As a minor league, the CHL is focused on player development; the on-ice results, while important, are ultimately secondary. This can sometimes mean that the games themselves aren’t of the highest artistic or competitive caliber. Sunday’s contest between the Minnesota Freeze and the Maine Moose, though, was so bad that Moose coach Barney Flintridge called for refunds… on behalf of the opposing fans.
What made the game – a 2-0 Minnesota victory – such a dud? Start with the offenses. The two teams produced a total of 28 shots – combined – in the contest. The Moose fired a total of 16 shots, while the victorious Freeze had only 12. Worse yet, the action declined as the game went on. In the first period, the teams combined for 13 shots, a fairly respectable number for two defense-minded teams like these. But across the final two periods, Maine and Minnesota had only 15 shots between them.
And it’s not as though that number concealed a big number of narrow misses or blocked shots, either. Both teams worked throughout the game to deny entry into the offensive end, meaning that much of the action stalled out in the neutral zone. And once Minnesota scored a pair of goals in the second, they sat on their lead and focused on keeping the puck away from the Moose, the hockey equivalent of basketball’s old four-corner stall.
There weren’t any fights or big checks to liven up the action, either. There were a total of four penalties called in the game, all minors: one puck-over-glass penalty, an embellishment call, and a pair of high sticks.
After the game, Flintridge – often a prickly interview – roasted the game in no uncertain terms. “In my 40 years playing and coaching at every level of this sport, that was the worst game I’ve ever seen,” said Flintridge. “Just garbage from beginning to end, ugly and boring. They say hockey is the world’s fastest and most exciting sport, but you wouldn’t know it from watching this game. My biggest challenge during this game was not falling asleep on the bench.”
The coach then bashed the Freeze’s decision to grind clock once they got ahead. “At the beginning, at least it sort of looked like hockey,” Flintridge said. “But once [Minnesota] got a couple-goal lead, they turtled for a period and a half. Just disgraceful. And my guys should have tried to break that, but I think they must have taken sleeping pills on the flight out here, and they hadn’t worn off yet.”
Flintridge concluded his harangue with an appeal to the fans. “If any of the fans out there were watching hockey for the first time, I’m sorry. It’s not like this most of the time. I imagine some of the fans were just happy because they won, but the rest of you should demand a refund. You were promised a hockey game, and instead you got this pile of crap. At least, [the Freeze] should have given the fans pillows, so they could be comfortable while this was going on.”
Freeze coach Patrick Chillingham defended his team’s strategy. “We’re still in the playoff chase, and we’re going to do what it takes to win,” Chillingham said. “I’m not going to be embarrassed about that. Besides, it takes two teams to make a slow game. Barney’s boys weren’t exactly lighting it up out there. It’s a long season, and not every game’s going to be a barnburner.”
Responding to Flintridge’s call for fan refunds, Chillingham said, “If Barney wants to hand out refunds, he can do it out of his own check. But I believe our fans were satisfied with this game. When they come to a Freeze game, our fans are looking for two things: a chance to see tomorrow’s SHL stars, and a home team win. They got both of those.
“Tell you what, though: the next time the Moose comes to town, we can give Barney a pillow so he can nap on the bench. I’ll even pay for it. It must be hard staying up this late at his age.”