Shockers Dismiss Interim Coach Ponder

In a move that was widely anticipated, the Saskatchewan Shockers announced that they would not be bringing back interim coach Caleb Ponder, opening up what could be a wide-ranging search for a new bench boss for a young and rising team.

Caleb Ponder

Ponder took over the Shockers at the All-Star Break when the team fired Myron Beasley, who was the only head coach the team had ever had.  Beasley guided Saskatchewan to a 12-17-1 record before his dismissal.  Ponder, who had been Beasley’s assistant, compiled a similar record to his predecessor, posting a 15-16-3 mark in the second half.

“We appreciate everything that Caleb has done for the Shockers organization in his four years with us, and especially during his half-season as interim head coach,” said Shockers GM Cooper Matthews.  “He’s a good coach and a fine human being.  But we felt like it was time for a fresh start.”

Sources close to the team said that there was no chance that Ponder was going to be considered for the long-term head job, even at the time of his hiring.  “Unless he somehow won the Vandy, Caleb wasn’t coming back,” said one source.  The perception in Saskatchewan’s front office was that Beasley’s cheerful, quippy approach wasn’t working with a young team that both owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz and GM Matthews expect to be a serious contender, and that Ponder wasn’t enough of a change from Beasley.

“Everybody liked Myron,” said one senior front office member, speaking under condition of anonymity.  “He’s a really nice guy, and his press conferences were fun to watch.  But the perception was that he wasn’t driving the team that hard, and we’re at a stage where we need someone with a firmer hand to get to the next level.”

Ponder took the news with grace.  “I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” the coach told reporters.  “I think we have a talented group of guys here, and the sky’s the limit.  I wish them nothing but the best.”

The Shockers are expected to cast a wide net when looking for their next coach.  The names being considered by the team include minor-league coach Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh, Michigan assistant Morris Thompson, Anchorage assistant Kyle Barrow, and longtime bench boss Harvey Williams.

Saskatchewan’s front office is reportedly looking for a coach who takes a firm hand with discipline and has a track record with building winning teams.  These caveats would seem to rule out Marsh, who is best known for his offbeat sense of humor and has only been a coach for two years.  But multiple sources confirmed that he will be considered, possibly due to his success in molding the Shockers’ minor-league prospects.

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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”

Shockers Blimp Photo Blows Fan’s Cover

If there’s one constant in the history of the Saskatchewan Shockers, it’s their penchant for disastrous promotional events.  Whether it was the Japanese Night promo (when the Shockers started a sumo in goalie and had to pull him after one period), the Kazoo Night fiasco (when angry fans littered the ice with hot dogs and malfunctioning instruments  and nearly forced the game’s cancellation), or last season’s Kids Night embarrassment (when the team gave away a “kid’s activity book” that was filled with errors and obscenities), Saskatchewan leads the league by a mile in-game entertainment failures.

“I feel like we’d be better off if we started advertising the nights when we don’t give anything away,” quipped Shockers interim coach Caleb Ponder.  “‘Tonight, every fan in attendance will receive: Nothing!  We promise!'”

Heinz Doofenshmirtz

Despite the team’s sad history with such promotions, the Shockers went ahead and held “Fan Appreciation Night” on Saturday against the Anchorage Igloos.  The team announced that they’d be giving away a “special, limited-edition T-shirt,” and made vague promises of a “special event” for fans in attendance.  Owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz was coy, saying only that it would be “something special the fans will never forget.”

The T-shirts were given out as promised, although the design was unexpected.  The bright yellow T-shirts read “#1 Fan!”  The team said that the Shockers logo supposed to appear below those words.  The version the fans received instead contained a picture of Doofenshmirtz’s face.  According to the owner, he sent the wrong image file to the printing house.  The finished shirts arrived only a couple of days before the event, and (as usual) no one with the Shockers bothered to look at them before handing them out.

The fans’ reaction to the Doof-bedecked T-shirts could fairly be described as “mixed.”  Many fans discarded the shirts immediately; several trash cans in the concourse were overflowing with them.  Other fans chose to wave the shirts over their heads like rally towels.  Others proudly wore the shirts (ironically or otherwise).

“I looked around the stands, and I saw my own face all over, staring back at me,” Doofenshmirtz said.  “It was a little creepy, to be honest.  But also kind of cool!”

After the performance of the anthems and a ceremonial puck drop by rock guitarist and Saskatoon native Pete Friesen, PA announcer Tim Conroy told the fans to “stay in your seats and get ready for something special.”  Shortly afterward, a small blimp with the Shockers logo on the side emerged from one end of the arena.  The blimp was designed and built by the owner himself, and it contained a camera that was taking a panoramic photo of all the fans in attendance.

“I know from my daughter that if there’s one thing the young people today like, it’s taking selfies,” said Doofenshmirtz.  “So I figured, why not take one big selfie of the whole crowd?  And behold!”

After the photo was complete, the blimp was supposed to drop leaflets with the URL the fans could visit to view the group picture.  But Doofenshmirtz was also piloting the craft, and he lost control of it and crashed it into a catwalk hanging from the roof.  The start of the game was delayed for over 15 minutes while workers retrieved the stranded blimp.

After the game, the photo went live online.  (The team posted the URL on the scoreboard, since their leafleting plan was thwarted.)  Once fans started looking at it, however, they started noticing some curiosities.  Several fans greeted the blimp with upraised middle fingers.  Others appeared to be engaged in fisticuffs.  Some female fans raised their shirts for the camera.  As fans started pointing these out on social media, the Shockers responded by blurring the offending photos.

Things went from bad to worse when the team received a call from the Canadian national police.  Apparently, the camera had captured a person who is in the witness protection program and had been moved to Saskatchewan under an assumed identity.  The police said that the fan had received threats on his life after being identified in the photo.  The police demanded that the Shockers take the picture down.  The team initially resisted, but ultimately took it down.

“Yeah, I guess I didn’t think this one through as well as I should have,” admitted Doofenshmirtz.  “I definitely don’t want us to get in trouble with the police.  But why would you go to a hockey game if you’re in the witness protection program?!  Seriously, dude, just watch it on your couch next time.”

SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell has noticed Saskatchewan’s sad history with promotions.  “As a rule, we try to encourage our teams to do as many promotional events as is practical,” the commissioner said.  “It’s a great way to boost attendance and give fans something to look forward to.  In the case of the Shockers, however, I’d like to ask them to stop doing them altogether.  Or at least Mr. Doofenshmirtz shouldn’t be allowed to plan them, design them, or really be involved with them in any way.  It’s for the best.”

Shockers Fire Coach Beasley

When the Saskatchewan Shockers first took the ice, they were the joke of the SHL.  They finished with the league’s worst record by far in their first season, and were best known for a promotional stunt in which they started a sumo wrestler in goal.  Their record improved in subsequent seasons, but their reputation was still marred by player hijinks and promotions gone wrong.

This season, the organization has made significant strides to become more professional.  They revamped their color scheme, dumping seafoam in favor of electric blue on their uniforms.  They signed a big-name free agent, LW Vonnie McLearen.  And they declared their intention to compete for a playoff spot.  “It’s time for us to turn the corner and become a contender,” said GM Cooper Matthews before the season.  “No more excuses.”

Myron Beasley

This week, Matthews backed up his words with action.  With the Shockers mired in mediocrity at the midpoint of the season and on track for virtually the same record as last season, the Shockers announced on Wednesday that they’d parted ways with Myron Beasley, the only coach the team has ever had.

The Shockers got off to a solid start early, posting an above-.500 record and remaining in the playoff mix in a wide-open Western division.  But the team hit the skids shortly thereafter, going 4-10-1 over its next 15 games.  Reportedly, it was Saskatchewan’s winless week before the All-Star break, which included a scoreless tie against expansion Kansas City, that convinced the front office to dismiss Beasley.

“As an organization, we’ve been clear that we expect to take the next step forward,” said Matthews.  “That hasn’t happened, so it’s time to make a change.”

The Shockers have been hampered by a sputtering offense.  The team was averaging a mere 2.27 goals per game at the time of Beasley’s firing; only the expansion Boston Badgers had scored fewer.

Beasley leaves Saskatchewan with a record of 67-138-5 over three and a half seasons.  The coach’s supporters note that he was a key force of stability during the franchise’s chaotic early days, and that most bosses would not have had the patience and tolerance to deal with some of the team’s more outlandish antics over the years.  “A lot of coaches would have quit if they’d had to go through what Myron went through,” said one source close to the coach.  “But he felt like he’d made a commitment, and he wanted to see it through.”

Beasley’s critics, on the other hand, argued that he lacks the discipline and vigor to lead a contending club.  After the Shockers’ dismal 11-48-1 showing in 2015, they improved by 10 wins the following season.  Since then, though, the team’s progress has stalled.  With owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz eager to put a Vandy in his trophy case, Saskatchewan’s lack of improvement was no longer acceptable.

“This was a tough decision for all of us,” said Matthews.  “Coach Beasley is a wonderful person, and we’ve always considered him a member of the Shockers family.  But we felt like we needed a new voice and a new face in charge in order to help us reach our goals as an organization.”

Caleb Ponder

Matthews indicated that assistant coach Caleb Ponder would take over the head up on an interim basis.  Ponder has been Beasley’s assistant since the team’s beginning.  Team sources indicated that barring a surprise development, Ponder would remain in charge of the team for the rest of the season, and the team will perform a full search for a replacement during the offseason.

For his part, Beasley says that he has no hard feelings about the decision.  “I’ve enjoyed my time here, but in the end it’s all about results,” he told reporters.  “That’s how the business goes.  Whoever takes over next, they’re getting a team with a heck of a lot of talent.  And no matter what, we’ll always have Dr. Coconut.”

Adding a layer of awkwardness to the situation, Beasley’s son Napoleon remains the Shockers’ top line center.  The younger Beasley declined to comment on his father’s firing.  Matthews said that the team had no plans to get rid of Napoleon: “He remains a key piece of our roster going forward.”