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.”

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Bellmore’s Prank Backfires, Leads to Injury

Washington Galaxy C Harvey Bellmore is well known around the SHL as a prankster.  Virtually everyone who’s crossed path with Bellmore has a story about him, whether it’s his fascination with joy buzzers or the time he crashed a team Faith Day celebration to sermonize about his love of alcohol.  This week, one of his pranks backfired on him, and wound up causing himself to miss multiple games with injury.

Harvey Bellmore

The Galaxy were on the road this week, and they held a morning skate on Wednesday in Grand Rapids.  In the middle of the practice session, Bellmore stopped by the bench to get a drink of water.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw teammate Bruce Hogaboom skating by, so he stuck out his stick to try and trip the rugged defenseman.  Hogaboom stumbled, then lurched right into Bellmore and caused the center to flip over the boards.  Putting out his hand to break his fall, Bellmore sliced his right thumb open against the latch on the bench door.

Hogaboom, not realizing that Bellmore was hurt, flung his glove at his teammate and loudly (but cheerfully) cursed him out.  When Bellmore didn’t get up, Hogaboom and other Washington players came to his aid.

When Bellmore finally stood up, he said, “Guys, I think I’ve got a problem.”  Blood was pouring from his thumb and dripping on the ice and down his sweater.  Even then, his teammates weren’t convinced that Bellmore wasn’t trying to prank them.

“My first thought,” said LW Charlie Brooks, “was that he’d gotten one of those fake blood things they use in the movies, and he was trying to trick us into thinking he was bleeding to death.  It’s the kind of thing he would do.”

They ultimately realized that he wasn’t joking, and helped him off the ice and to the trainer’s table.  Bellmore ultimately needed several stitches to close the gash in his thumb.

“I’ve punked a lot of guys in my career, but this is the first time I ever punked myself,” said Bellmore, holding up his bandaged thumb.  “I’ll never try to trip Boom Boom again.  That’s like throwing yourself in front of a Mack truck.  I’m probably lucky I didn’t break every bone in my body.”

Washington coach Peter James was not impressed with Bellmore’s stunt.  “I’ve aged about 10 years since I took this job, and at least 90% of that is because of Harvey Bellmore,” James grumbled to reporters.  “Who thinks it’s a good idea to deliberately trip your own teammate during practice?  Only Bellmore.  I’ve met kindergartners who were more mature than him.”

As punishment for the prank, James said Bellmore would be suspended for three games.  The center said that was fine with him, since “I can’t really grip my stick right now anyway.”

Interview of the Week: Bruce Hogaboom

This week’s interview is with Washington Galaxy D Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom.

SHL Digest: We’re here talking to one of the league’s most fearsome fighters, the man they call “Boom Boom,” Bruce Hogaboom.  Bruce, thanks for speaking with us.

Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom

Bruce Hogaboom: No one calls me Bruce except my mom.  Call me Boom Boom or Boomer.

SHLD: Okay, Boomer.  When we talk about the real heavyweights in this league, the guys who really know how to throw down, a handful of names come up.  Max Madison in Michigan, Hercules Mulligan in Hamilton, Dmitri Kalashnikov in Quebec, Ruslan Gromov in Hershey, and you.

BH: “Heavyweight!”  I like the sound of that.  Yeah, the guys you mentioned, we’re the cream of the enforcer crop.

SHLD: Other than yourself, who do you think is the best fighter in the league?

BH: It’s gotta be Mad Max.  He’s wiry, so he’s hard to pin down, and he comes at you from a bunch of different angles.  And that guy has no fear whatsoever.  He’ll drop the gloves any time in any situation.  And he’s a good two-way player too, which is hardly fair.  That’s like a boxer who paints like Picasso.

SHLD: Some enforcers really like to fight, while others think of it as just their job.  Do you like to fight?

BH: Absolutely!  Isn’t it obvious?  I love to fight.  I love to watch fights.  I study the tape all the time.

SHLD: You study tape of… fights?

BH: Sure.  If you’re a big-time scorer, you watch tape of your shots to see if you need to tweak your approach.  If you’re a fighter, you study fights, to watch your technique and how other guys like to fight, so you can get the upper hand. Some people think that fighting isn’t a skill, but if you’re serious about it, it is.

SHLD: Interesting!  A lot of fans might be surprised to hear that.

BH: And honestly, I just love to watch my old fights for the fun of it.  A good fight is like a good steak or a fine wine; one of life’s pleasures.

SHLD: Have you always been a fighter?

BH: Ever since I could skate, pretty much.  I always wanted to play pro hockey, but I couldn’t shoot and I wasn’t a great passer.  I thought about being a goalie, but you have to be nuts to take some of the shots that they take.  But when I started scrapping, I found out I have heavy hands and I could fight well.

SHLD: That’s for sure!

BH: It felt good.  Before I started fighting, I usually got picked last or nearly last, because I wasn’t a great player.  But after, guys started picking me first, because they wanted the protection.  I recognized my skill and developed it.

SHLD: And you kept on developing that as you got older.

BH: Definitely!  When I was thirteen, I gave my fists nicknames, because I thought that sounded cool.  My right was Randy, and my left was Matilda.

SHLD: Randy and Matilda… interesting names!

BH: Yeah.  I’d loosen guys up with Randy, then I’d bring out Matilda and drop them. Word started to spread, and the enforcers in other towns would come around just to fight me.  And I beat them all.  I was the Mike Tyson of central Alberta.

SHLD: Some people say that fighting and enforcers have no place in the modern game, and should be banned.  What would you say to those people?

BH: I’d say that’s a crazy idea.  First of all, plenty of fans love the fights.  Look at all the fight videos on YouTube.  Listen to the crowd whoop it up when guys go at it.  People might not admit it, but they love the violence.  Second, it actually makes the sport safer.  Ask our skill guys, Jeff [McNeely] and Thurm [Casey Thurman] and Eddie [Costello].  If another team wants to take a run at those guys, they think about me coming out to even the score and they lay off.  It helps discourage the really dangerous hits.

SHLD: You’ve been suspended before, when you left the bench to fight with a player.  Did you think that was a fair suspension?

BH: [laughs] That game against Michigan, that was crazy.  The Wolves were out there flying around and railing guys, and the refs didn’t want to do anything about it.  So I put a stop to it.  Did I go too far?  Probably, but I tell you: they dialed it back the next time they played us.  They got the message.

SHLD: This season, you’re skating on the third pairing with a rookie, Bert Hampton, who’s also a tough customer!

BH: Hacksaw!  I love him.  On the team, they call him “Little Boomer,” because he plays the same way I do.  I’ve been teaching him all kinds of pointers: how to tie a guy up so he can’t get his hands free, how to protect against a blindside hit, the way to sneak in an extra shot or two before the refs break it up.

SHLD: You’re sort of his mentor, then.

BH: Definitely.  I don’t have any kids, but he’s like my son now.  I can’t wait to see him develop to his full fighting potential.

SHLD: Well, thanks for a fun and informative interview!  Appreciate the time.

BH: Glad to do it! I’m just out here keeping the spirit of old-time hockey alive.

 

Galaxy Trade for Sailors D Gallagher

The Washington Galaxy are in a great position as they look to capture their third straight division title.  They’ve gone undefeated since the All-Star break, and they just passed Hershey to take the lead in the East.  It would have been easy to imagine them making no moves at the deadline, not wanting to mess with a good thing.  Instead, though, the Galaxy made a small but smart move, bolstering their defensive corps by grabbing D Stan “Animal” Gallagher from the Seattle Sailors in exchange for minor-league D Woody Fairwood.

Stan Gallagher

The pickup of Gallagher should stabilize Washington’s third defensive pairing, which has been a season-long conundrum.  The position opposite Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom has a revolving door, as the Galaxy have rotated between veteran Bill Corbett, young banger Jurgen Braun, and rookie Graham Bellinger.  All three have done credibly, but none of them has played well enough to seize the job full-time.

The 27-year-old Gallagher should provide Hogaboom with a strong running partner.  He scored 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) with Seattle, playing largely on their top pairing.  He earned his “Animal” nickname for the fierce enthusiasm he puts into his skating and checking, which will make him a good fit beside the pugnacious Hogaboom.

“Did we need to make this deal?  Probably not,” admitted Galaxy GM Garnet “Ace” Adams.  “But does this deal make us a stronger team than we were yesterday?  Oh yeah.  The Animal’s got a well-earned reputation around this league, and putting him and Boomer on the ice together should unleash some havoc.  Graham will have the opportunity to go down to the minors and play every day, which should help him develop.  And Corbs and Brauny will get opportunities to contribute off the bench, where we know we can count on them.”

In the run-up to the deadline, it was rumored that Washington was pursuing a bigger deal.  The Saskatchewan Shockers were reportedly dangling D Chris “Lightning” Oflyng, and Hershey was said to be in hot pursuit of them.  It was speculated that the Galaxy were also after Oflyng, if only to block the Bliss from getting him.  But Adams said that Washington wasn’t making a serious attempt to land the Shockers blueliner.

“You never say never in this job,” said Adams.  “But we figured Oflyng was going to be too rich for our blood, and frankly, we didn’t need an upgrade like that.  We just wanted a solid vet for the third pairing, and we got him.”  As it turned out, Hershey wasn’t able to meet Saskatchewan’s demands for Oflyng either; they might have turned to Gallagher as a fallback option, but Washington beat them to it.

Woody Fairwood

For Seattle, the 21-year-old Fairwood may not match Gallagher in the character department, but he should provide similar production.  Fairwood had been playing with Washington’s minor-league club in Baltimore, where he notched 50 points (9 goals, 41 assists) and a +7 rating.  He was tied for the team lead in both categories

“I knew I was probably going to have a hard time making my way up to DC,” said Fairwood.  “It was a good organization and I’ll miss my friends there, but to get a shot at some real minutes at the major-league level, that’s exciting for me.”

2016 SHL Finals – Game 1

Michigan SmallWashington SmallMICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 4, WASHINGTON GALAXY 0

Despite his team coming into the SHL Finals as a strong favorite, Michigan Gray Wolves coach Ron Wright stressed the importance of starting the series strong.  “In a short series, it’s all about momentum,” said Wright.  “Fall into a hole, no matter how strong you are, and it can be impossible to get out.  I want to see us make a statement right away.”

In Game 1, the Wolves did exactly what their coach wanted.  They made about as strong a statement as possible, seizing control of the game in the first period and cruising from there.  Behind the brilliant play of G Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist (31 saves), Michigan put up a 4-0 shutout that left the visiting Washington Galaxy dazed and confused.

“Man, they really came to play,” said Washington LW Casey Thurman.  “We’re really going to have to step it up in the next game, or we’re just going to get run over.”

The Galaxy came into the game determined not to let Michigan push them around.  “We know the Wolves play a physical game,” said Galaxy D Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom.  “We wanted to show them that we’re not scared.”

As a result, Washington started the game in a feisty mood, throwing elbows and hips at the Wolves.  Less than eight minutes into the game, Galaxy LW Walt Camernitz took exception to a hard check into the boards by Wolves D Bjorn Tollefson and came up swinging.  Both players wound up getting majors.

Washington’s aggressive play wound up getting them into trouble later in the period.  Rookie D Grant Warriner was whistled for high-sticking with about six minutes left in the first period.  The Galaxy managed to kill off that penalty, but no sooner had they done so than D Kevin Buchanan was hit with a double minor for spearing Michigan C Hunter Bailes.  The crowd at Cadillac Place booed Buchanan lustily, but the boos turned to cheers a couple minutes later when Michigan D Fritz Kronstein went top-shelf on Washington netminder Roger Orion to put the home team on the board.

“I saw a little daylight and I took advantage,” said Kronstein, who was Michigan’s first-round pick in this year’s draft.

Less than a minute later, the Wolves doubled their advantage as LW Jorma Seppa, filling in on the top line due to Vladimir Beruschko‘s injury, scored on a wraparound.

“That second goal really threw us off,” said Hogaboom.  “We’d been holding our own all period, then boom-boom, we’re in a hole.”

The Galaxy hoped just to survive the rest of the first and head into the locker room down 2-0, but Michigan RW Oskar Denison scored on a slapper in the waning seconds of the period for a three-goal advantage.

“At that point, we knew we were basically done for,” said Camernitz.

The rest of the game was somewhat anticlimactic, highlighted by one more goal (by Wolves C Warren Marlow in the third period) and one more fight (between Hogaboom and Michigan D “Mad Max” Madison).  The real star of the day, though, was Lundquist.  The goalie flashed his athletic prowess making some brilliant saves to keep the shutout intact.  In the second, Lundquist made several brilliant saves to help Michigan kill off back-to-back penalties.  In the third, he made a tremendous glove save to stone Washington C Eddie Costello on a breakaway attempt.

“The Bear’s motor is really incredible,” said Wright.  “Even after the outcome of the game wasn’t in doubt, he was still in top form, still hustling.  If he keeps up this level of play, it’s going to be a real short series.”

After the game, Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle sought to put the game behind him.  “I’m not going to watch the film of this game,” said Reagle.  “I think I’m going to burn the film, in fact.  If I want to watch something, I’ll watch Die Hard instead.  At least that one has a happy ending.”

Continue reading “2016 SHL Finals – Game 1”

Washington Surges in East

Washington SmallLast season, the Washington Galaxy led the East virtually wire-to-wire, maintaining a steady single-digit lead for almost the entire season.  This season was different, as the Hamilton Pistols and Quebec Tigres got off to surprisingly strong starts and the division remains tightly bunched in the early weeks.  Over the last couple of weeks, though, the Galaxy have quietly kicked things into gear, going on a tear and opening up a double-digit advantage over their stumbling competitors.  As the league hits midseason, Washington appears well-positioned for a return trip to the playoffs.

“That whole team should wear ninja outfits,” said New York Night C Brock Manning, whose team trails the Galaxy by 11 points.  “They rarely look dominating, they don’t have a bunch of big-name stars… but damned if you don’t look up and see them pulling away every time.  I don’t know how they do it.”

How do they do it?  With a surprisingly potent and balanced offense, combined with a sturdy defense and solid goaltending.  To the surprise of many observers, Washington is second in the league in goals with 104.  The Galaxy’s top scorer is RW Jefferson McNeely, who has rebounded in a big way from a down year in 2015 to establish himself as a star.  McNeely’s 18 goals and 36 points puts him in the top 10 in the league in both categories.  McNeely’s emergence has taken considerable pressure off of linemate Casey Thurman, who was the team’s leading scorer in ’15 but got off to a slow start this year.

“I’m really glad to see Jefferson having a strong season,” said teammate Eddie Costello.  “He’s an electric personality, and the fans are really getting to see that now that he’s breaking out.  The people in DC are going to love this guy.”

But McNeely is far from the only quality scorer in the Galaxy’s lineup.  Thurman (10 goals, 25 points) has been gaining steam during Washington’s recent run.  Costello has done a great job setting up McNeely and Thurman, but is also a scoring threat in his own right (12 goals, 36 points).  Washington has strong scorers on its second and third lines as well, including LW Walt Camernitz (15 goals, 29 points), RW Sindri Pentti (11 goals, 17 points), and C J.C. Marais (25 points)

“That’s what makes us so dangerous,” said Camernitz.  “We pack a punch on all three lines, and we can score at any time.  Some other teams, you contain their one or two big guys and you can shut them down.  We’re not like that.”

Washington is no slouch in its own end, either.  The Galaxy’s defensive prowess was a key reason they were able to push the heavily favored Anchorage Igloos to 7 games in last season’s SHL Finals, and if anything, they’re stronger this year.  Defenseman Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom is the team’s chief enforcer, and his willingness to scrap is legendary around the league.  But Washington is well stocked with solid two-way threat on the blue line.  Top pairing Leonard Wright and Kevin Buchanan are strong playmakers at both ends, and second pairing Rusty Anderson and Grant Warriner provide a bit of a heavier, more defense-oriented look.  The team also has several rugged wingers, most notably the hard-checking Pentti.

“A lot of teams in this league are imbalanced toward offense or defense,” said Buchanan.  “We pride ourselves on being balanced.  We can bang with the big boys, but we also have the speed and scoring ability to keep up with the faster clubs.”

Backstopping the defense is netminder Roger Orion, who has provided steady and drama-free prowess in the crease since the beginning.  “Other goalies have flashier reps and bigger names,” said Costello.  “But we’re happy to go to war with Roger any time.  We know he’s going to take care of business back there.”

Overseeing the whole circus is the league’s most colorful coach, Rodney Reagle.  A former goalie who was nicknamed “Reagle the Eagle” in his playing days, he’s done nothing to disprove the adage that goaltenders are a strange breed.  Players, though, say that his offbeat style keeps the cluhbhouse loose even in tense moments.

“Coach, well… what can you say?” said Costello.  “He’s one of a kind.  And by that I mean he’s hard-core nuts.  But we love that.”

Reagle keeps up a seemingly never-ending stream of pranks and jokes.  Recently, in reaction to the “creepy clowns” stories circulating on the Internet, he had the visiting locker room at Constellation Center decorated with pictures of clowns.

“I’ve been in there,” said Reagle, “and afterward I had to curl up in the fetal position for a half hour.  It’s totally going to unnerve our opponents.  Think of it as psychological warfare.”

While creepy clowns may or may not be essential to Washington’s recent success, critics argue that the Galaxy are simply cleaning up against a weak division.  As of this writing, none of the other teams in the East have an above-.500 record.  The West, meanwhile, has a pair of powerhouses in the Igloos and the Michigan Gray Wolves.  Even if Washington cruises back to the Finals, won’t they simply be crushed by whoever emerges from the West?

Reagle pointed out that people said the same thing last year, and the Galaxy nearly won the title.  “If everyone wants to overlook us and say that we’re weak because our division is struggling, go ahead,” said the coach.  “We’ll be happy to prove them wrong again.”