Latest Shockers Promo a Glow-in-the-Dark Disaster

If there’s one constant in the history of the Saskatchewan Shockers, it’s their record of promotions gone wrong.  The litany of failed promos is nearly endless: the time they put a sumo wrestler in goal, they time that angry fans littered the ice with off-key kazoos, the children’s books full of errors and obscenities, the T-shirts that featured owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz’s face where the team’s logo was supposed to be, or the team rally song that included a line calling the town of Saskatoon boring.

Heinz Doofenshmirtz

The common theme in all of these disasters: Doofenshmirtz.  The owner’s combination of heedless enthusiasm and disinterest in details leads to a lot of creative ideas that tend not to pan out as expected.  According to team’s sources, most of the team’s promotions are dreamed up by Doofenshmirtz himself, and he is often also involved in their execution, turning to less-than-competent relatives and friends to help carry them out.

No matter how many times these promotions fail, however, the owner keeps coming up with new ones.  Recently, the Shockers offered their fans another Doofenshmirtz-planned giveaway: “Shock Boppers.”  These featured a pair of glow-in-the-dark lightning bolts, connected by springs to a headband.  Each fan received a Shock Bopper upon entering.

Between the first and second periods, the team dimmed the lights at Potash Arena so that the fans could see their Shock Boppers glowing.  As the fans rocked out to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” the seating bowl was filled with undulating lighting bolts.  It was a pretty neat moment, and the team later posted a video of it on their Instagram account.

Sounds like a successful giveaway, right?  Well, it was… until a few days later, when fans began posting angry comments on the Instagram videos.  It seems that the glow-in-the-dark paint on the Shock Boppers was flaking off, leading to messes at best and hospital visits at worst.  Some fans complained about coming home to find flecks of glowing paint all over their carpets and furniture.  Others told of take pets or young children to the emergency room after they swallowed the paint flakes.  One irate mother threatened to sue the Shockers for child endangerment.

After initially trying to resolve the issues individually, the team eventually realized that the problems were widespread.  It seems that Doofenshmirtz outsourced the manufacture of the Shock Boppers to a firm in his native Drusselstein, one reportedly run by his cousin.  “Yeah, in Drusselstein, quality control isn’t… really a thing,” the owner said.

Within a couple of days, the Shockers announced a recall of the Shock Boppers.  Fans who returned the giveaway received a credit for merchandise at the team store.  This failed to mollify fans who had to deal with cleaning or medical bills as a result of the paint flaking off; the team arranged settlements with those fans.

Has Doofenshmirtz learned his lesson?  On the one hand, he did say that he planned to let his marketing team handle the execution of future promotions.  On the other hand, he vowed that “I’ve got a bunch of great ideas that I’m working on.  Just wait and see!”

2020 SHL All-Star Break Transactions

The following transactions occurred during the All-Star break:

  • The Anchorage Igloos demoted RW Jean Pierre Fleury and G Wendall Cantillon to their CHL affiliate in Minnesota and called up RW Lionel LaNeige and G Curt Freeze from Minnesota.  Fleury has struggled badly this year, recording only 2 points in 20 games, and has been a healthy scratch in many recent games.  Cantillon has posted a 2-4-2 record with a 4.04 GAA as the Igloos’ backup netminder this season.  The 22-year-old LaNeige makes his SHL debut; he has recorded 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 32 games with Minnesota this year.  Freeze, a longtime Anchorage prospect, has gone 5-11-2 with a 2.59 GAA and a .905 save percentage so far this seaosn.
  • The Boston Badgers sent F Jacques Bacon and D Jackson Creed to their affiliate in Hartford, and recalled RW Felix Delorme and D Brett Stolte from Hartford.  Bacon, a veteran who signed as a free agent in the offseason, has appeared in only 7 games for Boston and has yet to record a point.  The Badgers are hoping that Delorme, nephew of Quebec coach Martin Delorme, can provide a spark for their stagnant offense. Delorme was a starter in the CHL All-Star Game, and has recorded 10 goals and 17 assists so far this season.  The Badgers called up Creed from Hartford two and a half weeks ago; he played in 6 games and recorded an assist.  Stolte, another CHL All-Star, has produced 12 goals and 13 assists so far this year.
  • The Dakota Jackalopes demoted D Geoff Moultrie and promoted D Brady Prussian.  Moultrie recorded 2 goals and a -2 rating in 14 games for Dakota this season; the team hopes to get him more regular playing time with their affiliate in Idaho.  Prussian has produced 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) and a +13 rating with Idaho on the year.
  • The Hamilton Pistols demoted D Torrey Ashmont and promoted D Russ Klemmer.  Ashmont is a rookie who has struggled for ice time with the Pistols, appearing in only 9 games.  He figures to start regularly with the team’s Oshawa affiliate.  Klemmer, meanwhile, was a CHL All-Star; his 22 assists placed him in the league’s top ten.
  • The Hershey Bliss demoted F Anton Lapointe and promoted RW James Clay.  Lapointe, a capable defensive forward, has struggled to produce offensively at the SHL level; so far this year, he has produced two assists in 9 games.  Clay, another CHL All-Star, led Hershey’s Milwaukee affiliate with 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists).
  • The Kansas City Smoke demoted G Dennis Wampler and promoted G Eric Middleton.  Kansas City’s 3.79 GAA is second-worst in the SHL, and Wampler (3-8-1, 4.06 GAA, .882 save percentage) has contributed to those woes.  Middleton, an 18-year-old rookie, has thrived with the Smoke’s affiliate in Omaha, going 8-6-3 with a 2.06 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
  • The Michigan Gray Wolves demoted RW Kelvin Starkey and F Cary Estabrook and promoted LW Fendrick Scanlan and RW Steve Brandon.  The offensively-challenged Wolves shook up their forward depth, swapping out Starkey (1 goal in 24 games) and Estabrook (no points in 10 games) for the top two scorers (and All-Stars) with their Cleveland affiliate, Scanlan (13 goals, 10 assists) and Brandon (12 games, 10 assists).
  • The New York Night demoted G Corey Franklin-Lee and recalled G Sherman Carter.  This is the reverse of the transaction New York made two weeks earlier, when they sent Carter to their affiliate in Utah in order to regain his form and confidence.  Carter went 4-2-1 with a 1.98 GAA and a .926 save percentage in Utah, while Franklin-Lee went 1-2-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .925 save percentage in the Big Apple.
  • The Quebec Tigres demoted C Phil Miller and promoted C Dwight Flynn.  The veteran Miller has failed to produce in Quebec this season, with a mere two assists and a -10 rating in 27 games.  Flynn, meanwhile, has produced at an All-Star level with Halifax this year, including 16 goals, 21 assists, and a +3 rating.
  • The Saskatchewan Shockers signed D Kjell Hanson to a minor-league contract.  The Shockers found themselves with a short minor-league roster after calling up D Pierre Chappelle and C Trent Harlow as injury replacements just before the All-Star break, and Hanson will help fill the void.  The 24-year-Hanson started the year in the Kansas City organization, but the Smoke released him the week before the break.
  • The Washington Galaxy demoted D Shane Gladchuk and promoted D Morris Starling.  The rebuilding Galaxy wanted to give Starling, a CHL All-Star with Baltimore, some ice time at the SHL level.  He led the with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists).  Gladchuk appeared in 12 games with Washington, notching 3 assists and a -8 rating.

2020 SHL Week 8 Transactions

  • On Monday, the Kansas City Smoke‘s CHL affiliate in Omaha activated D Lowell Sharkey from the injured list.  Sharkey, who is a highly-regarded prospect in the Kansas City organization, missed five weeks with a lower-body injury.  In order to make room for Sharkey on the roster, the team released D Kjell Hanson.  The 24-year-old Hanson appeared in 15 games for Omaha, recording 2 assists and a -4 rating.
  • On Friday, the Dakota Jackalopes placed C Tanner Brooks on the injured list.  The 23-year-old Brooks suffered an upper-body injury during Thursday’s 4-1 win over Quebec, and is expected to miss at least three weeks.  To fill in during Brooks’ absence, the Jackalopes promoted C Jacob Cunniff from their CHL affiliate in Idaho.  Cunniff is Idaho’s leading scorer, with 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists) so far on the season.
  • Also on Friday, the Hershey Bliss activated LW Russell Nahorniak from the injured list.  Nahorniak missed five weeks with a lower-body injury.  In order to accommodate Nahorniak’s return, the Bliss sent LW Sergei Tarisov back to their affiliate in Milwaukee.  Tarisov appeared in 13 games during Nahorniak’s absence, recording 3 goals and a +3 rating.  To make room for Tarisov on Milwaukee’s roster, the team released F Jerry Casenovia.
  • In one more Friday move, the Saskatchewan Shockers placed D Chris “Lightning” Oflyng on the injured list.  Oflyng had to be helped off the ice after being slammed head-first into the boards on Thursday, and is expected to miss up to six weeks.  The loss is devastating to the surging Shockers, as Oflyng led the team in points with 30 (8 goals, 22 assists).  To fill Oflyng’s roster spot, Saskatchewan called up D Pierre Chappelle from their CHL affiliate in Virginia.  The 31-year-old Chappelle was tied for the Virginia team lead in goals (with 15) and points (with 29).
  • On Saturday, the Hamilton Pistols placed C Marco Venezio on the injured list.  Venezio suffered a lower-body injury during Saturday’s game against Saskatchewan, and is expected to miss three to four weeks.  Venezio has been a stalwart on Hamilton’s second line, putting up 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists) on the season.  To fill Venezio’s spot on the roster, Hamilton called up C Hilliard Macy from their affiliate in Oshawa.  It’s the second SHL stint for the 20-year-old Macy, who appeared in 5 games for Hamilton earlier in the season. The Pistols also signed F Bobby Warner to a minor-league contract.
  • Also on Saturday, the Shockers placed C Cyril Perignon on the injured list.  Perignon suffered a lower-body injury against Hamilton on Saturday; he is expected to miss at least a month.  Perignon has recorded 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) and a +1 rating on the season for Saskatchewan.  To replace Perignon, the Shockers called up C Trent Harlow from Virginia.  At the time of his callup, Harlow led the Rhinos with 30 points.

“Ministry of Fun” Raises Shockers’ Spirits

The Saskatchewan Shockers are the West’s answer to the Quebec Tigres: a solid team that has hung around the .500 mark all season, lurking around the edges of the playoff race but not quite getting over the hump into contention.

The attitudes of the two teams couldn’t be more different, however.  While Quebec seems downcast, having struggled with injuries and offensive stagnation – the latter serious enough that their star winger groused about it to reporters last week – the Shockers remain cheerful and upbeat.

What’s the difference?  It seems that the credit goes to a group of Shockers players who refer to themselves as the “Ministry of Fun.”

Zeke Zagurski

“Hockey can be a pretty intense business,” said goalie Zeke Zagurski, who is considered the Ministry’s ringleader.  “That’s why we spread nonsense and silliness wherever we go, to bring a little bit of balance to the whole thing.”

What sort of silliness does the Ministry engage in?  Some of it is garden-variety pranks and practical jokes: whoopee cushions, fake dog turds, dribble glasses and the like.  Some of their moves, though, require a bit more sophistication.  There was the time, for instance, that they hacked into the PA system at the team’s practice facility and started blasting “I Feel Pretty” in the middle of morning skate.  Or the time that they showed up for the team picture and slipped on Groucho glasses just as the shot was taken.  Or the time they burst into a flash mob-style dance in the middle of the airport.

The Ministry was the brainchild of Zagurski, a well-known eccentric.  He is dubbed the “Prime Minister,” and many of the group’s shenanigans stem from his fertile, if twisted, imagination.  Backup netminder Shawn Stickel was named Deputy Prime Minster.  Other Ministry members include C Elliott Rafferty (Minister of Foreign Affairs – “because he helps us meet women on the road,” according to Zagurski), LW Vonnie McLearen (Minister of Practical Joke Innovation), D Rennie Cox (Minister of Funkitude), and D Chris Oflyng (Minister of Silly Walks).

The Ministry initially formed in the 2019 season, after Morris Thompson was named head coach.  Thompson is a disciple of Michigan coach and noted disciplinarian Ron Wright, and he was hired in part to encourage a more serious and dedicated attitude from a team with a reputation for (often drunken) hijinks.  Several players thought that Thompson’s initial approach was too firm, and the Ministry was their form of civil disobedience.

“We’re not opposed to working hard or taking our jobs seriously,” explained Zagurski.  “But frankly, a lot of our guys have a couple screws loose.  This isn’t a team that’s going to react well to a drill-sergeant approach.”

Morris Thompson

When Thompson first figured out what was going on, he was furious and wanted to crack down on the players involved.  But after he cooled down, he decided to take a different tack.

“After I thought about it, I realized that if I went hard after these guys, I’d probably tear the team apart,” Thompson said.  “Especially since a lot of these guys are leaders in the locker room.  What good is it to win the battle and lose the team?  Besides, most of what they were doing was just goofy.  They were working hard and playing well, just blowing off a little steam afterward.”

So Thompson made the Ministry a deal: As long as they worked hard in practice and in games, he wouldn’t complain about their antics.  He even agreed that whenever the team won, he would designate a 15-minute period after practice where the Ministry could engage the locker room in whatever sort of lunacy they dreamed up.

The Ministry took the deal, and it’s worked quite well so far.  “Every once in a while, we’ll do something so ridiculous that [Thompson] will just kind of bury his face in his hand, like a frustrated dad,” said Zagurski.  “But he’s been good to his word: as long as we play hard and don’t embarrass the team too much, he lets us do our thing.”

Will the Ministry of Fun and their zaniness propel Saskatchewan into the postseason?  It’s too soon to tell.  But the team is playing solid hockey and having a good time, and that’s a good place to start.

Shockers Owner Tries Hypnotizing Team

In the last couple of seasons, the Saskatchewan Shockers have earned a reputation as a young team with promise that can’t quite get over the hump.  And since the SHL’s beginning, Shockers owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz has had a reputation as an… unconventional thinker.  Those two narratives intersected this week, as Doofenshmirtz reportedly resorted to mind-control techniques in order to improve his team’s play.

“We’ve seen some weird stuff around here,” said longtime Saskatchewan D Chris “Lightning” Oflyng, “but this one probably takes the cake.”

Heinz Doofenshmirtz

Apparently, Doofenshmirtz dreamed up his latest idea when he read an article about a baseball team bringing in a motivational speaker to inspire the players with the power of positive thinking.  According to sources in the Shockers front office, Doofenshmirtz felt that such a tactic might help his club take the next step.

Rather than hiring an actual motivational speaker, however, the owner decided to do the motivating himself.  Last week, Shockers coach Morris Thompson arrived at the arena to find a package in his office.  It contained a pair of videotapes, with a note from the owner instructing Thompson to play them for the team before the morning skate.

Thompson did as he was asked (although he had to find a VCR first).  He gathered the players in the locker room and played the first tape.  This consisted of a continuous loop of Doofenshmirtz’s spinning, sunglasses-clad head chanting “My name is Doof and you’ll do what I say.  Whoop whoop!” over and over.

The players watched in stunned silence for about a minute before Thompson ejected the tape.  “I figured he probably gave me the wrong tape,” the coach said.  “Although why he’d want one like that, I don’t know.”

The second tape featured the owner in cowboy garb, singing a country-western song.  This seemed more promising, although on closer inspection the song contained lyrics such as “You’ll be my obedient mindless slaves, and nobody will blame me/ Because you’ll yodel-odel-odel-odel-obey me.”

This time, several players got annoyed, and Thompson stopped the tape.  He promptly informed GM Cooper Mathews that if the owner ever provided tapes like that again, Thompson would resign.

“It felt to a lot of the guys like he was trying to hypnotize us or something, and that’s not cool,” said Oflyng.

“That song was horrible,” added C Elliott Rafferty.  “I mean, it was catchy, but the lyrics were way too on the nose.”

Matthews apologized to the team, and made clear that the idea was Doofenshmirtz’s alone.  “At the end of the day, he wants us to win, and that’s what we all want,” the GM said.  “But I don’t think that’s the best way to go about it.”

“Come on, what’s the big deal?” Doofenshmirtz said to reporters.  “People pay good money to go on stage and have a hypnotist make them bark like a dog or act like a chicken or whatever.  I was just trying to brainwash my guys a little into playing good hockey, that’s all.  It’s not like I was trying to make them my minions in some plot to take over the world or anything.  I mean, who would even think of that?”

2020 SHL Season Preview – West

Anchorage Igloos

After suffering a stunning upset loss in the SHL Finals, the Igloos were headed for an offseason of turnover, as salary-cap constraints forced them to make some difficult roster choices.  GM Will Thorndike opted for youth over experience, re-signing LW Les Collins and D Tony Citrone while parting with popular veterans C Nile Bernard, D Dave Frederick, and RW Ben Summers.  To replace the departed players, Thorndike acquired some solid but lower-profile journeymen – C Jens Bunyakin, LW Tadeusz Adamczyk, and D Vitaly Dyomin – while acquiring buy-low candidate C Tom Hoffman from New York.  The moves were not popular with fans, but they arguably increased the Igloos’ window of contention.  With all their big-name stars still in the fold, Anchorage will maintain its high-powered offense (featuring the fearsome top line of LW Jerry Koons, C Jake Frost, and RW Nicklas Ericsson) and its excellent goaltending (longtime star Ty Worthington backed up by Wendall Cantillon), and will surely be a title contender again.  But the free-agent losses struck at the team’s depth, especially on the second line, and the team’s defense will likely take a hit as well.  In an improving division, will that hit be enough to cost the Igloos a postseason spot?  If the team gets off to its by-now-patented slow start, this might be the year it comes back to bite them.

Portland Bluebacks

Last year, the Seattle Sailors shocked many observers – including us – by surging to capture a playoff spot for the first time.  This year, they have a new name and are playing in a new city, the first SHL team to relocate.  Not content with the current roster, GM Taylor Teichman made a couple of bold moves, winning a fierce bidding war for ex-Galaxy and ex-Pistols C Eddie Costello and trading starting goalie Rocky Goldmire – who had a career year last season – to make room in the crease for free-agent signee Jesse Clarkson.  Signing Costello gives Portland an elite passer on the top line, setting up wingers Vince Mango and Rod “Money” Argent.  The Clarkson move was a bit of a surprise, as his numbers last year were comparable to Goldmire’s.  But he has a more established track record, and the Pacific Northwest native was reportedly eager to play in Portland.  The Bluebacks’ uptempo, multi-faceted offense (which produced the second-most goals in the SHL last season) should be even more dangerous than it was in Seattle, and their defense – long the team’s Achilles heel – has slowly improved.  Ultimately, the team’s success or failure will once again hinge on its star, Mango.  The high-scoring winger showed a new level of maturity last season, upgrading his passing game and even playing some defense on occasion.  If Mango can continue to grow and develop as an all-around player, the Bluebacks could be a real title contender, especially if Clarkson provides a steady presence in net.  If Mango reverts to his old one-dimensional shoot-first habits, though, his team will likely fall back to mediocrity.

Saskatchewan Shockers

The good news for the boys from the Canadian prairie: they finally made the leap into contention last season.  Under the tutelage of new coach Morris Thompson, the Shockers strengthened their defense (allowing only 29.5 shots per game, third-lowest in the league), while maintaining a solidly middle-of-the-pack scoring attack and getting strong goaltending from Zeke Zagurski (in spite of his early-season hot dog misadventure).  The bad news is that they still missed the playoffs, finishing 6 points out of a spot.  Their deadline trade for D Rusty Anderson wasn’t enough to get them over the hump and cost them prize prospect Tanner Brooks.  The worse news is that Saskatchewan’s wild new alternates were by far their most interesting offseason addition.  They were unable to re-sign Anderson and added no free agents of consequence.  They’ve called up Fs Yuri Laronov and Chris Quake from their minor-league affiliate in Virginia, and they should see significant minutes on the third line.  But where’s the addition – one more secondary scorer – that’s going to push the Shockers over the hump?  (They have less than $400,000 in space under the salary cap, making big trades challenging.)  Perhaps another year in Thompson’s system will give Saskatchewan the edge they need, or perhaps they’ll see another leap forward from players like LW Troy Chamberlain and C Elliott Rafferty.  Or perhaps one or two of the other Western contenders will stumble or suffer key injuries.  But as presently constituted, this looks like a team that’s going to contend again… but come up tantalizingly short.

Michigan Gray Wolves

In last season’s Western preview, we warned that 2019 might be the year that age caught up with the Wolves.  In spite of that, we still picked the Wolves to win the Vandy.  For much of the year, our prediction appeared on track.  But Ron Wright’s squad faded badly down the stretch, and wound up finishing out of the top two in their division for the first time.  For those inclined to pessimism, there are a number of warning lights flashing on Michigan’s dashboard.  The Wolves have always been built around goaltending and defense, but their offense was worse than ever before; they averaged a paltry 2.1 goals per game, dead last in the league.  They also finished with a negative plus-minus rating for the first time ever.  And several players on the wrong side of 30 – LWs Todd Douglas and Vladimir Beruschko, RWs Gordon Lunsford and Oskar Denison, C Warren Marlow, D Frank Mudrick – saw their numbers dip, in some cases precipitously.  So are the Wolves finished?  Don’t bet on it.  For one thing, a team with Wright behind the bench and Dirk Lundquist between the pipes can never be counted out.  For another thing, the roster is slowly – arguably too slowly – becoming younger.  RW Benoit Poulin and D Brooks Zabielski saw their stats tick up last season, and their ice time went up as well.  C Phoenix Cage finally gets a full-time shot with the big club, and rookie D Shayne “Boo Boo” Margara joins the bottom pairing.  The Wolves also signed free-agent LW Misha Petronov to provide some much-needed scoring.  Granted, this is still an old roster, and one or two major injuries could prove catastrophic.  But knowing Wright, it’s likely that the Wolves will use last year’s embarrassment as fuel – and that could make them very dangerous indeed.

Dakota Jackalopes

Mention the Jackalopes to almost any SHL fan, and their immediate response will likely have something to do with the team’s financial problems.  The team has steadily bled talent over the last several seasons, most recently Ds Matt Cherner and Rusty Anderson.  They did apparently stem the bleeding this offseason by extending LW Ryan Airston, although there are persistent whispers that the team is still exploring trade possibilities for him.  In fairness, the Jackalopes aren’t quite as dreadful as the rumors would make them seem.  They have a couple of quality scorers in Airston and RW Arkady Golynin.  C Riley McCrea, acquired from Saskatchewan before last season, had a breakout season.  The team has a passel of promising if unpolished young blueliners.  And top draft choice Lorne Mollenkamp gives the team some hope in net.  But the team’s offensive depth is lacking, especially in the middle, their power play is weak, and their defense as a whole still looks mediocre.  In addition, it’s hard to tell how the constant rumors of bankruptcy or relocation will affect a fairly young squad.  Coach Flim Dahlgren has his work cut out for him keeping the Jackalopes’ attention turned to on-ice matters.  And it feels like the league and owner Roger Scott need to decide whether this market is really capable of supporting an SHL team.  Scott is clearly unable or unwilling to bankroll continuing losses, and the team’s endless fire sale drags down the league’s credibility.  This is the season that Scott and GM Paul Mindegaard need to lay out a plan to return the Jackalopes to respectability… or a plan to relocate them to a city capable of supporting them.

Kansas City Smoke

In 2018, the expansion Smoke took the ice and finished last in the West, as expected.  In their second season, they actually got worse, dropping from 37 points to 31.  Their biggest issue, by far: goaltending.  Kansas City had five different goalies start at least one game, an SHL record, and their collective .882 save percentage was last by a wide margin.  While netminding wasn’t the Smoke’s only problem (their special teams were dismal and their -67 plus-minus rating was by far worst in the league), but the revolving door in net meant that no lead was safe and killed any hope of consistency.  The good news: Kansas City has a couple of big new weapons in its arsenal.  Their #1 draft pick, RW Bengt Fredriksson, gives the team a top-flight scorer it has never had before.  During the preseason, Frederiksson’s wickedly hard slap shot stood out, and KC’s offense had an unaccustomed rhythm and flow when he was on the ice.  As for goaltending, Goldmire – acquired from Portland – should at least give the Smoke a reliable #1 option.  (He’ll be backed up by Dennis Wampler, who posted the best results of last year’s crop.)  They also signed Igloos veteran Nile Bernard, who should center the second line credibly, and strengthened their defense by signing ex-New Yorker Tuomas Nurmi and trading for Washington stalwart Leonard Wright, who should help boost the power play.  Will these additions cause a miraculous leap into contention for the Smoke?  Not likely; there are still plenty of holes to fill.  But the Smoke should now be more credible, and this will give them a chance to evaluate other areas of the team.  Can Zachary Merula handle the shift from right wing to left?  Is D Gary Hermine or sophomore Bastien Chouinard really worthy of top-pairing minutes?  Is coach Randy Bergner the right man to lead the franchise forward?  If nothing else, it should be a fun season watching this club figure itself out.

Projected Finish:

  1. Portland
  2. Anchorage
  3. Michigan
  4. Saskatchewan
  5. Kansas City
  6. Dakota

2020 Uni Changes Feature New KC Logo and New Alts for Night, Shockers

Earlier this week, the Portland Bluebacks revealed the uniforms for their debut season after relocating from Seattle.  But the Bluebacks aren’t the only team that will be donning new togs in 2020.  Several other SHL teams are modifying their look, in ways both small and large.

The biggest changes came from the Kansas City Smoke, who also rolled out a new logo this season. When the Smoke took the ice for their debut season, their logo was mocked by KC ‘cue heads for omitting a key element: smoke.  “One of the consistent pieces of feedback we got on the logo was that it was about grilling, not smoking,” said team president Eddie Whitmore.  “I’d point out that plenty of people smoke ‘cue in their backyard kettle grill, but what we kept hearing was that it wasn’t real ‘cue.  So we decided to go a different direction.”

The Smoke drew up a new logo that features wisps of smoke, and they put the logo front and center on their uniforms, replacing the old “SMOKE” wordmark that looked like it was being licked by flames.

In addition to that change, they updated their jersey templates with a more modern look that replaces the previous diagonal-stripe-based motif.  The team kept its existing color scheme of gray, black, and burnt red.

“We figured: as long as we’re changing the logo, why not go ahead and freshen it all up?” Whitmore said.  “This gives us a uniform that can stand the test of time, that our fans can wear with pride as we build toward our goal of winning the Vandy.”

The Smoke and the Bluebacks are the only teams making wholesale uniform changes for the coming season, but two other teams are debuting eye-catching alternate uniforms.

The New York Night, aiming to remain on trend, ditched their previous silver alternates for a dramatic gradient look that changes from purple to black.

“Gradients are really hot right now,” said new Night GM Jay McKay.  “This gives us a look that’s flashy but still classy, and full of energy, just like the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps!”

Star RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson was one of the players who modeled the new sweater at the unveiling, and he was audibly impressed.  “Damn,” he was heard to exclaim, “these threads look almost as fine as I do!”

McKay predicted that the new jerseys would become the top sellers in the SHL.  After the unveiling, at least, his words seemed prophetic: local sporting goods stores indicated that the jerseys were flying off the shelves.

The Saskatchewan Shockers, meanwhile, did make changes to their home and road jerseys, simplifying the striping pattern on the socks and sleeves.  But that change was not what had people talking after Saskatchewan rolled out its new look.  Rather, it was the new third jersey the left mouths agape.

For the past couple of years, the Shockers have sported an electric-blue third jersey that they generally wore on Sundays and holidays.  It was eye-catching, but in the same template as their home and road jersey.  Their new third jersey, however, doesn’t match their usual template – or any other, for that matter.

The new jersey is half yellow, half blue, split diagonally with a white lightning bolt.  Immediate reactions were mixed: some fans on social media dubbed it the “Franken-jersey” while others noted its resemblance to the Grateful Dead’s logo.

According to Shockers owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz, the polarizing look was inspired by some of the NHL’s uniform designs from the ‘90s.  “In those days, it was all about trying new stuff and moving the merch.  Yeah, some people think those styles were a complete disaster, but nobody ever forgets them!  And they’re not going to forget us either!”

Saskatchewan’s players regarded the new uniforms a bit warily.  “It’s going to take some getting used to,” said LW Troy Chamberlain.  “It’s definitely different than what other teams are wearing.”

“We’re not going to be able to sneak up on anyone in these,” quipped C Lars Karlsson.

Other smaller changes for 2020 include:

  • Last year, the Michigan Gray Wolves switched from using the “Gray Wolves” wordmark to the wolf-and-moon logo as its primary home jersey. This season, the Wolves are making the same change to their road jerseys. “We wanted to unify our look,” said GM Tim Carrier.  Also, the numbers on the back of the jersey have changed from blue to red.
  • The Washington Galaxy have updated their logo, but their uniforms will remain the same as last year.