Wolves Announcer Mocks Portland, Draws Criticism

Michigan Gray Wolves radio announcer Blackie Sprowl puts plenty of color in his color commentary.  He has earned a rabid following among Michigan fans, but his blatant homerism and his penchant for jibes at opposing teams and cities have made him considerably less popular elsewhere.

This week, Sprowl made himself a new group of enemies in the SHL’s newest city.  The Wolves hosted the Portland Bluebacks at Cadillac Place on Thursday. and Sprowl shared his impressions of the city in a joking rant that inspired condemnation and calls for an apology.

The remarks occurred between periods, as Sprowl was doing a segment with play-by-play man Philip Shelton.  Shelton remarked in passing that the had never visited Portland prior to this year, and this set Sprowl off.

Blackie Sprowl

“This was my first time there too,” the color man remarked.  “And I have to tell you, landing in that city is like landing on another planet.”

“What do you mean by that?” said Shelton suspiciously, already sensing where it was heading.

“Well, for one thing, just try finding a normal meal there,” said Sprowl.  “I went out one night, just trying to get a hamburger.  And they give me this slab of tofu between blocks of ramen noodles, with… I don’t know, bean sprouts and kale all over it.  Then the next morning, I went out to find a café that served bacon and eggs, and all I could find was avocado toast on sprouted-grain bread and espresso-caffe-mocha-lattiatos, or whatever.”

“There are actually a lot of good restaurants in Portland,” Shelton interjected.

“I think the Bluebacks are gonna starve to death before the season’s over, because there’s no real food in that town,” Sprowl continued.  “You can’t keep hockey players fed on tofu and avocado toast.”

“Here we go,” said Shelton.  “This is going to be like the Anchorage thing all over again.  People will be throwing tofu in the arena.  Fans, please don’t do that.”

“Also, there aren’t any normal people living there,” Sprowl went on.  “Walk down the street, and everybody’s got nose rings and Birkenstocks and beards.  The men and women all have beards.  Or maybe it’s just men who look like women.”

“We’re going to hear about this,” warned Shelton.  “We’re going to get emails.”

“And the tattoos!” Sprowl exclaimed.  “What’s with all the tattoos?  When I was growing up, it was just sailors and truckers and carny people who had tattoos.  But everyone there has them!”

“’Carny people?’” said Shelton quizzically.

“I don’t think they let you move into Portland unless you have a tattoo.  It’s a freak show in the streets.  In the café I went to, the waitress was a real pretty girl, except for the art show on her arms.  It’s like spray-painting graffiti on the Mona Lisa.”

Shelton at this point began a mock disclaimer: “Mr. Sprowl’s views are solely his own, and do not reflect those of the Michigan Gray Wolves or this station.”

Ignoring Shelton, Sprowl concluded: “Apart from being a city full of freaks who eat hippie rabbit chow, Portland’s not bad.  And it’s a way shorter flight than Anchorage, so that’s a plus.”

As Shelton anticipated, Sprowl’s comments drew quick condemnation.  Leading the way was Bluebacks owner Jared Carmichael, who stood up for his home city.  “Blackie Sprowl’s remarks are full of the lazy, stereotypical thinking that too many Americans have about Portland,” said Carmichael.  “Granted, I have a beard, I wear Birkenstocks, and I have tattoos.  No nose ring, though, so I’m only three-for-four on his stereotype checklist.  We may seem ‘weird’ to Sprowl, but we’re proud of it.  I’d take our vibrant, artistic, diverse, beautiful, and weird city any day over the regressive, white-bread, 1950s fantasy world of his imagination.”

Portland coach Harold Engellund took a different tack, but expressed similar sentiments.  “I’m sure not about to go get a tattoo or a nose ring myself,” Engellund said.  “That’s not my style.  And a lot of the young folks around Portland don’t look like me or dress like me.  But who cares?  And why should the young folks care what Blackie or I think?  America’s a free country, and that means the freedom to be different.  All this talk about who’s ‘real’ and who’s a ‘freak’ is tearing us apart, and I don’t want to hear it.”

Star Bluebacks RW Vince Mango, meanwhile, took a different tack.  Mango, a noted foodie, offered to take Sprowl on a food tour of the city.  “If he wants hamburgers or bacon and eggs, I can show him where to find those,” said Mango.  “But if he’s up for opening his mind a little, I can show him what an amazing food city this is, and how much exciting stuff there is out there.  If he can look beyond the tattoos and the one-liners about avocado toast, I can change his life.”

The Wolves issued a statement that said they were “disappointed in Mr. Sprowl’s remarks” and would consider disciplinary action.

Continue reading “Wolves Announcer Mocks Portland, Draws Criticism”

Frankly, Zagurski’s On-Ice Snack Draws Ire

Saskatchewan Shockers G Zeke Zagurski is not widely known around the league as a colorful character.  Within the Shockers’ locker room, however, the netminder has a reputation for being a little… well, quirky.  “Zeke marches to the beat of his own drum, that’s for sure,” said D Chris Oflyng.  “I mean, he’s not as crazy as our owner [Heinz Doofenshmirtz], but he’s his own kind of cat, definitely.”

Zeke Zagurski

Zagurski’s quirky side made a rare appearance on the ice, when the goalie was caught using one of his water bottles in a non-traditional way.

In the middle of the first period of Sunday’s season-opening game against the Michigan Gray Wolves, during a TV timeout, Zagurski reached for one of the two bottles sitting on top of his net.  Rather than squirting it into his mouth, however, the Shockers goalie unscrewed the top and shook the bottle until a foil-wrapped package fell out.  Zagurski then peeled back the foil, revealing a hot dog that he’d apparently smuggled onto the ice in the bottle.

“When we saw Zeke unscrewing the top of the bottle, we thought he was going to dump the water on his head,” said LW Troy Chamberlain.  “We were a little worried, like ‘Is he getting overheated? Is he sick?’  Then out comes this hot dog, and he starts eating it.  Then we were like, ‘Ah, that makes sense. Only Zeke would bring himself a hot dog to eat during the game.’”

Zagurski’s mid-game nosh drew the attention of Michigan’s radio broadcasting team.  “Something strange happening over in net for Saskatchewan,” said color commentator Blackie Sprowl.  “What’s Zagurski got in his hand over there?”

“Looks like it’s a… hot dog,” replied play-by-play man Philip Shelton.  “He’s eating a hot dog.  Folks, this is really happening: Zeke Zagurski is eating a hot dog while he’s on the ice.  I don’t know where it came from, but… wow.”

“I thought we were the only ones allowed to eat during a game!”  quipped Sprowl.

“So did I, but it’s snack time for Zagurski, apparently,” said Shelton.  “We can’t make this stuff up, folks.”

“He’s my hero!” said Sprowl.

Ron Wright

Wolves coach Ron Wright, on the other hand, was less amused.  He barked at referee Darren St. James to make Zagurski throw the frankfurter away.  When St. James declined to intervene, Wright lobbied St. James’ officiating partner Bernie Craig to assess the Saskatchewan netminder an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  Like St. James, Craig refused to get involved.

Wright remained steamed about the incident after the game.  “I thought it was a disgrace,” Wright said of Zagurski’s midgame dog-scarfing.  “We’re supposed to be professionals, and this is supposed to be a serious game.  Instead, we’ve got a guy out here acting like a clown, and nobody does anything.  [Zagurski] has been in this league long enough to better.”

The coach called on the league to discipline Zagurski.  “Otherwise, why stop there?” the coach snapped.  “Why not wheel out a buffet table to center ice so we can all have a nice meal in mid-game?  Why not have Uber Eats deliver food to the benches?  If we’re going to be okay with eating food on the ice, why not let everyone in on it?  Seriously, is this a hockey game on an all-you-can-eat special?”

For his part, Zagurski (who made 35 saves, but lost 1-0) claimed to be mystified by the fuss.  “Goaltending is hard work, and I get hungry sometimes,” he told reporters.  He added that he’d been exploring his options for on-ice snacking for a while.  His original plan was to sew a pouch inside his jersey to hold some beef jerky, but “our clubhouse manager told me that would be an equipment violation,” so he opted for the hot-dog-in-water-bottle solution instead.

“Guys drink water on the ice all the time, and no one blinks an eye,” Zagurski concluded.  “I have one little hot dog, and suddenly it’s World War 3.”

Zagurski’s teammates confirmed that his appetite is indeed legendary.  “Everyone knows to hit the postgame buffet before Zeke gets to it,” said Oflyng, “or you’ll go hungry.  That guy’s an eating machine.”

The league did not discipline Zagurski, but SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell sent a communique to the referees clarifying that goalies’ water bottles must contain nothing but H2O, and indicating that future incidents would be penalized.  “Zagurski’s actions weren’t technically in violation of the rules, but this isn’t a road we want to go down,” said Commissioner Mitchell.  “If players want to eat, they can wait until the intermission breaks or after the game.”

Zagurski agreed to abide by the commissioner’s ruling, but he asked plaintively: “Why is it a crime to be hungry?”

Continue reading “Frankly, Zagurski’s On-Ice Snack Draws Ire”

Announcer’s Joke Sparks Fish Incident in Michigan

The Anchorage Igloos have faced a lot of obstacles this season as they’ve attempted to defend their division title.  They’ve struggled to put together lengthy winning streaks.  They’ve lagged far behind their rivals, the Michigan Gray Wolves, in the standings.  Lately, as they’ve tried to nail down a playoff spot, they’ve been hit by a rash of injuries.

On Saturday, the Igloos came in to Cadillac Place to face the Wolves.  They expected a challenging game against their rivals, but they also had to contend with an unexpected challenge: a hail of rotting fish showered down on their bench.

“You figure you’ll have to dodge some tough checks in a game, and maybe a beer sometimes,” said Igloos LW Jerry Koons.  “You’re not really expecting to have to dodge fish.”

Michigan Gray Wolves color commentator Blackie Sprowl.
Blackie Sprowl

The whole thing was triggered by an offhand comment on the Wolves’ radio broadcast during last week’s 13-0 thrashing of Seattle.  In the third period, color commentator Blackie Sprowl was trying to find something to talk about, since the game was completely out of hand.  He wound up launching into a comic monologue about the challenges of the commentator’s life.

“You know, this job is harder than the fans might think,” Sprowl said to play-by-play man Philip Shelton.  “It’s not all free food and fast women, you know.  We got to fly to Anchorage.”

“Yeah, that’s always a tough trip,” said Shelton.

“You go on a 30-hour flight, then you land in this snow-encrusted outpost in the middle of nowhere.  There’s more moose than people, and the whole place smells like rotting fish.  Then you’ve got to take another 30-hour flight back to civilization.  These are the kind of hardships that we put up with for you, fans.”

“Okay, Anchorage isn’t quite that bad,” Shelton interjected.

“Sure it is,” retorted Sprowl.  “Whole place smells like rotten fish.  You know, the next time the Igloos come here, we should put some rotten fish in their dressing room, just so they feel at home.”

“Rotten fish in the dressing room.  Okay,” said Shelton incredulously.  “Sorry, folks, this is what 10-0 does to you.”

“I think it’s great,” said Sprowl.  “They’ll smell those rotten fish and say, ‘Hey, smells like home in here.'”

Ordinarily, that would have been the end of it.  But when Anchorage arrived for Saturday’s game, a group of jokesters showed up with some day-old trout, and during breaks in the action, they began flinging it at the visiting bench.

The first salvo missed the mark, but the second hit Igloos D Ted Keefe flush on the front of his jersey.  The blueliner stared quizzically at the offending fish, then tossed it aside as the fans cheered.  As trout continued to rain down, though, the Igloos’ mood changed from confusion to frustration.  A couple players started checking the fish back at the fans, while others complained to the ushers.  Before long, the section behind the Anchorage bench was chanting “Fish! Fish! Fish!”

Eventually, the PA announcer warned the fans that “anyone throwing fish or other objects at the benches will be ejected.”  The fans booed, but the chucking of sea creatures came to a halt.

The Igloos wound up winning the game, 3-2.  During coach Sam Castor‘s postgame press conference, the first remark out of the coach’s mouth was, “What the hell was with the fish?”  A local reporter explained the story, whereupon Castor rolled his eyes and said, “Listen, my suit costs more than the monthly paycheck of those clowns.  The Wolves can expect a bill from my tailor.”

Igloos C Nile Bernard said that the team took the fish-flinging in stride.  “In fact, we’re packing the fish up and bringing it back home for Petey,” said Bernard, referring to mascot Petey the Polar Bear.  “We’re not going to let that stuff go to waste.”