Interview of the Week: Jay McKay

This week’s interview is with Jay McKay, who was fired as GM of the Seattle Sailors this week.

SHL Digest: In our final regular-season interview of 2018, we’re here with Jay McKay, who was recently relieved of his duties as the Seattle Sailors GM.  Jay, thanks for speaking with us.

Jay McKay

Jay McKay: Well, hey, I’ve got plenty of time on my hands now.  So I’m happy to do it.

SHLD: In some ways, your dismissal was a surprise.  The Sailors have made significant improvements year-over-year in your tenure, thanks in no small part to the bold moves you’ve made to acquire talent.  But for better or worse, your season has been judged on your decision to go all in at the trading deadline, giving up several top prospects to acquire C Lars Karlsson and D Hans Mortensen, a decision that didn’t work out.  Do you think that’s a fair way to judge your tenure?

JM: Yeah, I think it’s fair.  I mean, it was my call to go for those deals.  I pushed for them, I made them happen.  And I said at the time that I thought I might get canned if the trades didn’t work, which they didn’t.  I’m a big boy; I’ve been fired before.

SHLD: At the time you made the deal, most observers felt that the Sailors were a long shot to catch Anchorage.  What led to the decision to make those trades?

JM: Exactly what you said.  We were a longshot to catch Anchorage, and I knew that we weren’t going to get there with the horses we had on hand.  I’m a gambling man and a big-time poker player, and I know that the way to win is to either go in hard or fold.  I didn’t feel like folding, so I went in hard.

SHLD: Do you think other GMs in your position would have made the same trades?

JM: Definitely not.  Most GMs are super-conservative; they don’t want to make a move that they’ll get blamed for if it goes wrong.  I figure most GMs in my position would have made a minor trade or two so they look like they’re trying, or maybe they’d have stood pat and waited for some of the young guys to develop.

SHLD: But that’s not your style.

JM: No, it isn’t.  I believe that if you’ve got a shot to win, you’ve got to take it.  You only get so many bites at the apple in life; why waste one because you’re scared?

SHLD: Looking back and knowing what you know now, would you still make those trades if you had to do it over?

JM: Hell yes.  Making those trades got everybody fired up: the players, the fans, everybody.  It’s me saying ‘I believe in you.’  Turns out that the Igloos got things figured out and shut us out of a playoff spot, but we went down swinging.  I feel good about that.

SHLD: So, what do you think of the team you’re leaving behind?

JM: I think it’s a helluva squad.  Getting past Michigan and Anchorage is going to be a heavy lift, don’t get me wrong.  But this is a talented, hard-working young bunch.  We shed some prospects at the deadline, but the cupboard isn’t bare there either.  Whoever the next GM is, if he plays his cards right, he’s going to look like a genius.

SHLD: Sounds good!  Thanks for an open and honest interview, Jay.  Good luck landing your next job!

JM: Thanks.  That’s the great thing about jobs: there’s always another one just around the corner.  I’ll be fine.

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Sailors’ Mango to Star in Reality TV Show

Seattle Sailors star Vince Mango has never conformed to the expectations of a typical hockey player.  He hails from South Florida, not Canada or the American rust belt.  He flouts old-school conventions with his theatrical goal celebrations, which one earned him a brutal retaliation from an angry opponent.  He freely admits that his real passion is food, not hockey.  He devotes almost as much time to curating his Instagram feed as he does to preparing for games.  In short, he’s a polarizing player; traditionalists think he’s a showboat who’s wasting his talent, while younger fans consider him a breath of fresh air.

Vince Mango

Mango’s latest announcement will only make him more controversial among SHL fans.  This week, he announced that he and his girlfriend are developing a reality television show, “Meet the Mangos,” which is expected to air this fall.

“My fans have been clamoring for a chance to know me better off the ice,” Mango explained during his press conference on Friday.  “Now, they’ll have a chance to peek into my home life, see how I live when I’m not at the rink.”

The stars of the show will be Mango and his girlfriend of 2 years, Linzee Gaines, an aspiring actress.  Most of the filming will take place at and around their bungalow in Los Angeles, where they live in the offseason.  Mango’s parents, now divorced, will also feature prominently in the show.  His father George is an advertising executive in New York.  His mother Bonnie Faluto is a yoga instructor who lives down the street from Mango in LA.

Given the Seattle star’s passion for cooking, it comes as no surprise that he plans to include a segment of each show in which he prepares a recipe that he loves.  “Food is such a big part of my life, and my show wouldn’t be complete without it,” Mango said.  “I want to introduce my fans to the dishes that I love and the stories of how I learned to make them.”

Mango said that he’d spoken with the Sailors and the league about filming himself in practices and at games for use in the show, but that the team turned him down.  “I can totally respect that,” Mango said.  “From a creative perspective, they kind of did us a favor.  Because everyone knows what I do on the ice.  This allows us to focus on the Vince you’d meet off the ice.”

Mango’s teammates were generally supportive of the idea.  “Congrats to Vince on making it happen,” said RW Elliott Pepper.  “It’s not, you know, something that I think I’d want to do myself; not my style.  But it’s something he clearly wants to do, and more power to him.”

Sailors coach Harold Engellund, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic.  “What am I supposed to say about it?  I’m a hockey coach, not a TV producer,” Engellund told reporters.  “He’s promised me that it won’t interfere with the team, and I’m going him hold him to that.  Beyond that, what Vince does off the ice is his business.  I have no comments.  If you have questions about the show, talk to his producer.”

Fairwood Gives Sailors A Hand, Gets In Trouble

On Sunday, the Saskatchewan Shockers and Seattle Sailors faced off in a virtual must-win situation for both squads’ flickering playoff hopes.  As a result, the game unfolded with a fierce intensity, as both teams did whatever they could to snag a victory.  As it turned out, one Sailors player went a bit too far over the line in helping his team score a key goal.

From the opening puck drop, the game moved at a breakneck pace, a style for which Seattle is well-suited.  But the Shockers hung tough, trading goals with the Sailors throughout the contest.

“It was almost like an All-Star Game, defense optional,” said Shockers D Wyatt Barnes.

By the middle of the third period, the score stood 5-5.  At that point, the offensive flow seemed to dry up.  Both teams had chances to go ahead, but pinged shots off of posts or pushed them just wide.

With less than two minutes left in the game, the puck got lost in a scrum in front of the Shockers’ goal, as a mass of players struggled for control.  Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the puck wound up in the back of the net.  The goal horn blasted as the Sailors celebrated.  But Shockers netminder Zeke Zagurski protested vigorously that he’d been interfered with, prompting the referees took a close look at the replay.

At first, it was almost impossible to see what had happened, given the mass of humanity in and in front of the crease.  But eventually, matters became clear.

Woody Fairwood

Zagurski appeared to see the puck in the middle of the scrum and dove to cover it up, but missed.  Sailors D Woody Fairwood, seeing an opportunity, sat on top of Zagurski and pinned him to the ice.  With the Shockers goalie helpless, Fairwood spotted the puck, scooped it up, and flipped it into the net by hand.

Referee Darren St. James announced that the goal had been disallowed, and gave Fairwood a minor penalty for goaltender interference.  (After the game, St. James indicated that he wanted to give Fairwood an additional penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, but that his fellow referees disagreed.)

“I’m going to do whatever I can in that situation to get us a W,” said Fairwood after the game.  “Was it too far?  Well, I got caught, so yeah.  But you can’t blame me for trying.”

“It was obviously the right call,” said Shockers interim coach Caleb Ponder.  “You’re not allowed to sit on the goalie, and you’re not allowed to grab the puck and throw it in the net.  I don’t know what [Fairwood] was thinking.”

Sailors coach Harold Engellund, on the other hand, couldn’t suppress a smile when discussing the play.  “Yeah, okay, Woody shouldn’t have done it,” said Engellund.  “But honestly, I kind of like that hustle in a young player.  It’s do-or-die time for us, and Woody’s giving it the good fight.  The league isn’t going to give him a good-conduct medal for that, but if you’re going to win, you need to push it right up to the line.  And if you go a little over, that’s fine by me.”

Fortunately for Fairwood and the Sailors, they weathered the late penalty, and LW George Lane scored in overtime to give Seattle a 6-5 win.  Fairwood earned a beer shower from his teammates for the play.

“If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,” said Sailors RW Vince Mango.  “Woody’s definitely trying!”

Continue reading “Fairwood Gives Sailors A Hand, Gets In Trouble”

Wolves Sink Sailors in Record-Breaking Fashion

After the Seattle Sailors made a couple of major acquisitions at the trading deadline, they considered themselves ready to grab a playoff spot.  And they didn’t hesitate to let the world know it.  “Michigan and Anchorage better be on notice,” said RW Vince Mango after the deal were announced last Thursday.  “Their time is almost up; we’re coming for them.  We’re building a new dynasty in the Pacific Northwest.”

The Sailors had their first chance to back up those bold words on Saturday, when they traveled to Cadillac Place to face the Michigan Gray WolvesRon Wright’s club was well aware of Mango’s boasts, and were prepared to teach the upstarts a lesson.  “Believe me, [Mango’s quotes are] up on our bulletin board,” said Wolves C Hunter Bailes.

Come Saturday night, Michigan had indeed taught the Sailors a lesson in particularly brutal fashion.  The Wolves came away with a 13-0 victory, the most lopsided game in SHL history.

“Maybe next time [Seattle] wants to call themselves a dynasty,” said Wright, “they might hold off until they finish over .500 for once.”

The game was a front-to-back thumping.  Nine different Michigan players scored goals, and everyone except D Brooks Zabielski recorded at least one point.  “We pride ourselves on having the kind of depth that most teams can’t touch,” said Wright.  “As I’m sure Seattle is learning, it takes more than a couple of big stars to win championships.”

Things went sideways for the Sailors early on, as they ended the first period down 3-0.  Bailes and RW Oskar Denison scored 21 seconds apart less than three minutes into the game, and C Warren Marlow added another tally with 6:45 remaining

Marlow scored twice in the second period to complete the hat trick.  “Marlie’s not the type to get his name in the papers all the time,” said Bailes, “but he just goes out there and gets the job done.  We like that.” Marlow completed his hat trick just over 11 minutes into the period.  The game was delayed for ten minutes while fans flung their hats to the ice and the arena crew cleaned them up.  The Sailors huddled on their bench and tried to regroup.  “We knew we needed to do something to change the momentum if we were going to get back in it,” said Seattle coach Harold Engellund.

Unfortunately for Engellund and his team, that momentum shift never came.  The wheels really came off after Marlow’s hat trick, as Michigan scored three more times before the period ended.  Wolves fans taunted Seattle goalie Rocky Goldmire with razzing repetition of his name and a running tally of the score every time the puck found the back of the net.

Engellund finally yanked his goalie after the second period was over.  “Rocky was looking a little shell-shocked out there,” said the Sailors coach.  “I knew he just needed to go get a shower and a beer.”

Ordinarily, with a virtually insurmountable lead and a whole period left to go, Wright would have ordered his team to take their foot off the gas.  But instead they kept the hammer down, putting five more goals past backup netminder “Jersey Mike” Ross.

“Were we sending a message?  You bet we were,” said Wright after the game.  “[The Sailors] said they were ready to play with the big boys.  We wanted to show them what that was really like.”

In the visiting locker room, the Sailors struggled to absorb their shellacking.  “Man, I really pissed them off, didn’t I?” said Mango.  “It’s just like when we were in school; stand up to the bully and he beats you to a pulp to teach you a lesson. Lesson learned, I guess.  But I can’t wait until we turn the tables and beat them up next time.”

For the Wolves, Mango’s boasts lit their competitive fires at a critical juncture of the season.  “Honestly, I should be thankful to Mango,” said Wright.  “It can be a struggle to find motivation when you’re as far ahead as we are.  But he ran his mouth and gave us all the motivation we needed.  I might have to hire him to come get us fired up again before the playoffs.  His calendar should be wide open then.”

Continue reading “Wolves Sink Sailors in Record-Breaking Fashion”

Sailors Go All In at Deadline

The Seattle Sailors are in a tenuous position in the Western playoff race.  The Anchorage Igloos, widely expected to be a slam-dunk playoff team, have struggled to get much above the .500 mark.  In theory, the second Western playoff spot should be up for grabs.  However, hampered by a dreadful defense, the Sailors have been unable to take advantage, and have been hovering 5 to 7 points behind Anchorage for the last month.

Jay McKay

Given the situation, Seattle essentially had two options: concede the race, or go all in.  “The race has been static for a while now,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay.  “If we stuck with the roster we had, we were going to die fast and quiet.”

Instead, McKay elected to go all in.  The Sailors made a pair of major deals to acquire a couple of big names, at a significant cost in prospects.   “We’re pushing our chips to the middle of the table,” said McKay.  “We think we’ve got the chance to do something special here.”

Lars Karlsson

Seattle’s largest acquisition was the deadline’s top prize.  C Lars Karlsson was the biggest name rumored to be on the block.  The 30-year-old center is a proven star and is having a fantastic year, having scored 19 goals and 25 assists.  But his previous team, the Dakota Jackalopes, are in the midst of a payroll purge, and Karlsson’s contract is up at the end of the season.

The Sailors had a clear need at the center position, and they targeted Karlsson from the start.  But they’d already dealt their first-round pick to Dakota before the season.  In order to rent Karlsson for the stretch run, Seattle had to part with a pair of top prospects – C Dale Wilcox and D Duncan DeShantz – as well as their second-round pick.

“Lars definitely didn’t come cheap,” said McKay.  “But he’s the kind of talent that can really move the needle.  He plugs right into our top line – which was already doing great – and the effect ripples through our entire offense.  He’s a game-changer.”

Hans Mortensen

Of course, Seattle’s offense hasn’t been the issue; it’s their leaky defense that has doomed them.  To address that, the Sailors picked up veteran D Hans Mortensen, 30, from the Kansas City Smoke.  The defender has provided airtight defense in KC and put up 17 assists in 40 games.  To land him, Seattle surrendered another prospect blueliner, T.K. O’Neill.  The 20-year-old O’Neill struggled in his SHL debut, failing to record a point in 22 games before being sent down, but he is regarded as an elite defensive prospect.

“Hans is one of those lockdown D-men that you love to have,” said McKay. “He’s a solid veteran with championship experience, and he can contribute on both ends.  He’s going to really help our playoff push.”

These two moves make Seattle a more formidable opponent, but will it be enough?  And if the Sailors miss the playoffs and Karlsson walks at the end of the season, will they regret their deadline splurge?

“I won’t regret it a bit,” said McKay.  “If you’re not going for it, really going for it, what’s the point?  Maybe this all blows up in my face and I get fired.  That’s okay.  We’d rather take a chance and miss than muddle along and do nothing.”

Sailors coach Harold Engellund, who used to coach Dakota, agrees with that assessment: “It’s really nice to be with an organization that goes all out to win, that’s not afraid to spend money and take a shot.  I’m not used to it, but I love it.”

Interview of the Week: Vince Mango

This week’s interview is with Seattle Sailors RW Vince Mango.

SHL Digest: We’re here today with one of the SHL’s top scorers, Vince Mango.  Vince, thanks for speaking with us.

Vince Mango

Vince Mango: Sure thing!

SHLD: A lot of the players we talk to have always dreamed of being hockey players ever since they were little kids.  Was that the case for you?

VM: No, to be honest.  I’m from Florida, and hockey wasn’t a big thing down there.  What I really loved was food.

SHLD: Cooking food, or eating it?

VM: Both!  I had one of those Fisher-Price kitchens when I was little, and I used to pretend I had my own Food Network show.

SHLD: Did you have a favorite Food Network star?

VM: I loved Emeril [Lagasse].  He was a magnetic personality, with all his catchphrases – “Bam!” and “Pork fat rules” and all that – and I loved the way he cooked in front of a lot of a live audience.  My pretend cooking shows were always in front of an audience.  I’d flip a pancake or pull a cake out of the oven, and imagine the crowd going wild.

SHLD: That was good practice for being a pro athlete, in a way.

VM: Yeah, I guess I’ve always been a ham.  I’m addicted to the spotlight.

SHLD: So how did a kid from Florida who loved cooking get into hockey?

VM: Well, my dad was an ad executive, and when I was 9, he got a job in Toronto.  All the kids in my new neighborhood played hockey, so I learned to play too.  And I was good enough that the local coaches started taking notice.  It went from there.

SHLD: All the way to the SHL!  Not bad at all.  You’ve been called one of the best pure goal scorers in the league.  If you hadn’t gotten hurt last season, you might have won the scoring title.

VM: I’m confident I would have.  I was on a roll, and with an extra 10 games, I could have gotten to 50 [goals].

SHLD: On the flip side, you’ve been criticized as a one-dimensional player, someone who is only interested in scoring and doesn’t focus on other aspects of the game.  How do you respond to those critics?

VM: I think I get a bit of a bad rap; a lot of great scorers get tagged as being one-way players.  But I do care more about my scoring; I’m not gonna lie about that.  But think about it: what really gets the fans excited, gets them on their feet?  A goal!  It’s not a big check or a nice play along the boards.  Goals are what makes hockey fun!  And I want to do my part.

SHLD: You also attracted some controversy last season, when you took a selfie on-ice to celebrate a hat trick.  Looking back on that incident, do you think you did the right thing?

VM: I got a flak about that.  It’s almost like it’s a crime in this sport to have a personality.  The old guard scowled and wagged their fingers at me because I was having too much fun.  Now look, I know some of the guys on Michigan thought I was showing them up, and I wasn’t trying to.  But when a young guy tries to bring some life and fun into the game, that’s no reason to stomp it out.

SHLD: Let’s talk about your Sailors.  You and some of the other players talked about being playoff contenders this season, but you’ve struggled to get traction. Do you think you’ll be able to turn things around?

VM: We’re definitely not where we want to be.  We need to do a better job keeping the puck out of our net.  But the good thing is, nobody’s taken charge of that second spot yet.  So if we can tighten that up, we’ll be right there.

SHLD: One final question: Do you still like to cook?

VM: Oh, yeah!  Japanese cuisine is my favorite, but I cook all different kind of things.  And I’m still holding onto my dream of getting on the Food Network!

SHLD: Well, thank you for an interesting interview, Vince.  Good luck the rest of the season!

VM: If anyone out there knows someone who can get me on the Food Network, call me!

Shockers Hold Night to Honor “Bananas Foster”

This offseason, C Foster Culp left the Saskatchewan Shockers in free agency and signed with the Seattle Sailors.  He was not widely missed by Shockers fans or management.  After showing considerable promise as a rookie, he stagnated over the next two seasons, never breaking the 20-goal mark or surpassing the 31 points he amassed in his first season.  He was far better known for his screwball off-ice antics and bizarre quotes than for anything he achieved on the ice.

Foster Culp

As a result, when Culp returned to Saskatchewan for the first team in the season’s second week, the Shockers didn’t do anything to mark the occasion.  After the game, the center admitted that he was miffed at the lack of recognition.  “I mean, I wasn’t expecting them to retire my number or anything, but why wasn’t there a Foster Culp Night?” he asked reporters.  “I gave these guys three years of my life, and I don’t get even a gold watch or anything?  Not cool, man.”

When informed of Culp’s displeasure, Saskatchewan coach Myron Beasley barely managed to stifle his laughter.  “He thinks we should have a night for him?  Typical Bananas Foster.”  Beasley explained that “Bananas Foster was our nickname for him in the clubhouse.  Don’t get me wrong, he was a nice guys and a decent player.  But his elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor, if you know what I mean.  We’ve got some loose screws on this team, but Foster was something else again.  We were just glad he didn’t wind up in prison.”

But in the wake of the exchange, some Shockers fans emailed and tweeted at the front office urging them to make “Bananas Foster Night” a reality.  And given their past difficulties with promotions, the team saw an opportunity for an easy win.  “If the fans want Bananas Foster Night, for whatever reason,” said GM Cooper Matthews, “then Bananas Foster Night they will have.”

When the Sailors arrived at Potash Arena on Tuesday, Shockers fans greeted Culp (who was a healthy scratch for the game) with cutouts of his face and stuffed bananas, giveaways from the team.  And between the first and second periods, the team played a “tribute” video of Culp, with clips of him fumbling passes and shooting wide of the net interspersed with reminders of some of his more outlandish incidents, including the time he caused the team to be detained at customs with a smart remark about smuggling drugs, the time he was arrested for joyriding a baggage cart at the airport, and the time he microwaved a burrito for too long and caused the team’s practice facility to catch fire.  In between, the video included clips of some of Culp’s post-game quotes, such as “If you can outscore your opponent, you’ll win most times” and “Practice is like masturbation: it’s okay if you have to do it, but it’s not as much fun as the real thing.”

After the video was complete, the crowd gave Culp a standing ovation and tossed their bananas onto the ice.  Culp stood, blew kisses to the crowd, and took several sweeping bows.  And after the game, a 2-1 Shockers win, he expressed appreciation for the tribute — sarcastic or not.

“When I first heard they were gonna do Bananas Foster Night, I was afraid they were going to set me on fire,” said Culp.  “But this was cool, feeling the love of my people.  A piece of me will always be here.  Literally. One time I took a puck to the mouth and lost a couple of teeth, and I think they’re still here somewhere.”

Beasley also paid a compliment to his former player.  “Strange as it seems, I do miss Foster a little sometimes,” the coach said.  “Then I remember all the dumb stunts he pulled, and I got over it.  But there’s no question that he’s one of a kind.  He’s the only guy who wouldn’t get to play on his own tribute night.”