- On the Saturday of the All-Star Break, the Boston Badgers traded LW Cary Estabrook to the Hamilton Pistols for F Norris “Beaver” Young. Read more about the trade here.
- Prior to the beginning of play this week, the Dakota Jackalopes demoted D Victor Addison to their CHL affiliate in Idaho and called up D Rodney Black from Idaho to replace him. Addison was a lightly-used reserve in Dakota this season; he appeared in only 7 games, recording no points and a -4 rating. Recently, he had been passed on the depth chart by Geoff Moultrie. Black, meanwhile, was one of the CHL’s top blueliners, putting up 29 points (19 goals, 10 assists) in the first half and earning a berth in the All-Star Game.
- Also prior to the start of play, the Kansas City Smoke demoted C Edz Zalmanis and RW Andrew “Lucky” Fortuno to their CHL affiliate in Omaha, while calling up C Owen Griffin and RW Adriaen van der Veen from Omaha. Kansas City’s offense was lackluster in the first half; they averaged only 24.3 shots per game, second-worst in the league, and they are dead last in plus-minus at -30. The 23-year-old Zalmanis, who signed a 5-year, $3.5 million free agent contract in the offseason, put up only 4 assists and a -9 rating in 23 games. Fortuno did a bit better, with 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) and a -6 plus-minus in 24 games. The 21-year-old van der Veen was a CHL All-Star and one of leading scorers, with 39 points (16 goals, 23 assists). Griffin, 22, was leading the CHL in plus-minus at +24; he notched 30 points (5 goals, 25 assists) in the first half.
- On Wednesday, the Jackalopes placed Black on the 10-game disabled list. Black got off to a strong start with Dakota after being called up, with a goal and an assist in 2 games, but he exited in the third period of Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Kansas City with an upper-body injury that’s expected to keep him out for 2 to 3 weeks. Since the Jackalopes had 8 defensemen on their roster already, they chose not to call anyone up at this time.
- On Friday, the Badgers activated G Roger Orion from the disabled list, after he’d missed three and a half weeks with a lower-body injury. With Orion activated, Boston returned Jonas Schemko to their minor-league affiliate in Hartford. Schemko looked good in his brief stint with the Badgers, going 1-1-1 with a 2.27 GAA and a .924 save percentage.
- On Saturday, the Washington Galaxy placed LW Charlie Brooks on the disabled list. Brooks suffered a lower-body injury in Saturday’s 6-0 rout of Boston. To replace Brooks on the roster, the Galaxy promoted LW Alan Youngman from their farm team in Baltimore. Youngman is one of the CHL’s top scorers, notching 44 points (20 goals, 24 assists) so far on the season.
When the Boston Badgers made LW Cary Estabrook their first-ever player signing, it seemed like a movie script come to life. Estabrook was a native of Rhode Island and played college hockey at the University of Massachusetts. In college, he caught the eye of Jody Melchiorre, then a scout for the Anchorage Igloos. Estabrook suffered a major knee injury as a senior and the Igloos passed on him. But Melchiorre never forgot what he saw, and when he signed on as GM of the expansion Badgers, his first move was to sign Estabrook to a contract. The young winger dreamed of starring in the same area where he’d grown up.
Reality, though, doesn’t always unfold like a movie. Estabrook’s tenure in Boston was a miserable experience for both him and the team. He struggled with his conditioning and off-ice habits, clashed with coach Cam Prince, and failed to produce. Finally, after a season and a half, the Badgers finally pulled the plug, trading the 24-year-old to the Hamilton Pistols in exchange for F Norris “Beaver” Young.
“This one stings for me, because I think Cary’s a special young man,” said Melchiorre. “But clearly, things haven’t worked out the way either of us would have wanted. I think a fresh start is the best thing.”
During his rookie season in 2018, Estabrook found that the lingering after-effects of his college injury robbed him of crucial speed, and his performance wasn’t up to par. He reportedly took to drinking and partying excessively, which further impacted his game.
This caused Estabrook to run afoul of Prince, a battle that came to a head when Estabrook overslept and missed a team meeting. Shortly thereafter, the Badgers demoted Estabrook to their minor-league affiliate in Hartford. He’d played 28 games with the Badgers, failing to record a point and putting up a -23 rating.
Prince and the Badgers gave Estabrook another shot this year; he broke camp as the third-line left winger. But his on-ice and off-ice struggles continued, as he rotated in and out of the lineup. In 21 games this season, Estabrook had a goal to go with a -12 rating, worst on the team.
“I’m really disappointed with the way everything turned out here,” Estabrook told reporters. “I feel like I let everyone down. I know I have no one but myself to blame. But I have to pick myself up and move on to the next thing,”
The 24-year-old Young was drafted by the Pistols in 2016. He spent two seasons on their bottom line, totaling 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists). After spending the 2018 season with their farm club in Oshawa, he returned to the big club this season. He split time on the third line with RW Michael Jennings. In 16 games this season, Young had 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) and a +2 rating.
“Younger was a solid contributor for us, and we will miss him,” said Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire. “But we are excited about Cary. We think there’s a lot of untapped potential there, and we think he can be a real asset in the right situation. We believe that our organization and our coaching staff will help him thrive.”
For Hamilton, which has lagged in the playoff chase in spite of strong underlying numbers, Estabrook represents a low-stakes gamble that could pay dividends down the stretch. For Estabrook, Hamilton represents a chance to start over. He may not have lived his dream of starring with the local team, but he’s still young and has a chance at a solid SHL career… if he can avoid repeating the mistakes that doomed him in Boston.
“If I screw this up, I know I might not get another chance,” said Estabrook. “So I’m going to make sure I don’t screw this up.”
It’s been a difficult season for Boston Badgers RW Cary Estabrook. The 23-year-old winger signed with Boston last year – the first player ever signed by the Badgers – while he was rehabbing from a major knee injury. He made the team out of training camp, but he has struggled badly this season. Estabrook’s injury seems to have robbed him of some explosiveness, and he has struggled to adjust to the speed of the professional game. He has yet to record a point this season.
An already difficult season got worse for Estabrook this week, as a couple of incidents got him in hot water with Badgers coach Cam Prince.
Prince has been trying to impose some discipline on his young and struggling team, holding additional practices and meetings. The coach called a team meeting on Monday morning to discuss the team’s work ethic, which he felt has been lacking. Estabrook overslept and missed the meeting, and didn’t show up until halfway through that day’s practice.
“I just forgot to set my alarm, I guess,” Estabrook told reporters. “I knew we had a meeting, and I was planning to go, but then I woke up and looked at the clock like, ‘Oh [expletive], I’m late.’”
Prince responded by fining Estabrook $500 and benching him for the next day’s game against the Hershey Bliss. “We’re all professionals here, and part of that is taking responsibility and getting where you need to be on time. If Cary had bothered to show up for the meeting, he would have heard me talk about that.”
Estabrook was back in the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Michigan Gray Wolves, although he saw his minutes significantly limited. In the middle of the third period, the puck was flipped out of play and into the Badgers’ bench, where Estabrook was sitting. The winger decided to flip the puck over the glass to a fan sitting behind him. Unfortunately, the puck didn’t get the height that Estabrook intended, and it wound up failing to clear the glass… and striking his coach straight in the forehead.
Prince clutched his forehead and doubled over as the trainer and assistant coaches rushed to his aid. As Estabrook turned around and realized what he had done, his heart sank. “God, that’s the last thing I needed,” the winger said. “That’s how bad my year is going: I try to give a fan a souvenir and I wind up beaning my coach in the head. I just can’t keep the ball out of the gutter.”
Although the puck opened up a cut on Prince’s forehead that bled profusely, he was able to get things under control and did not require stitches. He was initially upset about the incident, but he softened after Estabrook apologized and explained what happened.
“There’s always a risk of flying pucks when you’re on the bench, but you don’t usually expect friendly fire,” Prince told reporters after the game. “I know Cary and I have been butting heads lately, but I believe he wasn’t out to get me. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that can happen to anybody.”
Estabrook now faces the tougher challenge of getting his lost season back on track. Rumors around the team suggest that the winger, a Rhode Island native whom the Badgers hoped would become a face of the franchise, is struggling with the weight of expectations and has been drinking and partying to excess to relieve some of the stress. According to those rumors, his “oversleeping” on Monday was actually the result of a hangover.
Estabrook denied that specific charge, although he was vague on the subject of his late-night habits. “It’s been a hard time for me all around,” he admitted. “I’m not going to respond to rumors or anonymous quotes. The bottom line is, I’ve got to buckle down and get myself straightened out. That’s all there is to it.”
SHL Digest: Today, we have a unique opportunity. We’re speaking with the Boston Badgers’ first-ever player, Cary Estabrook. Cary, welcome to the SHL!
Cary Estabrook: Thanks! I’m really excited about this.
SHLD: So, how did you become the Badgers’ first player?
CE: Well, [Badgers GM] Jody Melchiorre had scouted me for Anchorage when I was a senior at Western Mass, before last season’s draft. But I wrecked my knee just before the end of the season, so the Igloos didn’t draft me. But obviously he remembered me.
SHLD: Obviously, he thought well of you!
CE: Well, the surgery was successful, and my rehab’s gone well, so we felt confident that I’d be ready to go for ’18. And the fact that I’m a local boy didn’t hurt. I’m from Rhode Island originally.
SHLD: How does it feel to be the only Badger so far?
CE: It’s really exciting, but it’s a bit of a mixed blessing, you know? I mean, no matter what I do the rest of my career, I’m going to be part of SHL history. That’s definitely cool.
SHLD: No question about that!
CE: But I don’t just want to be the answer to a trivia question, you know? I want to be remembered for being a great player. I’ve got to keep working hard to make that happen.
SHLD: Do you think you’ve got a good chance to make the team?
CE: Hard to be sure until I can see the competition, right? But Jody assured me that I’d have every shot to make it as long as I can stay healthy.
SHLD: If you were to compare yourself to a current SHL player, who would it be?
CE: Maybe a guy like Vonnie McLearen. He’s a guy who worked hard to get where he is; he’s not the hardest shot or the fastest skater, but he’s a real competitor who works hard and plays solid on both ends of the ice. That’s my game too.
SHLD: Have you had a chance to meet any of the fans in Boston yet?
CE: Yeah, actually. We just had a season-ticket-holder event on Friday. Jody said that we’ve already got over 5,000 season ticket holders, which is huge. I love the fans here; they’re really smart, dedicated, totally into hockey. Our arena’s in Southie, so we’re gonna draw those great working-class fans. The atmosphere is gonna be off the charts.
SHLD: Can’t wait to see it! Well, thank you for your time, and best of luck with your SHL career.
CE: Thanks. No offense, but I’m really waiting for the next time you guys interview me. That time, I’ll know you’re talking to me because I’ve made it. That’s the dream for me.