Corrigan Loses It Again

If there’s one thing Seattle Sailors coach Stewart “Popeye” Corrigan has become known for in his season-plus on the bench, it’s his explosive temper.  On multiple occasions, Corrigan has boiled over at referees or opposing players, earning himself fines and suspensions in the process.  The coach was at it again this week, getting himself ejected from a game after chucking his bench on the ice.

Stewart “Popeye” Corrigan

The eruption occurred in the 2nd period of Seattle’s game against the Michigan Gray Wolves.  Already trailing 3-0, Corrigan and the Sailors became upset at a perceived imbalance in the calls.  Seattle had just succeeded in killing off a 5-on-3 deficit when, with a little more than 2 minutes left in the period, LW Rod “Money” Argent was whistled for cross-checking.  It was the sixth penalty called on the Sailors, against only one whistled on the Wolves.

The penalty on Argent sent Corrigan over the edge. “Coach felt like Michigan was already strong enough, and it wasn’t fair that they were getting the calls too,” said Sailors D Benny Lambert.  “He started turning redder and redder.”

Corrigan directed a stream of obscenities at head referee Laurent Villiers, who largely ignored him.  But when Wolves C Wesley Knight potted a power play goal 9 seconds later to make it 4-0, the Seattle couldn’t take it any more.  He grabbed hold of one end of the wooden bench (causing several Sailors to scatter) and lifted it in the air before flinging it on the ice.  He followed that up with three or four sticks, at which point Villiers ejected him from the game.

The SHL imposed a one-game suspension on top of the ejection.  “The safety of our players and officials is paramount,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell.  “Flinging projectiles on the ice is unacceptable, as someone could easily have been hurt.  This is not an acceptable way for a coach to express his frustrations, as Coach Corrigan well knows, given the number of discussions we have had about his behavior.  It might be time for the coach to consider anger management counseling.”

The Seattle coach professed to be mystified by the suspension.  “I mean, it’s not like I threw the bench or the sticks at anybody,” said Corrigan.  “I made a point of hurling them at open ice.  What’s wrong with bringing a little color and excitement to a blowout?  And besides, I made my point.”  Corrigan noted that the remaining four penalties in the game were all whistled on the Wolves.  “I don’t think that was a coincidence.”

KC Expansion Team Unveils Name, Staff

The SHL expansion team taking the ice in Kansas City next season officially has a name: the Smoke.  The team also now has a president and a general manager, whom owner Hal Messinger introduced at a ceremony at the KC Live! event pavilion in the city’s downtown Power and Light District on Wednesday.

“We’re taking our first steps toward building a great organization that the whole Kansas City community can get behind,” said Messinger.

The team’s name was chosen from over 1,000 possibilities submitted by the fans.  Smoke won out over four other finalists: Crowns, Burnt Ends, Cougars, and Bluesmen.  The name “Smoke” obviously references Kansas City’s history as a barbecue mecca, but Messinger hopes the name will have a double meaning.  “We hope our players will be like smoke: elusive and hard to get hold of,” the owner said.

In addition to unveiling the team’s logo and distributing free merch to hundreds of excited fans, Messinger also introduced the team’s newly-hired general manager and president.

Garth Melvin

The Smoke’s GM will be veteran hockey executive Garth Melvin.  The 62-year-old Melvin has held various coaching and front-office positions for the last two decades, dating back to a stint as head coach of the ABA’s Long Beach Leopards back in the late ’90s.  Most recently, Melvin has been working in the league office as executive vice president of hockey operations, so he has a good sense of the league and its talent pool.

“I love jazz, blues, and ‘cue, so KC is my kind of town,” said Melvin, to wild applause from the crowd.  “I can’t wait to get to work putting together a team that can bring us home a trophy.”

Eddie Whitmore

Messinger’s choice for team president will make SHL history.  Eddie Whitmore is a Kansas City native who has been working as a vice president for Messinger’s basketball team, the Knights.  With his new position, he becomes the first African-American front-office executive in the SHL.

“When I was a kid growing up in Blue Hills, I never imagined that I would wind up doing something like this,” said Whitmore.  “I can’t even say it’s a dream come true, ’cause I never dreamed this was possible.”

Whitmore hopes to draw a diverse fan base to Smoke games.  “I want to smash the image of hockey as a white man’s sport,” said Whitmore.  “Kansas City is a wonderfully diverse place, and I want to draw all kinds of fans to our games.  I’ve got some ideas how to do that.  But the biggest thing we can do is create a team and experience that’s a lot of fun.  I want to make this team a happening in our community.”

The Smoke’s home arena, Heartland Telecom Center, is located right across the street from KC Live! in the heart of downtown.  “I can’t wait for next year when I can get off work, head over over to the Power and Light District, get a couple drinks and some great food, then go see a Smoke game,” said 33-year-old Billy Rockwell of nearby Independence.  “It’s going to be epic.”

Hershey’s Kennedy Skates With the Kids

Gene Kennedy

Hershey Bliss F Gene Kennedy is one of the few SHL players who has yet to see any ice time this season.  Tired of waiting for a chance to skate, Kennedy decided to make his own opportunity in an unorthodox manner that raised some eyebrows in the Bliss clubhouse and around the league.

Between the first and second periods of Tuesday’s game against the Washington Galaxy at the Chocolate Center, the Bliss held their usual “Pee Wee Playtime” game.  The game is a scrimmage between two team of local youth hockey players, who relish the opportunity to spend a few minutes on the same ice and shooting at the same nets as their heroes.

Observers quickly noticed that one of the players seemed a little different than the rest.  It was Kennedy, who had decided to join the youngsters for their scrimmage.  At 6-foot-2, the 25-year-old Kennedy didn’t exactly blend in with the 7-to-8-year-olds who made up the rest of the players.

“He just came out of nowhere,” said Bliss PA announcer Steve Leadbetter, who posted pictures and narratives of the scene on his Twitter account.  “At first, the kids were just doing their regular thing.  Then all of a sudden, Kennedy just came out from the Zamboni tunnel and just started skating with them.  Nobody was really sure what to make of it.”

“I was just trying to get my work in,” Kennedy explained after the game.  “I mean, you’ve got to stay sharp.  Skating in practice is okay, but I really need to get some work in at game speed.  Practice isn’t the same.  And from what I could tell, this was my best opportunity to get some ice time in-game.”

With a significant speed and size advantage over his fellow players, Kennedy dominated the scrimmage.  He had no trouble skating by the pee wee players, muscling them off the puck on occasion.  Shooting at both nets, the reserve forward scored 3 goals.

Nibs

At first, the fans assumed it was a deliberate joke, and reacted to Kennedy’s antics with laughter and cheers.  But as play continued and Kennedy hip-checked 7-year-old Jaylen Crossley and sent the young man sprawling to the boards, the cheers turned to boos.  At that point the Bliss mascot, Nibs, corraled Kennedy and ushered him off the ice.

“I felt bad about that,” Kennedy said of the check on Crossley.  “Totally unintentional.  I didn’t see him, but I felt him bump up against me.”  The winger signed his jersey and gave it to Crossley to make up for it.

Asked about Kennedy’s stunt, Bliss coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber quipped, “Well, I didn’t see it.  How did he look out there?”  The coach then added, “Look, I understand Gene’s frustrated about not getting to play. But all out forwards have been playing great.  Who do you sit?”

Kennedy’s teammates were more critical of his actions.  “It’s pretty unprofessional, if you ask me,” said Bliss C Henry Constantine.  “You’re not happy ’cause you’re not playing, fine.  Take it up with the coach.  Don’t show up your team and run the kids’ fun.  I know Gene’s kind of flaky, but there’s a limit.”

Barber said that he does not plan to discipline Kennedy for the incident, and he will look to get Kennedy some playing time.  “I’m doing it for the kids,” the coach joked.  “I’m trying to protect them from Gene.”

Shockers’ Practice Arena Damaged by Fire

The Saskatchewan Shockers will need to find another venue for their practice skates for the next several weeks, as the locker room at their practice facility was badly damaged by a fire.  The culprits: Shockers C Foster Culp — and a microwave burrito.

The Shockers held their usual off-day practice Thursday morning at Harbour Landing Arena. During a break in between sessions, Culp decided to microwave a couple of breakfast burritos he’d purchased at a nearby restaurant on the way in.  “I always get a little peckish in between skates,” Culp explained later, “so I always make sure to get myself a little something-something to snack on.”

Foster Culp

One problem with Culp’s otherwise sound plan: The burritos were wrapped in aluminum foil, which the center neglected to remove before turning the microwave on.  Presumably, the foil began sparking, and the sparks landed on the inner paper wrapper around the burritos, causing them to catch fire.

Not that Culp noticed; he’d set the microwave and wandered off to find a drink.  But a few minutes later, he thought he smelled something burning and returned to the microwave, to discover that it had become a ball of fire.  He stared at it, transfixed, but took no action as the fire began to spread to the counter on which the microwave sat.

At that point, RW Brad Stevens noticed either the smell or the smoke and went over to examine the situation.  He saw Culp staring at the conflagration and said, “Dude, fire!”  Culp responded, “Yeah, I know.”

Stevens tried again: “Dude, put it out!”  Culp said, “Uh, with what?  I don’t have a hose.”  Stevens pointed at the fire extinguisher on the wall and said, “Use that, stupid!”

Culp snapped out of his trance, ran to the wall, and grabbed the extinguisher.  But rather than point it at the fire and start spraying, Culp took the extinguisher and hurled it at the fire.  Unsurprisingly, this had no effect.

By the time G Zeke Zagurski grabbed another extinguisher and brought it over to the scene, the fire had spread to the adjoining wall and the team was forced to evacuate the area.  The fire department had to be called in, and by the time they extinguished the blaze, the locker room had suffered an estimated $250,000 in damage.

When asked about the incident, coach Myron Beasley put his hand over his face and sighed.  “Foster… he’s a piece of work, he really is,” said Beasley.  “I don’t know if he got dropped on his head a lot as a kid or what.  But he thinks… different than you and I do.”

Culp was chagrined by his mistake.  “Obviously. knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do that again,” said Culp.  “But I needed those burritos!  Who hasn’t needed a burrito from time to time?”

Hershey’s Gromov Gets Physical, Gets Suspended

Hershey Bliss D Ruslan Gromov is an old-school, hard-hitting blueliner.  His aggressive, take-no-guff approach to the game has won him both admirers and detractors.  On Saturday, in an otherwise unremarkable 5-2 win over the New York Night, Gromov’s physical play went over the line and earned him a one-game suspension.

Ruslan Gromov

Gromov has been vocal about his lack of respect for New York’s speed-and-offense-based game.  In the past, he’s said of New York’s game, “That’s not hockey; it’s figure skating.”  Almost from the drop of the puck, Gromov sought to intimidate the Night with his physical play.  He targeted one of New York’s more physical players, D Tuomas Nurmi, with a series of slashes and rough checks.  About a minute into the game, a frustrated Nurmi shoved Gromov in the chest.  Gromov responded by punching Nurmi in the side of the head.  The two wound up dropping gloves and tussling for a couple minutes before being separated and assessed matching majors.

“I do not know what his problem is,” said Nurmi of Gromov.  “He seemed like he is a crazy man.”

Later in the first period, the Night established possession in the offensive zone and began peppering shots at the Hershey net.  New York F Elmer Sigurdson, Jr. tried to set up a screen in front of the crease.  Gromov responded by drilling him in the back and riding him down to the ice, and was whistled for interference.

Early in the second period, Sigurdson tried to get even by laying a hard open-ice hit on Gromov.  The Hershey defenseman popped up and flung Sigurdson into the boards, earning another two-minute penalty for roughing.  The two seemed destined to scrap, and six minutes later, Gromov jumped Sigurdson on a faceoff and the antagonists began trading blows, resulting in another pair of fighting majors.

Gromov finally crossed the line early in the third period, when he rammed Night C Phil Miller in the stomach with the butt end of his stick.  That earned the defenseman a double minor for spearing and a game misconduct from referee Brandon Fosse.

Gromov claimed that his spearing of Miller was unintentional, but showed no remorse for his actions.  “I play a physical game,” the Bliss blueliner said.  “If the other team cannot handle that, they should not be playing hockey.”

The league wasted no time slapping Gromov with a suspension.  “While we don’t object to physical play in this league,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell, “there’s a difference between hard play and assault.  Gromov’s actions were reckless, unprovoked, and dangerous.  He could easily have injured someone with that kind of play.  We don’t want to discourage him from playing hard, but he’s got to know where to draw the line.”

Gromov appeared undaunted by the discipline.  In his first game back from the suspension, he got into two fights and racked up 12 penalty minutes.  “I only know how to play one way,” said Gromov with a shrug. “I cannot change that.”

Tigres’ Offense Goes Missing

If you looked at the Quebec Tigres‘ defensive statistics, you’d probably figure they were a leading contender in the East.  They have a ferocious, hard-hitting defense that’s great at slowing the pace and preventing opponents from establishing momentum on offense.  And on the rare occasion that a team can get a shot off, Quebec has one of the league’s best netminders, Riki Tiktuunen, there to stop it.

So why are the Tigres down in fourth with a sub-.500 record?  Because of their dysfunctional, sputtering offense.  Quebec has generated far fewer shots and scored fewer goals than any other team.  The team’s scoring shortcomings were especially apparent this week, when they lit the lamp only five times while failing to win a game.

“It is frustrating, I cannot lie,” said Tiktuunen, who posted an 0-1-3 record despite a 1.00 GAA and a .970 save percentage.  “Knowing that there is no margin for error, it puts much pressure on you to be perfect.”

“Defensively, we are world-class,” said coach Martin Delorme.  “But offensively, we are at a junior level.  This must improve.”

On Saturday, the Tigres faced off against the Michigan Gray Wolves, Delorme’s former club.  Both squads feature a defense-first approach and have elite goalies, so goals were sure to be at a premium.  And sure enough, 65 minutes later, the teams had recorded the SHL’s first-ever scoreless tie.  Tiktuunen stopped 36 shots, while Michigan’s Dirk Lundquist made 21 saves.  “A defensive masterclass,” said Tigres D Dmitri Kalashnikov.  “It was like a brilliant chess match.”

A scoreless tie against the league’s best team left the Tigres feeling good.  But they weren’t so thrilled the next night, when they were shut out again by the Washington Galaxy.  Tiktuunen was on his game again, stopping 28 pucks, but Quebec managed only 12 shots and Galaxy LW Casey Thurman deflected a puck past Tiktuunen midway through the third period to steal a 1-0 victory.

“It’s like there’s a brick wall at our blue line,” said Tigres RW Stephane Mirac.  “No zone time, no shots.”

On Tuesday, the Tigres launched 32 shots at Hershey Bliss netminder Milo Stafford, but the veteran turned them all aside as Quebec recorded yet another scoreless tie.

“Three straight games and no goals,” said Delorme.  “This is not acceptable.  This offensive constipation cannot continue.”

Facing the porous defense of the New York Night, the Tigres finally got their attack in gear and put three pucks in the net.  But they couldn’t match the Night’s speed, surrendering 49 shots and allowing a 3-3 tie.

On Friday, with backup netminder Guillaume Levan in net, Quebec collapsed in the third, surrendering four goals on 15 shots in a 6-1 rout.

“We know that we have to step it up,” said Tigres LW Pascal Royal.  “Our defense and Riki are giving us chance after chance to win, but if we cannot score, we will squander those opportunities.”

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.