight loss.

Nick Foster

And per his usual, Night coach Nick Foster rubbed salt in the wound during his postgame press conference.  Foster, who has ridiculed the Bliss as soft all season, came to the podium holding a roll of Charmin.  “I brought this because it reminds me of Hershey,” said Foster.  “It’s really soft, easy to squish, and I love wiping my [butt] with it.”

Foster’s jibe riled up the Bliss clubhouse, which made it clear that they were going to respond physically.  “We’ll show Foster who’s really soft,” one Hershey player said.

Sure enough, less than two and a half minutes into the game, Bliss D Steve Cargill dropped the gloves with New York blueliner Donald Duckworth.  The two traded blows until Cargill wrestled Duckworth to the ice – no small task given Duckworth’s rugged physique.  Both sides smacked their sticks on the boards in appreciation.  The Bliss had made their point; outside observers might have assumed that was the end of hostilities.  In fact, though, said hostilities were just beginning.

A couple minutes after the Cargill-Duckworth scrap, Bliss LW Russell Nahorniak hit Night star Brock Manning with a high stick, opening a gash next to Manning’s left eye.  Nahorniak claimed the high stick was accidental; the Night insisted it was intentional, and called for the Hershey winger to be ejected.  Nahorniak received a double minor instead.

Manning dashed into the locker room to be patched up, then returned and scored a game-tying power-play goal, then pointed at Nahorniak.  (Manning finished out the first period, but did not return to the ice after that; he also missed the following two games.)

Not to be outdone, Hershey proceeded to score a pair of goals a little more than two minutes apart.  Each time, their celebration “coincidentally” wound up in front of the Night bench.

A couple minutes after that, New York C Tom Hoffman avenged Manning by ramming the butt end of his stick into Nahorniak’s stomach in the middle of a scrum in front of the Hershey net.  That earned Hoffman a double minor penalty of his own.  The Night committed a couple more penalties before the period ended, but the score remained the same.

Tensions didn’t ease in the second period.  After only 46 seconds, Night D Andy Ruger challenged Cargill to another fight.  Cargill gladly accepted the challenge; this time, Ruger got the better end, bloodiyng Cargill rather badly.  Both players received majors for their trouble.

Less than a minute after that bout, Bliss C Vance Ketterman scored to make it 4-1.  With the competitive portion of the game essentially over, both teams turned the physicality up even further.

Night D Rocky Winkle enraged Hershey by spearing Bliss C Spencer Kirkpatrick in the groin.  This time, it was Hershey calling for Winkle to be ejected; instead, he received a double minor.  Bliss RW Remi Montrechere upset New York with a high stick that nearly caught Night C Rod Remington in the teeth.

Early in the third period, Hershey LW Lance Sweet dumped New York LW Chase Winchester into the boards with a hard cross-check.  The Night were angered that Sweet received only a two-minute penalty, instead of a major or an ejection.  On the ensuing power play, Duckworth and Winkle combined on a score; they celebration by flashing their middle fingers at the Hershey bench.  They weren’t penalized, but Bliss D Reese Milton earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty a little bit later for squirting his water bottle at the New York bench.

The rest of the game unfolded with a slew of hard checks and minor penalties, but no major conflagrations.  After the game ended, both teams dissolved into a fit of pushing and shoving that didn’t quite turn into a line brawl.

After the team, both teams pointed fingers at their opponents.  Bliss coach Chip Barber focused on the two Night spearing penalties.  “Butt-ending is one of the dirtiest plays in hockey, and everyone knows it,” said Barber.  “Normally, you might get two of those [penalties] in a year.  But two in one game?  That’s just ugly hockey.”

Foster, meanwhile, noted the attack against some of his top players.  “I know [the Bliss are] desperate to show me how tough they are,” the New York coach quipped, “but this is ridiculous.  They tried to take Brock’s head off, then they tried to put Chase in a wheelchair.  Okay, we get it, you’re big tough boys.  Now put your [genitals] away and play some hockey next time.”

The league declined to hand out any supplemental discipline, but Commissioner Perry Mitchell warned that they wouldn’t be so lenient next time.  “We know that emotions run high in games like this,” Mitchell said in a statement.  “But there’s a line between good hard hockey and dirty hockey, and both teams came too close to that line.  If it happens again, the league will act appropriately.”

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