Quebec Coach in Hot Water After Late-Night Escapades

This year has been a struggle for Quebec Tigres coach Martin Delorme.  His team’s ambitions have been undone by goalie Riki Tiktuunen‘s struggles to stay healthy; they’re likely to finish with a record barely better than last year.  In midseason, Delorme engaged in a public spat with star winger Stephane Mirac.  The coach, who was hailed as a savior when he agreed to coach the expansion Tigres last season, is starting to hear jeers from impatient fans.

Martin Delorme

Delorme’s season took a major turn for the worse this week as he was arrested for drunk driving, an embarrassment that only got worse when his arrest led to the revelation of the coach’s messy personal life.

The arrest happened early Monday morning, a few hours after the Tigres’ 1-0 overtime victory over Hershey at Centre Citadelle.  Delorme was pulled over in the village of Saint-Anselme around 4 AM after he was spotted driving erratically.  He failed the field sobriety tests and blew 0.14 on the Breathalyzer.  The coach was also noted to be disheveled, a rarity for him, and was wearing s suit jacket and undershirt, but no shirt.  Delorme was arrested and held overnight before being released.

“It was very poor judgment on my part,” said Delorme.  “I am ashamed of my actions.”

Little did Delorme realize that the arrest would be only the beginning of his problems.  Reporters found the incident odd for a number of reasons.  For one thing, Delorme does not have a reputation as a big drinker.  For another, Saint-Anselme is not located anywhere near the coach’s home or the team’s facilities.  For another, “Martin wouldn’t leave the house unless he was perfectly dressed,” in the words of one reporter.  “Clearly, something weird was going on.”

To get to the bottom of it, reporters began trying to reconstruct Delorme’s activities after the game.  With some investigative work, they were able to piece together a timeline.  After the game and his postgame interviews, Delorme was seen leaving the arena with a woman not his wife.  (The coach’s wife has not been seen at games for most of the season.)  Later, Delorme and the woman were seen together at a bar in Levis, across the river from Quebec.  Later, the pair went back to the woman’s house, where they apparently stayed until the woman’s husband arrived home unexpectedly.  At that point, the coach fled and drove away, until he was pulled over a short distance away.

Stories about Delorme’s wild night broke on Wednesday, shortly before the Tigres’ game against Hamilton.  The coach reacted angrily when questioned about his activities.  “This is none of your concern,” Delorme snapped.  “This is not news; nothing but gossip.  What job is it of yours to examine my bedsheets?  I do not have to respond to this inquisition.”

Quebec players were hesitant to discuss the incident.  “It’s definitely a surprise, that’s for sure,” said LW Stellan Fisker.  “We wer all pretty shocked.  I don’t really know the details, so there’s not a lot I can say.  But it’s a tough break for Coach Delorme.”

Word of the incident traveled fast.  When the Tigres came to Washington on Friday to play the Galaxy, the Jumbotron displayed Delorme behind the bench while “Loverboy” by Billy Ocean blared over the speakers as the fans laughed and cheered.  After the game, a 3-2 Quebec win, Delorme called the stunt “unprofessional,” but had no further comment.

Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle couldn’t resist poking fun at the incident in his postgame press conference.  “Boy, Martin’s got himself in a mess, hasn’t he?”  said Reagle with a giggle.  “I wouldn’t have expected that out of him.  He seems like a careful sort of guy.  But I guess that’s how it goes with French guys, right?  That swingin’ lifestyle… Personally, as a married man, I’m really surprised.  I mean, I can’t even get dressed in the morning without my wife’s help.  If I was going to have an affair, I’d probably have to ask her to help me set it up.”

New York Holds Unique Top Hat Giveaway

Suffice it to say, it’s been a tough year for the New York Night and their fans.  The team is languishing in the basement of the East, attendance has generally been lackluster, their star player got suspended after getting beat up in a bar fight, and their most notable promotion turned into a fiasco when a disgruntled employee stole the team’s shipment of fidget spinners.  “I knew it was going to a rocky year,” said Night coach Nick Foster, “but I didn’t think it was going to be this rocky.”

In the season’s penultimate week, though, the Night pulled off a successful and distinctive promotion: Top Hat Night.  That’s right, during Saturday night’s game against Quebec at Neon Sky Center, the Night gave away top hats to their fans.

According to GM Royce McCormick, he got the inspiration for the promotion after seeing a wave of fedora giveaways, especially among baseball teams.  “So my first thought was to do a fedora night, maybe tie it in with a Sinatra theme or do a Rat Pack thing,” said McCormick.  “But the more I thought about it, I realized that the fedora thing’s been done.  Why copy what everyone else is doing if you can be original?”

So McCormick thought about how he could do a more original giveaway.  “That’s when I thought of top hats,” the GM said.  “I mean, this is the Big Apple!  Why not do something with a little extra class?”

Definitely an unorthodox concept.  And unlike with fedoras, most people don’t wear top hats on an everyday basis.  But McCormick’s brainstorm proved popular: the game was a sellout, and the fans wore their hats with pride.  “When I was a kid, I always wanted a hat like this,” said 43-year-old Douglas Grossi of Queens.  “I always wanted to be a magician, and now I can dress like one!”

Ten lucky fans received more than just a hat.  Between the second and third periods, the PA announcer asked fans to check the lining of their hats.  Some had a false bottom; beneath it was a Night T-shirt and a gift certificate for a free tuxedo rental from Mens Wearhouse.  “My original plan was to hide rabbits inside the hats,” said McCormick, “but somebody pointed out that they’d probably die in there with no food or water.  Instead, we gave a few lucky fans the chance to complete the look so they can go out on the town in style.”

Foster proved to be a fan of the giveaway; he did his postgame press conference wearing the top hat with a big cigar in his mouth.  “It’s not too often in this life that you have the chance to be the Monopoly man,” Foster told reporters.  “So when you get that kind of opportunity, you have to grab it.”

Unfortunately, the Night couldn’t deliver a win to go with the hats, falling to the Tigres 5-2.  But the fans didn’t seem to care.  “I was just glad nobody got a hat trick,” said Grossi.  “No way was I tossing this sweet lid on the ice.”

Change of the Guard Seems Imminent in SHL’s Last Week

Going into the final week of the 2017 SHL season, neither division race is terribly close, unlike the last couple of seasons.  Barring a seismic shift in the coming week, we aren’t going to see anything as dramatic as the 2016’s Hershey-Washington last-game showdown for the division.  Nonetheless, even if things unfold as expected, the results will still have their share of surprises.  As it stands, neither of last year’s Finals opponents will make a return trip this season.

In the West, the Michigan Gray Wolves head into the season’s final week trailing the Anchorage Igloos by 6 points.  The Wolves and Igloos have been the division powers since the league’s inception, so it’s no surprise that they will finish one-two yet again.  But the Wolves have been unable to make up the ground they lost when top scorers Hunter Bailes and Warren Marlow went down with injuries in midseason.  “We’ve fought hard all year, and I know we’re going to keep battling to the end,” said Wolves RW Gordon Lunsford.  “But we’re in a difficult spot right now.”

Michigan’s best chance to narrow the gap came on Wednesday, when they faced the Igloos at Arctic Circle Arena.  The game was a true heavyweight clash, as the Wolves stifled Anchorage’s league-best offense, with the Igloos responding in kind.  After two scoreless periods, Michigan actually drew first blood seven minutes into the third, when Lunsford dented the twine on a hard slapshot between Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington‘s legs.  “That got us fired up,” said Lunsford.  “We thought this was the goal that was going to set us on a run to take the division.”

But with just over a minute left in the game, the Igloos tied the game on a fluky goal by D Sebastian Pomfret, who flicked a rebound that bounced off the back of Michigan netminder Dirk Lundquist back and into the goal.  That sent the game to overtime, where Wolves C Wesley Knight committed a tough holding-the-stick penalty.  15 seconds into the power play, Igloos LW Les Collins beat Lundquist stick-side to seal a 2-1 win.

“That was a back-breaker,” admitted Lunsford.  “To go from thinking you’re on the road to the division to feeling like you’re on the brink of elimination… it’s a kick in the gut, no question.”

As surprising as the West race has been, things have been even more shocking in the East.  The Washington Galaxy have won the division in each of the last two seasons and established themselves as the class of the division.  When they caught fire out of the All-Star Break, winning 10 in a row and snatching first place away from the Hershey Bliss, it looked like they were set up to run to yet another title.  It hasn’t unfolded that way, though, as the Bliss have grabbed the lead right back over the last couple of weeks.

And while Hershey has played well, the race in the East has been a story of Washington collapse.  The Galaxy have dropped 11 of 15 over the last three weeks, and they head into the final week of the season 8 points back of the Bliss.  For a team with a reputation for stepping it up in the second half, their dismal performance has been completely unexpected.  “We can’t figure it out,” said LW Casey Thurman.  “We know we can do better than this, but it’s kind of like we’re stepping on the gas and there’s nothing there.”

Certainly, the Galaxy’s using scoring punch has been absent during their recent skid.  They’ve fallen from sixth in the league in goals scored to second-to-last, ahead of only Quebec.  Several of their stars, including Thurman (2 goals in the last 15 games), C Eddie Costello (3 goals), RW Jefferson McNeely (3 goals), and C J.C. Marais (2 goals), have been in slumps.  But the offense hasn’t been the only culprit.  The normally stout defense, which allowed fewer than two and a half goals per game over the first two-thirds of the season, has allowed over three per game during their slide.  Backup goalie Ron Mason has lost his last five starts.  Their special units have flatlined over the last three weeks, with their power play dropping from a league-leading 24.1% success rate to a middle-of-the-pack 19.6%, and their penalty kill going from 82.9% efficiency to 78.8%.  “It’s like it’s all falling apart at once,” said Costello.

For the Bliss, who have heard over and over that they’re too soft, too sloppy, or too star-dependent to beat the Galaxy, the turnabout has been pretty sweet.  “We’ve taken a lot of crap over the years about how we can never win the big one, or how Washington’s got our number,” said Bliss C Justin Valentine.  “We’ve never bought into that story, but we knew we were were going to keep hearing it until we proved it.”  On Saturday, Hershey came into Constellation Center and walloped Washington 5-1.  “That one definitely felt good,” said Valentine.  “To be able to go into their building and shut them down like that… it gave us confidence that this isn’t going to be like the other years.  It’s a new era for us.”

Corrigan and Wright Have Tense Face-Off

Last week, tensions flared between the Seattle Sailors and Michigan Gray Wolves when Sailors RW Vince Mango snapped an on-ice selfie to celebrate a hat trick and was drilled into the boards by Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko.  This week, when the teams met for the first time since the incident, and the bad blood nearly turned into a brawl, with the teams’ coaches nearly coming to blows.

Coming into Wendesday’s game, the Sailors talked openly about avenging Mango, their injured star.  “A lot of us weren’t too happy with what [the Wolves] did to Vince,” said LW Rod “Money” Argent.  “We’re really fired up to take them on again.  We’re not taking this lying down.”

Ordinarily, a matchup between basement-dwelling Seattle and high-flying Michigan, especially with the Sailors’ top scorer sidelined, would likely be a blowout.  But the Sailors came in hot and clearly intending to send the Wolves a message.  Seattle took an early 2-0 lead, cashing in on a pair of power plays to get ahead.  Michigan struck back to tie the game by the end of the period, and took the lead on a second-period goal by C Hunter Bailes.

But Seattle didn’t go down easily, as Argent scored on another power play midway through the third to tie it at 3.  When he celebrated his goal using one of Mango’s signature moves, Wolves D “Mad Max” Madison responded by shoving Argent to the ice from behind.  Argent popped up and got in Madison’s face, and both teams swarmed in the center of the ice.  The teams exchanged some shoves, a couple of face washed, and several dirty looks, but the refs managed to break things up before they came to blows.

Stewart Corrigan

Sailors coach Stewart “Popeye” Corrigan took the opportunity to yell at his Michigan counterpart, Ron Wright, between the benches.  “Your team is a bunch of [expletive] thugs!” Corrigan shouted.  “We’re going to get even with you [expletives]!”  Wright largely ignored him.

With three and a half minutes in the game, Bailes scored what proved to be the game-winning goal.  As he skated back to the bench, Sailors D Wayne Snelling gave Bailes a shot to the back of the head.  The furious Wolves jumped off the bench to go after Snelling.  The Sailors raced to their teammate’s assistance.

Ron Wright

As the scrum broke out on the ice, Wright and Corrigan popped over their respective partition to yell at one another.  Wright accused Snelling of deliberately attempting to injure Bailes, who was sidelined with a concussion earlier in the season.  Corrigan shouted back that the Wolves had injured Mango and tried to do the same to Argent.  They continued shouting back and forth, until Corrigan reached down onto his bench and grabbed a stick, which he swung at Wright.  The Michigan boss shouted “You’re [expletive] crazy!” as he jumped back to avoid the stick.

Corrigan was ejected from the game.  Incredibly, no one else on either team was ejected or even penalized.

After the game, both coaches remained irate.  “Corrigan is a clown and a psychopath,” said Wright.  “I don’t know if he’s putting on a show to try to distract everyone from how lousy his team is, or if he really is that much of a rageaholic.  But he’s out of control.  The league needs to do something about him.  Either they need to send him to therapy or just kick him out of the league.  One of these days he’s going to kill somebody.”

In response, Corrigan blasted the Wolves as “a bunch of vicious criminals.  Hockey’s a physical game, but what they do isn’t about hockey.  It’s legalized assault.  Because they won the championship last year, everyone looks the other way.  So when they send their goons out and cripple our best player, everyone says, ‘Oh, who cares?  It’s just [expletive] Seattle.’  But I’m not taking it, and neither is my team.  And you know what?  Every other team out there is secretly cheering us on.  They won’t admit it, but they’re all sick of the [expletive] Michigan gets away with.”

The league fined Corrigan $3,000 and suspended him for a game – the latest in a long line of disciplinary actions that he has faced in his two years as Sailors coach – while also fining Snelling and Madison $1,000 each for their hits.  Wright also received a $500 fine for his part in the hostilities.  “While we have no problem with spirited rivalries in this league,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell, “we definitely have a problem with deliberately trying to injure opposing players.  Both the Wolves and Sailors should be aware that I will have a zero-tolerance policy for any extracurricular activities between them going forward.”

Responded Corrigan: “How much do you want to bet this ‘zero-tolerance policy’ only goes one way?  If one of my guys hits a Michigan player, he’s banned for life.  If one of their thugs maims my guy, he gets a stern talking-to and that’s it.  I know how this league works.”

Shockers Set SHL Record with 11-Goal Game

There’s no denying that it’s been another long season for the Saskatchewan Shockers.  They fell out of contention from almost the beginning of the season, and they were mathematically eliminated with almost three weeks left.  They unleashed yet another disastrous promotion on their fans, this time a poorly designed kids’ activity book.  Until this week, perhaps the most notable event of Saskatchewan’s season was when one of their players accidentally set fire to the locker room.

That all changed on Friday, as the Shockers finally delivered a season highlight worth celebrating.  They may be having a season to forget, but Friday was a game to remember, as Saskatchewan set a new SHL record for goals in a game in an 11-5 thumping of the Dakota Jackalopes.

“We sure know how to deliver excitement, huh?” said Shockers coach Myron Beasley with a huge grin.  “You saw more goals in this game than you’d see in a week watching Michigan or Anchorage.  You want fun, come see us!”

C Elliott Rafferty pointed out that Saskatchewan had scored 11 despite the fact that no player managed a hat trick.  “That’s a testament to the kind of depth we have here,” the center said.  Rafferty, C Napoleon Beasley, and D Dick Bradshaw each scored two goals, while LW Troy Chamberlain, D Wyatt Barnes, RW Brad Stevens, D Ed Francis, and RW Andrew “Lucky” Fortuno got one apiece.

The game was not a blowout at the beginning; at the end of the first period, the score stood 4-3.  The Shockers peppered Dakota goalie Buzz Carson, but the Jackalopes fired 19 shots at Oliver Richardson and put three behind him.  In the second period, Saskatchewan blew it open, scoring five unanswered goals and sending Carson to the showers.

The Shockers came into the third chasing history, but it seems that no one was aware of it.  The PA announcer made no mention of it, and the fans and benches seemed equally unaware.  Eight and a half minutes into the period, Chamberlain snapped a shot past new Dakota netminder Christen Adamsson for Saskatchewan’s tenth goal, tying the SHL record, first set by Dakota against the Shockers last season.   Five minutes later, Barnes buried a rebound to set a new record.  The crowd roared its approval, but again, no mention was made of the new record.

It wasn’t until after the game, when a journalist who had looked up the record asked about it, that the Shockers discovered what they had done.  “Hey, we’re famous!” shouted Beasley when informed of the record.  “That’s really cool.  Now we’ll be able to go to the record books and point and say, ‘Hey, I was part of that.'”

“This team is more dangerous than people think,” said Rafferty, who had two assists in the game in addition to his pair of goals.  “We’ve got some real snipers here.  We’re a young team and we’re still learning, but games like this show what we’re capable of.”

Heinz Doofenshmirtz

Owner Heinz Doofenschmirtz, whose passion for his team is well-known around the league, was ecstatic with his team’s performance.  The owner reportedly came into the locker room after the game and gave each player an $1,100 bonus check in recognition of the record-setting performance.  “I believe he’s doing a few laps around the ceiling about now,” said Beasley.

For the Shockers, the game was a welcome bright spot in an unremarkable year.  For the Jackalopes, it was yet another reminder of a season gone wrong.  Small-market Dakota spent heavily in the offseason to build a team that could contend for a title.  Instead, the Jackalopes have turned in another so-so season, and ownership has signaled that they intend to cut payroll next season.

Jackalopes coach Harold Engellund, whose job is reportedly in jeopardy, responded wearily to news of Saskatchewan’s record-setting performance.  “Well, congratulations to them,” said Engellund.  “They’re a team on the rise and they deserve it.  But that’s not a record you really want to be part of, not on the other end.  If this is what we’re remembered for this year, that’s not too good.”

Bliss Bag Double Hat Trick, Crush Hamilton

Coming into the home stretch of the season and trailing the Washington Galaxy in the East, the Hershey Bliss were eager for a statement win to set up a strong run to the finish.  They got that win in the form of a 7-1 shellacking of the Hamilton Pistols.   The game was remarkable not only for the one-sided score, but for the fact that two Bliss players recorded hat tricks in the same game, an SHL first.

“Talk about an incredible day,” said Bliss coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber.  “Two hat tricks at once?  That’s like finding a vending machine that sells king-size candy bars.”

Noah Daniels

Hershey took control of the game practically from the drop of the puck, scoring four goals in the first period.  Two of the goals were scored by RW Noah Daniels, while one was netted by RW Christopher Hart.  Seeing Hart, a member of Hershey’s famed “Love Line,” score was no surprise.  Daniels scoring twice, on the other hand, was rather remarkable.  The second-line winger, who is better known for his passing skills than his shot, came into the game having scored only 8 goals on the season.

“Noah’s an unselfish, pass-first guy,” said Barber.  “But he had a couple good looks, and he took advantage.”

Daniels got his hat trick two minutes into the second period, stuffing home a rebound past Pistols goalie Dennis Wampler.   The handful of Bliss fans at Gunpowder Armory tossed their hats onto the ice, and even some Hamilton fans applauded.  Daniels shyly waved at the crowd before skating to the bench, where he was greeted by his teammates squirting him with their water bottles.

“We don’t have a Gatorade container on the bench to dump on him, so we did the next best thing,” said Bliss C Henry Constantine.

Christopher Hart

Midway through the period, Hart scored his second goal on a slapper from the point, making it 6-0.  As that point, a buzz started to rise on the Bliss bench.  “The game was in the bag, so we needed something to get excited about,” said Constantine.  “When Harty got his second, we started looking up and down the bench with our eyebrows raised, thinking, ‘Maybe…?'”

C Jens Bunyakin finally got the Pistols on the board with a power-play goal a minute and a half into the third.  Five minutes later, Hart and linemate Justin Valentine broke out on an odd-man rush.  Valentine deked a shot, then flicked a pass to Hart, who buried a shot under Wampler’s catching glove to complete his hat trick.  The Bliss saluted his accomplishment by tossing their helmets on the ice.

“The fans had already thrown their hats,” said Valentine.  “We didn’t want Chris to feel left out.”

Hart skated over to the bench and received the same water-bottle shower that Daniels had received.  “It was really… wet,” Hart said later.

It was a great night for Hershey, and it seems to have ignited the Bliss; they haven’t lost a game since.  Might that be the statement win that propels a strong stretch run?  “I think it shows the kind of explosive offense we have as a team,” said Hart.  “If we win this thing, this is the game that we’re going to look back on.”

Shockers Screw Up Another Promo With Error-Filled Kids’ Book

The Saskatchewan Shockers, to put it mildly, have had a rough time coming up with successful promotions.  In 2015, there was Japanese Night, in which the team started a sumo wrestler in goal; the result was an awkward embarrassment.  Last season, there was the Kazoo Night fiasco; that game nearly turned into a riot, with fans chucking malfunctioning kazoos onto the ice.

This season, the Shockers decided to try a simpler, less dangerous promotion: Kids Night.  In an effort to draw in younger fans, the Shockers offered discountered tickets for fans 12 and under.  In addition, they raffled off the opportunity for kids to work in a variety of positions, including on public address announcer, in-game entertainment crew member, usher, reporter, and ceremonial first puck dropper.  To cap it all off, the team offered a giveaway: a Shockers-themed activity/puzzle book.

The day itself largely went off without a hitch.  The PA announcer repeatedly mangled the name of LW Tadeusz Adamczyk, and the puck dropper accidentally flung the biscuit onto the bench instead of dropping it on the ice, but otherwise things went smoothly.

The trouble started when the kids got home and started looking at their activity books.  The book was riddled with errors and problems.  For instance, the word search was missing several of the terms that kids were supposed to find, and the grid spelled out multiple curse words.  The scramble that was supposed to contain the names of Shockers players instead contained strings of letters that didn’t spell anything.  Multiple pages were printed upside down, and the page that was supposed to list the answers was missing entirely.

Irate parents took to social media to vent their displeasure with the book.  “My kid cried for 45 minutes bc he couldnt get the word scramble right,” said one fan.  “Turns out it was all garbage, like this team!!”  Another highlighted the obscenities in the word search and tweeted, “So I guess u think this is ‘appropriate’ 2 give 2 kids???”  The Shockers initially claimed that “some fans” might have received misprinted copies, but it quickly became clear that all of the books contained the errors and omissions.

Heinz Doofenshmirtz

It turns out that, rather than hiring a professional company to design and print the books, team owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz outsourced the job to a relative who “wants to make kid’s books someday.”  He never provided proofs of the work before printing, and the Saskatchewan front office apparently never asked for any.  Nor did they check the finished books before handing them out.

“Yeah, we had a few problems there,” said Doofenshmirtz.  “The one time I really needed a self-destruct button, we didn’t have one.  How ironic.”

The Shockers have destroyed all remaining copies of the book, and are reportedly looking for a way to compensate the children who may have been upset or traumatized by the event.  “I was going to put a bouncy castle on the roof of our arena and let the kids play on it,” said Doofenshmirtz.  “But it turns out there are some liability issues with that, and our insurance company dropped us after the whole Kazoo Night thing.  So we’re working on it.”

At least one person from the Shockers had no problem with the promotion.  “I don’t see what all the fuss is about,” quipped coach Myron Beasley.  “I found the word search very educational.”