Tigres, Galaxy Make Dueling Deals

The race for the SHL’s Eastern Division remains in flux.  While the Hamilton Pistols remain the favorite to win the division, they haven’t put it away.  Meanwhile, the Quebec Tigres and Washington Galaxy have been jostling for position all season long, knowing that there is likely only room for one of them in the postseason.

The Pistols made their move at the beginning of the week, shoring up their depth amid a run of injuries.  Meanwhile, the Tigres and Galaxy waited until the final minutes before Thursday’s deadline, but each made a move designed to address shore up key areas and position themselves to punch their ticket to playoffs.

“We knew they were going to make a move,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams of his Quebec rivals.  “And if they were going to get better, we knew we needed to keep up, and hopefully get a step ahead.”

For the Tigres, the target areas for a trade were obvious.  They wanted a better third-line center; Florian Theroux remains a fan favorite, but his stats were lackluster.  And for a team that is built on defense, Quebec was relying heavily on a trio of rookies: Laurie Workman, Richard McKinley, and Geoff Moultrie.

Doug Wesson

They addressed both needs in one deal, acquiring C Phil Miller and D Doug Wesson from the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for Moultrie and minor-league winger Aaron Knorr.

“This was the perfect deal for us,” said Tigres GM Pete Gondret.  “Kansas City had what we wanted, and the price was right.”

Wesson certainly add toughness for the Tigres; he is regularly one of the SHL leaders in penalty minutes and has been involved in several heavyweight bouts.  He is an excellent fit with Quebec and coach Martin Delorme’s scrappy, hard-checking style.  With the Smoke, he contributed 1 goal and 15 assists, in addition to 63 penalty minutes.

“I’m a two-fisted blue-collar guy, and Quebec is a two-fisted blue-collar team,” said Wesson.  “Let’s go!”

Phil Miller

With the deal, Miller continues his tour around the SHL.  The Tigres are Miller’s fifth club in four seasons; he’d ben with Saskatchewan, Dakota, and New York before being claimed by the Smoke in the expansion draft.  He rotated between the second and third lines for Kansas City, compiling 7 goals and 6 assists.

“Story of my life,” said Miller.  “Good enough that teams want me, but not good enough to keep around.”

Moultrie was the least productive of Quebec’s trio of blueline rookies, putting up 6 points in 40 games.  But at age 21, he presents considerable upside for a KC team that’s building for the future.  Knorr was the leading scorer for the Tigres’ minor-league affiliate in Maine, with 19 goals, and he scored four goals in a game last season; however, he lacked the passing and defensive skills to make him a fit with Quebec.

Charlie Brooks

The Galaxy, meanwhile, have struggled to get production from their bottom two lines, and their third defensive pairing has been a revolving door.  To address those issues, Washington picked up RW Charlie Brooks and D Scott Hexton from the Boston Badgers in exchange for D Graham Bellinger and minor-league RW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli.

“I think we got underrated value here,” said Adams.  “Charlie Brooks and Scott Hexton aren’t household names, but they’re both guys who can come in right away and help us get to the playoffs.  We’re thrilled with this pickup.”

Brooks was one of the few offensive bright spots for Boston, producing 17 goals and 19 assists on the top line across from rookie Lix Darnholm.  He’s known by the nickname “Sunny” for his cheerful disposition, which has made him a popular teammate throughout his career.

“Washington did well to land Sunny,” said Gondret; Brooks played for Quebec the last two seasons.  “He’s a great guy to have around.”

Scott Hexton

Hexton, meanwhile, is known as a solid defender who isn’t as active on offense; he posted 9 points this season with the Badgers.  It’s not clear whether he’ll replace Burt Hampton or Bruce Hogaboom on the bottom pairing, or whether the three will rotate.  Coach Rodney Reagle said that “we’ll figure that out as we go, but it’s nice to have a lot of good choices to pick from.”

Bellinger was a highly-regarded prospect when Washington drafted him last year, but he struggled to get established and fell out of favor with Reagle.  Twice in a row, he started the year with the Galaxy, only to be demoted to the minors in midseason.  The Smoke hope that more consistent playing time and a longer leash will allow him to live up to the hype.  Pescatelli is only 18 and showed some promise in the minors, scoring 5 goals and 18 assists in 41 games.

Will these deals put either team over the top?  Perhaps not; neither acquisition is a blockbuster.  But as Adams put it, “It really feels like we’ve got two teams that are about equal talent-wise.  Any little edge that we can find to come out on top, we’re gonna take it.”


SHL Quote of the Week (Week 6)

“It was a bloodbath out there.  The last time I saw this many bodies get butchered, I was watching Game of Thrones.”

  • Quebec Tigres LW Walt Camernitz on his team’s 2-1 win over Hershey on Tuesday.  The game featured a brutal fight and a pair of significant injuries.

Interview of the Week: Stephane Mirac

This week’s interview is with Quebec Tigres RW Stephane Mirac.

SHL Digest: We’re here with the leading goal scorer for one of the East’s top teams, Stephane Mirac of the Quebec Tigres.  Stephane, glad to speak with you.

Stephane Mirac

Stephane Mirac: It is a good time to be speaking!

SHLD: A good time indeed!  Last season, the Tigres finished in fourth place with only 20 wins.  This season, you’re won 20 already, and the season isn’t even halfway complete!  You’re right in the thick of the playoff race.  What do you think has been the key to your success?

SM: We are better in every way.  Last season, our offense was a disaster: slow, predictable.  Now we are much livelier and more dangerous.  Our defense was pretty good last year, but this season we are elite.  Riki [Tiktuunen] has been again excellent, and he has also stayed healthy.  All this makes us a contending team now.

SHLD: You mentioned the offense’s improvement, which it definitely has.  You’ve played a large role in that yourself.  In 2017, you were in something of a sophomore slump, dropping from 28 goals to 18.  You grew up in nearby Laval, and you are considered a hometown hero; they nicknamed you “Stephane Miracle.”  Did the pressure of that affect you?

SM: I wish I could say it did not, but it did.  Quebec is a hockey-mad city in a hockey-mad country.  To be in that spotlight, to have a city’s hopes and dreams rest on you, it can be suffocating.  I felt the pressure very much.  When I did not score, I could not sleep.  Soon, a bad game became a bad week, and then a bad season.

SHLD: It got bad enough that you got into a public argument with your coach [Martin Delorme] when he jokingly called you a “missing person.”  Have you two resolved your differences?

SM: Oh yes, of course.  That was a minor thing.  I was frustrated and he was frustrated, and it turned into a fire.  But we spoke to each other like men, and quickly put it to rest.

SHLD: This season, you’ve nearly reached last year’s goal total already, and you’re back on track for a 30-goal pace.  How have you stepped up your game?

SM: Ah, but that is the secret!  It is not so much me; it is my teammates.  We have many more arrows in our quiver this time, so the load does not always fall on me.  Last year, every team knew that to beat Quebec, you needed to stop Mirac.  Now, even if a team stops me, there are many other players who can beat you.

SHLD: One of the major new contributors this year, is Walt Camernitz, who the Tigres signed away from Washington to a five-year deal.  He’s been on the top line with you this season.  How has it been to play with him?

SM: Cam is terrific, a very hard-working and gritty player.  He is not afraid to get in along the walls or in the crease, doing the dirty work.  He is a perfect fit for the kind of hockey we play.

SHLD: If the season ended today, you would be in position for a playoff spot.  You’re only six points behind Hamilton for the division lead.  Do you think you can do even better in the second half of the season?

SM: This is our goal, to be sure.  We wish to be even better with our defense, without giving up our power on offense.  If we can maintain our intensity and focus, I believe we can accomplish anything.

SHLD: Sounds like a man with his eyes on the prize.

SM: Oh yes. I have both eyes on that beautiful trophy. (laughs)

SHLD: Well, thank you for your time, Stephane, and good luck in the second half!

SM: If we win, it will not be luck, it will be hard work and skill.  But merci!


East Full of Surprises Early

Through roughly one-quarter of the SHL season, the race in the Eastern Division has defied expectations.  As Washington Galaxy RW Jefferson McNeely put it, “If anybody correctly predicted the standings so far, you ought to get to Vegas and start playing the tables, because you must have ESP or something.”

The most shocking storyline by far has been the collapse of the defending champion Hershey Bliss.  Widely favored to capture a second straight division title, the Bliss instead fell toward the division basement and have remained there since.  Their incredibly slow start hasn’t been the result of injuries (they haven’t suffered any) or key departures from last season (their roster returned largely intact).  In fact, the exact cause of their struggles has been a mystery.

After Hershey lost 3-0 in Saskatchewan on Friday to run their losing streak to five, coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber called out his club, saying that the championship had gone to their heads.  “When you win a title, that’s a real sugar high,” Barber said.  “But after the high comes the crash.  We made the mistake of believing our own press.  We’ve gone as soft as a bag of Kisses in a hot car on a summer day.”  C Justin Valentine, on the other hand, thinks the problem is “mostly bad puck luck, honestly.  You look at the underlying numbers, they’re pretty similar to last year.  We’re getting the looks and the shots, doing our work on the defensive end, but we’re not getting the breaks.”

One obvious trouble spot for the Bliss is a perennial problem in Chocolate City: goaltending.  After Brandon Colt came out of nowhere to win the Finals MVP last season, the hockey world was eager to see if he could repeat the feat.  So far, he hasn’t.  Colt’s GAA has ballooned nearly a full goal since last season (from 2.77 to 3.68), while his save percentage has plummeted from .909 to .872.  Meanwhile Milo Stafford, the ageless backup who defied the skeptics by producing strong numbers year after year, suddenly looks as though he might be washed up at age 36.  “It’s a hard time for Milo and me,” said Colt.  “We feel like we’re letting the whole team down.”

With Hershey down and out, a couple of surprising teams have jumped up to grab the spotlight.  The Hamilton Pistols looked to be a young team on the rise, finishing just below the .500 mark last season.  But now it appears they’ve arrived ahead of schedule.  After going 3-1-1 on a tough run through the West this week, culminating in a 3-3 tie with mighty Michigan at Cadillac Place, the Pistols ran their record to 11-3-1 and are five points clear in the division.

Last season, Hamilton’s strong top line was dragged down by a lack of depth and experience.  GM Marcel LaClaire made some modest but shrewd moves this offseason. He acquired a pair of seasoned veteran leaders in C Henry Constantine and D Craig Werner, and called up a bunch of prospects (wingers Jamie Campbell and Michael Jennings and defensemen Albie Glasco and Buster Kratz) to fix their dismal bottom line.  The result has been a high-octane offense that’s scored 62 goals and compiled a +27 rating so far, along with a solid defense in front of Lasse Koskinen, who appears to be the league’s next great netminder.

“Everyone talked about how this wasn’t our year, but we were really going to be something a couple seasons down the road,” said coach Keith Shields.  “I told our guys, why the heck shouldn’t it be our year?  Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young or too green to compete.  And they sure haven’t!  What we’re doing night in and night out is an inspiration.”

Slotted in behind high-flying Hamilton is the Quebec Tigres.  Ever since the Tigres joined the league in 2016, they’ve been built on a hard-nosed defense and a great goalie in Riki Tiktuunen.  The question was whether they could ever develop a functional offense that would allow them to compete.  In their third season, they’ve finally done it.  Quebec made a splash in free agency, signing ex-Washington winger Walt Camernitz to a 4-year, $20 million deal.  Skeptics wondered whether Camernitz was really worth that much money.  The early returns have been extremely encouraging; not only is Camernitz producing at a point-a-game pace so far (7 goals, 9 assists), he’s also sparked his linemates, C Mikhail Ilyushin (6 goals, 13 assists) and RW Stephane Mirac (6 goals, 7 assists).  They’ve also added a new top pairing of strong two-way defenders, top draft pick Laurie Workman (4 goals, 6 assists) and minor-league callup Richard McKinley (3 goals, 5 assists).  They’ve almost doubled their goal output from the same point last season (from 26 to 44).  Their newfound offensive prowess has allowed them to post a 9-6-0 record despite Tiktuunen looking a notch less dominant than usual.

“Before, everyone said the only way we could win was to make the game a bloodbath and win a 1-0 rock fight,” said coach Martin Delorme.  “But now we show that you can be a tough, hard-working team and also score the goalies.  Perhaps our new uniforms have made us more stylish.”

Lurking close behind Hamilton and Quebec are a pair of familiar foes.  The Washington Galaxy were expected to take a step back this season after losing Camernitz and D Patrick Banks.  But they’ve shown unexpected resilience, surviving an early injury to C J.C. Marais and posting a solid 8-7-0 record.  Their success has been fueled by a resurgence of their top line, led by McNeely.  The D.C. star leads the league in points (28) and is tied for the lead in goals (13) with Hamilton’s Steven Alexander.  “People rushed to bury us, but we’ve got the experience and the bloodline.”

Meanwhile, the New York Night may be best known for coach Nick Foster‘s attempt to start a feud with Hamilton, but they’ve looked decent so far with a 7-7-1 record.  They’ve rediscovered the firepower that went missing last season; after hanging a 10-spot on Seattle Friday, they now lead the league with 63 goals.  While their defense remains a mess, much-maligned goalie Jesse Clarkson has quietly provided a steady performance (5-4-0, 3.11 GAA, .913 sv%) that has kept them in games.

“There’s a lot of hockey still to be played,” said Foster.  “This division’s still wide open.  Stay tuned, ’cause anything can happen.”


2018 SHL Season Preview – East

Hershey Bliss

Coming into last season, the Bliss had a reputation as a team with talent, but a persistent habit of coming up short in the clutch.  Then they outlasted Washington to win the East, then stunned heavily-favored Anchorage in 7 games to win the Vandy.  Now, the Bliss head into 2018 as favorites to repeat as division champs, and perhaps become the first SHL team to win back-to-back championships.  The “Love Line” of LW Lance Sweet, C Justin Valentine, and RW Christopher Hart remains intact, as does their top defensive pairing of Reese Milton and Joel Baldwin.  The second line (LW Russell Nahorniak, C Spencer Kirkpatrick, and RW Noah Daniels), which took a key step forward last year, is still in place.  The only key contributor who isn’t back is veteran C Henry Constantine, a vocal clubhouse leader.  Meanwhile, the team added several quality rookies (D Cedric Meloche, C Yegor Nestorov, F Anton Lapointe) along with a couple of key free agents (D Jean-Luc Aubin and LW Trevor Green).  Put it all together, and it should be the same formula for victory that worked so well last season: a fast, high-scoring offense and a reliable defense.  If there are any question marks here, they’re in net.  Brandon Colt shocked the world in last season’s Finals and earned the MVP award.  If he can approach that level during 2018, Hershey has a fine shot to be back-to-back champs; if he reverts to the solid-but-unspectacular form he’s displayed in the rest of his career, the Bliss could be vulnerable.  Backup Milo Stafford defied the odds in 2017 with another great year, but he’s turning 36 and seems destined to decline eventually.  If that happens this year, the Bliss might not have such a sweet finish.

Washington Galaxy

As long as there’s been an SHL, the Galaxy have been contenders for the title.  They made back-to-back Finals trips in ’15 and ’16, then finished a close second to Hershey last season.  This year, though, they’ll likely miss the playoffs and might not even reach the .500 mark.  What went wrong?  Primarily, how they’ve bungled free agency.  Last season’s big signing was D Patrick Banks, who inked a three-year deal amid much fanfare.  He flopped in DC, scoring only 2 goals while struggling to mesh with Grant Warriner on the second pairing.  The Galaxy left him exposed in the expansion draft, where he was selected by Boston.  Backup goalie Ron Mason, another big-money signing, put up a much better season (11-10-0, 2,78 GAA, .911 save percentage); unfortunately, Washington had only inked him to a one-year deal, and he bolted to rival Hamilton this offseason.  Instead, the Galaxy will rely on rookie Darrell Bondurant, who didn’t wow anyone in the minors last year.  Coming into this offseason, the Galaxy had two big names to re-sign: wingers Casey Thurman and Walt Camernitz.  Washington made a priority of Thurman, and they inked him to a five-year, $20 million contract.  However, they wound up alienating Camernitz; the gritty and underrated forward wound up in Quebec instead, blowing a huge hole in Washington’s second line.  (C J.C. Marais, coming off of a bad year at age 33, is another concern.)  Next, the Galaxy declined to tender an offer to rugged third-line RW Sindri Pentti, declaring that he was over the hill at age 35.  Pentti ended up joining Camernitz in Quebec, while Washington filled his slot with Roman Bandikoff, who is just as old, put up similar numbers, and has a worse defensive reputation.  The bottom line: the Galaxy will likely be worse on offense, defense, and in net.  Meanwhile, Hamilton, Quebec, and even New York all improved, often at Washington’s expense.  Making matters worse, Washington’s store of prospects is pretty thin.  It seems unlikely that the Galaxy could tumble from second to fifth, but that’s arguably more likely than the chances of them winning the division again.

Hamilton Pistols

If there’s a team that can topple the Bliss atop the East, it’s most likely to be the Pistols.  Hamilton has plenty of star-quality talent in its ranks; LW Steven Alexander may be the SHL’s best pure scorer, C Calvin Frye its finest young player, Raymond Smyth its finest blueliner.  What’s held them back in the past is a lack of balance and depth.  In particular, the Pistols’ third line was a disaster last season; they gave up tons of shot opportunities whenever they were on the ice.  To fix the balance problem, Hamilton acquired several solid veterans: C Henry Constantine (who got a ring with Hershey last year), G Ron Mason (who won the Vandy with Anchorage in ’15), and D Craig Werner.  Then they overhauled the third line and bottom defensive pairing, calling up a number of players who showed well with their affiliate in Oshawa last season.  The new bunch is green and may take some time to mesh, but they should hold their own against the bottom-end units on other clubs.  With the four-team playoff field this year, there’s a good shot that Hamilton makes the postseason for the first time.  But the picture feels unfinished; the Pistols seem a piece or two away from becoming a truly elite team.  Maybe they acquire the missing pieces at the trade deadline, or maybe they add them next season.  Either way, this seems like a team on the rise; it seems likely we’ll be seeing Keith Shields‘ crew in the postseason for some time to come.

Quebec Tigres

In their second season, the Tigres showed signs of growth and improvement; they finished out of the cellar, and the hard-nosed defensive ethic preached by coach Martin Delorme appeared to be taking root.  But their upside potential was limited by a stagnant, impotent offense; by and large, Quebec seemed content to jam up the neutral zone and try to win ugly, 1-0 games.  This approach worked all right when Riki Tiktuunen was between the pipes, but not at all when the fragile netminder was absent.  (The Tigres went 17-14-7 in Tiktuunen’s starts, and 3-19-0 with anyone else in the crease.)  GM Pete Gondret made aggressive moves to shore up the Tigres’ weak spots; they may be the most improved team this season, and that’s not even including their sharp new uniforms.  To bolster the attack, Gondret signed a pair of ex-Washington teammates, LW Walt Camernitz and RW Sindri Pentti.  Both are rugged two-way players that are well-suited to Quebec’s style of play, but they should also give the offense a much-needed shot in the arm.  To shore up the goaltending situation, Gondret signed Riley Lattimore to back up Tiktuunen.  Lattimore posted a respectable 2.96 GAA and .909 save percentage in Anchorage last season; he should ensure that the Tigres can compete on nights when Tiktuunen isn’t in net.  So the Tigres will be better… but will they be a contender?  That likely depends on two things: whether Tiktuunen can stay healthy, and whether Camernitz is able to take the scoring burden off of Stephane Mirac and help the latter bounce back from his sophomore slump.  If those things pan out – and if Delorme can get his messy personal life under control – this is a team that could surprise.

New York Night

Last season, new coach Nick Foster came in determined to shake up a struggling club.  He was determined to fix the sour team chemistry and improve the team’s leaky defense while maintaining their usual offensive pop.  Foster certainly shook things up; he called out his team publicly, juggled lines freely, and didn’t hesitate to bench, demote, or trade players who didn’t get with the program.  After all the upheaval, though, things didn’t work out as Foster hoped; instead, the offense dropped back to the middle of the pack, while the defense remained as porous as ever.  The one bright spot was the goaltending, with Jesse Clarkson and rookie Sherman Carter both turning in solid seasons, but they were under constant siege.  And while there are some new faces, most of the changes were lateral moves.  And with many teams in the East making serious upgrades, it’s tough to picture New York moving up.  If the Night are going to contend, they’ll need to see improvement from their existing players.  Last year, almost everyone on the team had a down year.  RW Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek and D Rocky Winkle were two of the only exceptions; the rest of the squad would do well to copy their energetic two-way play.  Perhaps the biggest key to New York’s success is RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson.  The enigmatic star had a dismal season, clashing repeatedly with Foster and scoring only 20 goals while showing the same disinterest in passing and defense that he always has.  The most notable “highlight” of his year was getting beaten up in a bar fight.  Foster reportedly pushed to get rid of Nelson in the offseason, but owner Marvin Kingman blocked the move.  If Nelson can swallow his pride and step up his game, he could be the difference maker that pushes the Night to a playoff spot.  If he can’t, it could be another long year in the Big Apple… and Foster might wind up paying with his job.

Boston Badgers

The big victory in Boston this season already happened, when the Badgers were chosen as one of the SHL’s new expansion teams.  GM Jody Melchiorre, who came up with the Igloos organization, has emphasized the desire to build a “blue-collar team.”  He’s done well at that, assembling a youthful collection of muckers and grinders through the expansion draft.  This is a scrappy team that should be good at wall work and winning puck battles in the corners; they won’t be a fun opponent, to say the least.  But it’s best not to expect too much from this bunch, because of the missing ingredient: offense.  LW Lix Darnholm, a Swedish prospect who was the first overall pick in the draft, is the only legitimate scoring threat Boston has.  Opposing defenses will stack up to stop him, as there’s no one else on the team who can make them pay.  They’re likely to try the Quebec route of slowing the pace and trying to win low-scoring games on fluke goals.  But the Tigres had a secret weapon to make that strategy work: Tiktuunen, one of the league’s best young netminders.  Neither of the Badgers’ goalies, Dennis Wampler or rookie Carson Wagner, is anywhere near Tiktuunen’s class.  This should be a hard-working and reasonably entertaining team that will endear itself to the fans in Beantown, but don’t expect a lot of victories.  Not yet, anyway.

Projected Finish:

  1. Hershey
  2. Hamilton
  3. Quebec
  4. Washington
  5. New York
  6. Boston

Shockers, Tigres Lead List of Uni Changes for 2018

The SHL’s 2018 season will see the addition of two new teams, the Boston Badgers and Kansas City Smoke.  But Boston’s and Kansas City’s uniforms aren’t the only new threads that fans will see on the ice this year.  Almost half of the league’s existing teams are making changes to their looks, with two teams – the Quebec Tigres and Saskatchewan Shockers – making major overhauls.

New Quebec Tigres Home Uniform

According to Quebec GM Pete Gondret, the Tigres’ revamp was the brainchild of owner Marc Delattre, who felt that the team’s old uniforms – which famously featured striped sleeves and socks – were too busy.  “Mr. Delattre was not a fan of our old costumes,” said Gondret.  “When he watched our games, he said ‘We look like a junior team, not professional.'”  Delattre wound up hiring fashion designer Rene Saramond to develop something cleaner.

Saramond’s design, which was reportedly inspired by vintage hockey sweater designs of the 1920s, preserved the stripes, but compressed them into a narrower band across the chest, sleeves, and socks.  Each band contains seven stripes, which symbolize the seven gates in the ramparts that surrounded the old city of Quebec.

“These uniforms are a perfect blend of old and new,” said Gondret.  “They speak to the history and tradition of both hockey and of Quebec, but at the same time they are fresh and sleek and modern.”

The Tigres unveiled their new jerseys at a season-ticket holder event in late November.  Captain Stephane Mirac, who modeled the home jersey, said that he is a fan of the new look.  “The old uniforms, they were a bit too garish,” Mirac told reporters.  “Now, we have a better look, and as we start winning more games, we can be proud of how we look and how we play.”

Meanwhile, the Shockers’ uniforms are largely similar in design to last year’s, but they’ve made a significant change to their color scheme.  Previously, the Shockers were notorious around the league for sporting the eye-searing combination of yellow and seafoam green  Reportedly, this unusual look was chosen by owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz, as those are his favorite colors.

New Saskatchewan Shockers Home Uniform

The fact that the colors clashed with one another apparently did not trouble the owner, although it did trouble Shockers fans and players.  Former Saskatchewan RW Daniel Bellanger, who played for the Shockers for half a season in 2015, likened the color combo to “a wound that is infected and filled with pus.”

After years of lobbying by the players, coaches, and front office, Doofenshmirtz finally relented this season, dropping seafoam and replacing it with electric blue.  GM Cooper Matthews hailed the new look, calling it “striking and eye-catching, but more pleasant to look at.”

Upon receiving news of the new colors, Saskatchewan players erupted in celebration.  C Napoleon Beasley declared the new combination “really cool!  We’ve got a new look we can be proud of.  The old look kind of made guys a little sick just looking at it, to tell the truth.  And we definitely came in for a lot of heckling about it from fans in other arenas.  But that’s over now!  Now they can just heckle us for our play instead, and that’s way better.”

A couple of other teams are making smaller but still noticeable changes to their uniforms for the new season:

  • The New York Night are are making a number of tweaks, adding drop shadows to the numbers on the back of their uniforms and adding more silver to their black-and-white-heavy palette. They’ve also gone from single-color stripes to a two-color pattern on their home and road unis (and changed the stripe pattern on their alternates to match.)  GM Royce McCormick called their new look “sophisticated and classy, just like our city.”
  • The Washington Galaxy have added white outlines to the logo on the front of their home jersey and to the numbers and name on the back.  According to GM Garnet “Ace” Adams, the team made the tweaks in response to feedback from fans, who sometimes had a hard time reading the jerseys from the upper rows of the Constellation Center.  “We always put the fans first,” said Adams, “and we want them to be able to see who they’re cheering for.”  In addition, the team switched from gold to blue numbers on their road jerseys, as well as changing from red socks and helmets to white.



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.”