Galaxy Fire Longtime GM Adams

Yesterday, the Washington Galaxy became the second team to dismiss its general manager since the end of the season.  The team issued a statement announcing that it had terminated its GM, Ace Adams, who had been with the team since the beginning of the SHL.

Ace Adams

“The Galaxy organization thanks Ace Adams for his five years of dedicated service,” the press release read.  “We have made the difficult decision to go in a different direction, as we start planning the course that will lead our organization to its first SHL championship.”

In the SHL’s early years, Adams was applauded, as the Galaxy made it to back-to-back SHL Finals in 2015 and 2016.  As the team’s core began to age and the East’s other teams improved, however, Washington seemed unable to keep up.  Initially, coach Rodney Reagle took the brunt of the criticism for the team’s decline, and he was fired at the end of the 2018 season when the Galaxy collapsed down the stretch and finished below the .500 mark for the first time.  But the team dropped even further under new coach Peter James, ultimately staggering to a fifth-place finish.

As the Galaxy’s season wore on, Adams came under increasing criticism for being overly loyal to the team’s declining veterans, rather than seeking to rebuild.  Adams did deal away a pair of veterans, C Eddie Costello and RW Nori Takoyaki, at this year’s trade deadline – but according to team sources, he did so reluctantly.  With the team looking at a potential rebuild and facing offseason questions about whether to re-sign some key contributors – including star winger Jefferson McNeely – owner Perry Dodge reportedly wanted a new hand on the wheel.

Adams defended his record when contacted by reporters.  “I’ll stand by my decisions,” he said.  “I thought a couple of division titles and a consistent record of contention would buy me some more slack.  Yeah, the bottom kind of fell out the last season and a half, but I think our core was solid.  I thought it was time for a retool, but [Dodge] apparently thought it was bigger than that.  In the end, he’s the one signing the checks, so his way goes.  But I gotta say, I wasn’t expecting this now.”

The team’s decision to announce the firing via press release, rather than in a press conference where reporters could ask questions, raised eyebrows around the league.  According to team sources, the publicity-shy Dodge – who has never met publicly with reporters during his ownership of the team – declined to appear in front of the cameras.

Adams said that Dodge telephoned him to deliver the news.  “I asked him for a reason,” the former GM said, “and he wouldn’t say anything besides the fact that they’re going in a different direction.  I thought after five seasons, I deserved more of an answer than that.”

The press release contained no news on a successor for Adams, and team sources said no interviews had been scheduled.  Former New York Night GM Royce McCormick, who was let go last month, is available.  However, it seems unlikely that Dodge would go in that direction.  It seems more likely that the team will tab an up-and-coming assistant who’s shown a good eye with the draft and with young players – someone more like Taylor Teichman, who was hired as GM of the Seattle Sailors last season and guided the team to its first-ever playoff berth.

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It’s a “Cosmic Thing” for Galaxy Fans

Last season, the Washington Galaxy had a disappointing season on and off the ice.  On ice, the Galaxy finished below .500 for the first time.  In the stands, attendance dwindled as DC hockey fans overwhelmingly opted to watch the NHL’s Capitals make a run to the Stanley Cup instead of the Galaxy’s second-half swan dive.

The team took aggressive steps on both fronts during the offseason.  In hopes of improving their on-ice fortunes, they hired a new coach and shook up the roster.  To address their off-ice woes, GM Ace Adams hired veteran sports marketing executive David Maltby as “Chief Experience Officer.”  According to Adams, Maltby was charged with “making sure that Galaxy games are a great, fun, and family-friendly experience for our fans.”

The on-ice improvements haven’t materialized, as the Galaxy’s record has only gotten worse.  However, in their first season, Maltby and his staff have one success under their belt, thanks to an ‘80s pop song and its over-the-top music video.

One of Maltby’s first projects was to survey Galaxy fans on their opinions of the in-game entertainment.  One key finding: the music played in the arena was a bit stale.  So the team shook up the mix with some more modern, up-tempo tunes.

In addition, Maltby wanted the team to have a signature song, something the fans could adopt as an anthem.  “Fans love to sing along,” said Maltby.  “Like ‘Sweet Caroline’ for the Red Sox or ‘I Love LA’ for the Lakers.  A song like that can really bond a fanbase together.”

Maltby was looking for a track that connected to the city or team.  “There aren’t a lot of songs about DC, though,” he said.  “My first thought was ‘Bustin’ Loose,’ but the Nationals have that one pretty well locked down.”

“Cosmic Thing” album cover

Maltby’s staff went searching on Spotify and YouTube for possible candidates.  Their search hit pay dirt when they encountered the 1989 B-52s hit “Cosmic Thing.”  In particular, they found the official music video for the song, recorded live at a 1990 concert and featuring the band gyrating in eye-catching gold and silver costumes.

“It checked all my boxes,” said Maltby.  “The song was fun, up-tempo, singable and danceable.  It’s got terrific energy.  The late ‘80s are in the nostalgic sweet spot for a lot of our fans.  It’s a little kitschy, but cool.  It had the ‘Cosmic’-Galaxy tie-in.  It was the song for us!”

During the third period of Washington’s home opener, they played the video during a stoppage in play.  Maltby watched to see how the fans would react… and it was better than he’d dreamed.”

As soon as the video came on screen, the fans began cheering and boogying.  “It was almost everyone in the arena levitated at once,” Maltby explained.  “Folks were up out of their seat, laughing and dancing and cheering.  The energy level was through the roof for the rest of the game.  It was perfect!”

After experimenting with using “Cosmic Thing” as a victory song, the Galaxy quickly settled on playing it at the start of the third period to get the crowd going.  The fans love to chant key lyrics, like “Cosmic, wooooooo!”, “Shake your… honeybuns!”, and “Rock the house!”  The view on the Jumbotron switches between the video and shots of fans dancing and singing in the stands.  Some fans have even taken to dressing in costumes like the ones the B-52s wear in the video.

“It’s become an anthem, just like I hoped,” said Maltby.

The video received a new level of attention when New York Night coach Nick Foster took a shot at it after his team’s visit earlier this season.  “Apparently the hot new thing in DC is for the fans to dress up like disco balls and sing about shaking their [butts],” Foster quipped to reporters.  “I don’t know if they’re handing out free cocaine before games or what.  But I guess when your team sucks, you find your entertainment where you can.”

“That only made our fans love the song more,” said Adams.  “So thanks for the help, Nick!”

As a follow-up to this smash success, Maltby said he hopes to get the B-52s to the Constellation Center to perform the song live.  “If we can do that, people will lose their minds,” he said with a smile.  “Stay tuned.”

Pistols Make Big Splash in Landing Costello from DC

Last season, the Hamilton Pistols were headed for their first-ever playoff appearance, and they faced a choice: dip into their store of top prospects and make a big win-now deal, or make a smaller depth deal and hold on to their young talent.  They chose the latter path, and wound up being bounced in the first round by Quebec.

This year, in the midst of an intense race in the East, the Pistols decided to go for a big-splash deal.  They acquired C Eddie Costello from the Washington Galaxy in exchange for C Pat Collistone, D Buster Kratz, and their first-round pick.

“To be honest, I’m surprised to be here announcing this deal,” said Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire.  “When we began to discuss it, it was almost as a joke.  But the longer we talked, the more serious it became.  Finally I said, ‘Let’s take the dare and do it.’”

The trade is a big swing designed to address Hamilton’s biggest weakness, which is scoring beyond their top line.  The 28-year-old Costello led the Galaxy in points with 45 and in assists with 33.  He will slot into the second-line center position in Hamilton, between LW Magnus Gunnarson and RW Kenny Patterson.  In order to fit under Hamilton’s salary cap, the Galaxy will retain $1 million of Costello’s salary.

“Eddie is a dynamite player, and he gives us an immediate boost on offense,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields.  “I’ve watched him beat us enough times over the years; I know what he can offer us.”

For Washington, the trade brings an end of the tenure of one of their most popular players.  Costello was a key contributor to the Galaxy teams that made back-to-back SHL finals appearances, and was also a colorful character on the ice and in the locker room.  Many young Galaxy fans copied his signature fauxhawk haircut.

“It’s pretty tough for me to leave DC, since I’ve had so many good times here,” Costello said.  “But I’m excited to join the playoff hunt again, and I’ll keep in touch with all my boys back here.”

The rental of Costello (who will be a free agent at the end of the season) didn’t come cheaply.  Collistone has been a longtime favorite in the Pistols organization.  The 23-year-old known affectionately as “Stoner” was strongly considered for the third-line center role in Hamilton this season; the Pistols wound up signing veteran J.C. Marais instead.  He was a 2018 CHL All-Star, and though his numbers are down a bit this season (13 goals, 17 assists with Oshawa), he remains a well-regarded prospect.

The 21-year-old Kratz is another homegrown Hamilton prospect.  He’s been a depth defenseman for the Pistols this season, appearing in only 12 games and failing to record a point.

“I never thought [LaClaire] would make Stoner available,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams.  “He and Kratz both help us restock our prospect pool, which is great as we look to the next chapter for our team.  We wish Eddie all the best.  I hope he brings home the Vandy.”

Night Strike First, Acquire Takoyaki from Galaxy

With the SHL trade deadline approaching on Wednesday, the New York Night made the first move.  With the team’s grip on a playoff spot slipping and with a crucial injury on the right wing, the Night picked up RW Nori Takoyaki from the Washington Galaxy in exchange for RW Mickey Simpson, D Andy Ruger, and a 3rd-round draft pick.

“Being hard up against the cap, there was only so much we could do,” said Night GM Royce McCormick.  “But we saw a need, and we were able to fill it fairly cheaply.”

Takoyaki, who is the SHL’s only player of Japanese ancestry, had played with the Galaxy since the SHL’s beginning.  He continued to produce solid numbers (6 goals, 15 assists) even in the midst of a disappointing season in the nation’s capital.  He has a reputation as a weak defender, but he’ll fit right in with the Night’s shoot-first philosophy.  With New York, Takoyaki will plug immediately into the open right-wing slot on the second line, which became vacant when Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek went down with a lower-body injury at the end of last week.

“Obviously, we all want Trainwreck to get healthy and get back in the lineup as soon as possible,” said Night coach Nick Foster.  “But with Tako here, he should help us keep humming and keep the wins rolling in.”

When Trujwirnek returns, Takoyaki is expected to slot in on the third line, where Sylvester Catarino has struggled this season.  “The deeper we are, the better we are,” said Foster.

The 22-year-old Simpson is the prize of the deal for Washington.  Simpson has shuttled back and forth between the Night and their farm team in Utah this season.  In 10 games with New York, Simpson recorded 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) and a -5 rating.

“Right now, we’re a team in transition,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams.  “We’re focused on picking up prospects and giving our young guys some opportunities to shine.  We’ll miss Tako and everything he did for our team.  But I can’t wait to see what Mickey can do for us.”

The 30-year-old Ruger was a solid defender for the Night (he put up 4 points and a +2 rating in 11 games this season), but he was included solely to help the deal fit under the salary cap for the Night.  The Galaxy also retained $500,000 of Takoyaki’s salary for this reason.

Immediately after the deal was completed, Washington turned around and dealt Ruger to the perpetually defense-starved Kansas City Smoke in exchange for future considerations.

Galaxy Announcer Makes Racist Joke About Jones

Quebec Tigres D Ward Jones, one of the SHL’s few black players, has been subject to racist taunts and controversies throughout his career.  This week, a loose-minded racial quip directed at Jones by a Washington Galaxy broadcaster triggered a firestorm around the league.

Doug Jacobson

The incident occurred during the third period of Tuesday’s Quebec-Washington tilt, when Jones got into a fight with Galaxy D Bruce Hogaboom.  The two traded blows with abandon, leading Washington radio color man Doug Jacobson to exclaim delightedly that it was “a real heavyweight bout!”

Replied play-by-play announcer Scott Cox, “Yes, these two are really going at it.”

“They’ve both got heavy hands,” said Jacobson.  “Now, we know Boomer got so strong from picking turnips back on the farm growing up.”  This is a running joke on Jacobson’s part; Hogaboom is a native of a small town on the Canadian prairie, and the announcer frequently claims that he grew up on a turnip farm.

After that, however, Jacobson crossed the line.  “Now, we know Jones didn’t grow up on a turnip farm,” the announcer said.  (Jones is a native of Chicago.)  “So he must have picked it up on the street corner.”

Cox tried to move on, noting that the referees were stepping in to break up the fight.

But Jacobson continued, “It makes sense.  Jones is fast and he’s a good fighter.  Fighting, running from the cops… those are important skills where he’s from.”

Jacobson’s comments were already attracting negative attention on Twitter while the game was still going on.  After the game, a reporter read the remarks to Jones and asked for comment.

Ward Jones

“I wish I was surprised,” Jones replied.  “Unfortunately, this is what it’s come to in this country.  If you’re black and you’re from the inner city, obviously you must have been in a gang.  It’s racist garbage, but it’s where we are.  Ever since the 2016 election, people in America have felt free to just spout opinions like that.”

Initially, Jacobson defended the quips, saying they were “not racial in any way.  The joke was about the fact that [Jones is] from Chicago.  Everyone knows there’s a lot of violence and gangs in Chicago.  That’s what the joke was about.  Hogaboom didn’t really grow up on a turnip farm either, you know.”

But as time went on, the blowback continued to mount.  SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell denounced Jacobson’s remarks as “inappropriate and counter to the spirit of inclusiveness we strive for in this league.”  Galaxy GM Ace Adams issued an apology to Jones.  The radio station that carries Washington’s broadcasts also apologized, and then suspended Jacobson for three weeks.

After the suspension was announced, Jacobson finally expressed regret for his remarks.  “Although I didn’t mean to be offensive, I’ve now realized that I was,” the announcer said.  “I was wrong to say what I did, and to Ward and anyone else who was offended, I’m sorry.”

Jones responded to Jacobson’s apology with mixed feelings.  “Honestly, I believe him when he says he didn’t mean to be offensive,” Jones told reporters.  “The thing is, that’s the problem.  Not with him, really, but with our society.  The fact that you see a black guy from Chicago and your first thought is ‘gang member.’  Because the joke doesn’t work if you don’t expect the audience to make that association too.”

Galaxy Pick James as New Coach

The Washington Galaxy surprised a number of observers around the league when they fired coach Rodney Reagle, who had guided the team to a pair of Finals appearances in four seasons.  After the surprising dismissal of Reagle, the team made an unsurprising choice for his replacement, tapping Oshawa Drive coach Peter James to take over the bench next season.

Peter James

“When we looked for our next coach, we had several criteria in mind,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams.  “We wanted a coach who was professional and dedicated.  We wanted someone who was firm but not overbearing, someone who was serious but not too straitlaced, someone who could help mentor younger players while also relating well to veterans.  We wanted someone who was comfortable with the demands of a bigger market, but wouldn’t be looking to grab headlines.  Peter met all of our criteria.”

Several of those criteria could be interpreted as a veiled shot at Reagle, who had a well-earned reputation as the SHL’s clown prince.  He was well known for wearing costumes on the bench and frequently dropping movie quotes and offbeat accents into his press conferences.  These antics made Reagle a colorful and popular character, but team sources say the front office and some players found his behavior childish and that owner Perry Dodge felt the coach was too easy with the players.

James represents a virtual 180-degree change in personality from Reagle.  The 55-year-old Kitchener native has a reputation as for being serious and mild-mannered; one Oshawa player described James as having “milk running through his veins.”

The coach confirmed the accuracy of his reputation at his introductory press conference.  “If you’re expecting a lot of memorable quotes out of me, well, you’ll be disappointed,” said James.  “I’m always willing to talk to the press, but my plan is to keep my head down and do my job.”

Those who might equate James’ politeness and lack of flair with meekness or weakness, however, are mistaken.  He demonstrated this in Oshawa last season when he physically repelled an opposing defender who attempted to climb onto the Drive’s bench and start a fight.  Asked about this incident, James said, “My first instinct to protect my players, always.  I’m not a fighter, but I’m also not a pushover.”

James will face a challenge navigating an aging roster that lost key contributor Walt Camernitz to free agency last season and may see #1 goaltender Roger Orion depart this offseason.  “I would really like to see us re-sign Roger,” James said.  “He’s a really top-notch goalie.”

The new bench boss will also have some work to do in the clubhouse, whose chemistry reportedly went south during the Galaxy’s second-half swan dive, when they went 11-20-1 to finish below .500 for the first time in team history.  “Obviously, losing makes things tough on everybody,” James said.  “But even during tough times, if you put the right foundation in place, the team will hold together.”

The team reportedly didn’t interview many candidates for the vacancy.  The team is known to have also spoken to former assistant coach Herman Chambers and Michigan assistant Morris Thompson.  Sources say that the front office was torn between James and Thompson; the latter’s reputation for building stout defenses was appealing.

It was James’ calm demeanor, Adams said, that put him over the top.  “The longer we talked to Peter, the more I noticed how calm and confident he was, no matter what questions I threw at him,” said the Galaxy GM.  “He was so calm that he made me feel calmer just listening to him.  And I knew this was the guy to guide us through good times and bad.”

As for Washington’s ex-coach, it appears unlikely that Reagle will find himself behind a bench this season.  The only remaining open SHL job is with the Saskatchewan Shockers, who are said to be looking for a disciplinarian.  Reagle said that he was open to a job in broadcasting, but “if I wind up spending the season at home with my wife, sipping lemonade and cashing checks, I’m okay with that too.  I’m not sure if she will be, though.”

Galaxy Parts Ways with Reagle

In a move that surprised many around the league, the Washington Galaxy this week announced that they had fired coach Rodney Reagle.  In making the move, the Galaxy part ways with the league’s most colorful coach and a man who led the team to a 129-105-10 record and two Finals appearances – but also a coach whose comic act was reportedly wearing thin with an aging roster that seemed to be heading in the wrong direction.

Rodney Reagle

There was a good deal of discontent in the capital city after the Galaxy finished with their first-ever sub-.500 record, going 31-32-1.  Washington was widely expected to take a step back this season after losing several key players in free agency, including LW Walt Camernitz, RW Sindri Pentti, and backup netminder Ron Mason.  Throughout the first half of the season, the Galaxy surprised with a strong performance, contending for a playoff spot for much of the season.  However, the team struggled to get production beyond their top line and collapsed after the trade deadline, going 7-19-1 over the last six weeks of the season – a stretch that sealed Reagle’s fate.

“Rodney Reagle is a good man and a good coach, and a guy I’m proud to call my friend,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams.  “We’ve achieved a lot together, and I thank him for all the good times.  But we’ve made the difficult decision to go in a new direction.”

Reagle had a well-earned reputation as the clown prince of the SHL; he was famous around the league for dressing up in costumes on the bench and for giving post-game interviews laced with movie quotes and strange accents.  The coach’s public goofiness made him a controversial figure around the league, and even reportedly within the Galaxy front office.  As long as the team was winning, Reagle was generally viewed as charmingly eccentric.  Once the team started to slide, however, it was easy to paint the coach as insufficiently serious.

“I’ve always known that my sense of humor was a high-wire act,” said Reagle.  “As long as you win, you can be totally coo-coo bananas and everything thinks it’s a sign of a quirky genius.  When you stop winning, suddenly you’re not funny anymore.  I thought two trips to the Finals would have bought me a little more rope, but turns out there was just enough to hang me with.”

There are conflicting reports about whether the coach had lost the clubhouse.  Some sources said that many players found Reagle’s antics silly and embarrassing.  Others claimed that the players were actually quite loyal to Reagle, and that the decision was driven by owner Perry Dodge, who reportedly felt the coach was too loose with the team.

Several players spoke out in support of Reagle after word of the firing broke.  “Coach Reagle is a great guy to play for,” said C Eddie Costello.  “He treats you like a grown man and he keeps things light and fun.  I feel bad that we let him down.”

Adams declined to comment on who Reagle’s replacement might be, other than to confirm that assistant coach Herman Chambers would be “strongly considered.”  According to team sources, other possible candidates include Michigan assistant Morris Thompson, Anchorage assistant Kyle Barrow, and minor-league coach Peter James.