- On Wednesday, the Washington Galaxy activated LW Charlie Brooks from the disabled list. Brooks missed the last two and a half weeks with a lower-body injury. Due to his absence, Brooks missed last Friday’s game against Dakota, which recently acquired his younger brother Tanner. It would have been the first time the brothers faced each other in a professional game. To make room for Brooks on the roster, Washington demoted F Roman Bandikoff to their CHL affiliate in Baltimore. With the rebuilding Galaxy looking to provide playing time for their young players, the 36-year-old Bandikoff (5 assists and -3 rating in 24 games) was deemed expendable.
- On Saturday, the Hamilton Pistols sent down D Russ Klemmer to their CHL affiliate in Oshawa, and promoted RW Michael Jennings from Oshawa. The Pistols found themselves down a forward when RW Claude Lafayette suffered a lower-body injury on Thursday. Although Lafayette is not expected to miss much time, but the injury left Hamilton without a spare forward and forced C Henry Constantine to play out of position on the wing. Jennings was with the Pistols at the beginning of the season, but was sent down at the trade deadline. He put up 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in 21 games for Hamilton.
- Also on Saturday, the Kansas City Smoke demoted C Owen Griffin to their farm team in Omaha, and called up C Edz Zalmanis from Omaha. This transaction reverses a move made just after the All-Star break. In 13 games with the Smoke, the 22-year-old Griffin recorded one assist while putting up a -11 rating. Zalmanis, meanwhile, lit up the minors, notching 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists) in 15 games.
- Also on Saturday, the Galaxy demoted D Murphy “Mutt” Metheny to their affiliate in Baltimore, and promoted D Ambroz Melicar from Baltimore. As Washington continues to offer more opportunities to their young players, the 23-year-old Melicar was an obvious candidate for a call-up. He was one of the top-scoring defensemen in the CHL, with 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) in 47 games. The 29-year-old Metheny, the only SHL player to hail from Arkansas, appeared in only 9 games with DC, failing to record a point.
- 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.
Does hockey run in the blood? There are plenty of examples of family acts in NHL history: the Sutter brothers, Gordie Howe and his sons, Bobby and Brett Hull, and many others. The SHL doesn’t have any of those… yet. But there are three CHL players who are working hard and hoping to join their relatives in the big time.
Arguably, Virginia Rhinos C Tanner Brooks is the closest of the three to making the leap. The 22-year-old center has been in the CHL since 2017, and he has earned raves for his strong defensive plays. The Rhinos’ parent club, the Saskatchewan Shockers, seriously considered making Brooks their third-line center out of training camp this year. Instead, the Shockers kept him in the minors for another season to develop his offensive game further.
2019 has been a breakout year for Tanner; he’s among the CHL’s top scorers with 15 goals and 10 assists so far. He seems to be on the verge of making the big time, either with Saskatchewan or as an attractive deadline trade piece.
When Tanner does reach the majors, he’ll follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Washington Galaxy LW Charlie Brooks. Charlie is seven years older than Tanner, and he serves as example and inspiration to his little brother. “I wouldn’t be a hockey player today if it wasn’t for Charlie,” Tanner Brooks said. “He taught me how to skate, and he let me tag along with him to the rink when I got older. And he was always teaching me what he knew about the game.”
Charlie has followed Tanner’s career with great interest, and he’s excited to someday take the ice against (or with) his brother. “I think Tanner will be a better player than me,” Charlie said. “He’s taller and stronger, and he’s always been driven to succeed. If he does, I’ll be proud as heck.”
Charlie and Tanner’s parents still live in their childhood home in the Toronto area, but they faithfully attend as many of both brothers’ games as possible each year. “They always come to the same number of games for both of us, so they aren’t playing favorites,” said Tanner. “When I’m playing in Oshawa or Charlie’s in Hamilton, they’re definitely there for those. But they travel to see us too. It’s really great.”
Hartford Harpoons RW Felix Delorme doesn’t have a brother in the SHL, but he has another family connection: his uncle is Quebec Tigres coach Martin Delorme. Felix is only 20, and he was drafted by the Boston Badgers in 2018. He’s off to a strong start this year (13 goals, 8 assists), but likely still a season or two away from his SHL debut. But when he does, he knows he’ll have at least one fan, albeit behind the opposing bench.
Felix grew up in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. His father worked the second shift in a paper mill; due to his late hours, he had few opportunities to teach his son about the game. Fortunately, Uncle Martin was able to step in and help.
Beginning at age 7, Felix began attending his uncle’s summer hockey camps in Montreal. These sessions didn’t always go smoothly. “Uncle Martin always talked about defense and fundamentals, and all I wanted to do was shoot,” Felix admitted. But he did absorb a lot of key lessons about the game, lessons he practiced in the winter playing shinny with his friends.
Martin Delorme believes that his nephew will make the SHL someday. “He was a strong-minded boy, and sometimes we clashed heads,” Martin said. “But he was very determined and confident in himself. Plus he has a great natural talent. I know he will be a good player.”
Martin and Felix text regularly, and they speak via video chat when their schedules allow. Felix fills his uncle in on his latest progress; Martin gives his nephew tips and suggests SHL players to watch. “I hope we can still do this even when we are on enemy teams,” Felix said.
Both Tanner Brooks and Felix Delorme are in different organizations then their SHL relatives. So far, there is only one SHL-CHL family pairing where both members are in the same system. RW Jefferson McNeely is a star for the Washington Galaxy. And his younger brother, D Davis McNeely, plays for the Galaxy’s CHL affiliate, the Baltimore Blue Crabs.
Unlike Brooks and Delorme, the 20-year-old McNeely is not considered a top prospect. Since signing with the Galaxy in 2017, he has generally been relegated to Baltimore’s bottom pairing, and this year he has only 1 assist in 21 games (albeit with a +4 rating).
For Davis, the family connection brings pain as well as pleasure. “Everyone seems to think I only got signed because of Jeff,” said Davis. “I get heckled about it in other cities. ‘Your brother’s better than you!’ and stuff like that. Even here, when I’m slumping, people say, ‘They can’t get rid of him because, well, you know.’ Sometimes I want to go to another team, just so I can prove I deserve to be here.”
Jefferson McNeely vigorously denies that he asked the Galaxy to sign his younger brother. “Davis is his own man, always has been,” said Jefferson. “The Galaxy scouted him and signed him all on their own. I’m glad they did, because he’s a good player. But this idea that I ‘made’ the team sign him is just silly. I don’t have that kind of pull, anyway.”
Davis’ case may be an extreme example, but all three can’t help but he overshadowed by their big-league relatives. For now, Tanner Brooks is still “Charlie’s brother,” and Felix Delorme is still “Martin’s nephew.” But all three of them eagerly await their shot at the SHL spotlight, and the chance to make a name for themselves.
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.
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.”
The race for the SHL’s Eastern Division remains in flux. While the Hamilton Pistols remain the favorite to win the division, they haven’t put it away. Meanwhile, the Quebec Tigres and Washington Galaxy have been jostling for position all season long, knowing that there is likely only room for one of them in the postseason.
The Pistols made their move at the beginning of the week, shoring up their depth amid a run of injuries. Meanwhile, the Tigres and Galaxy waited until the final minutes before Thursday’s deadline, but each made a move designed to address shore up key areas and position themselves to punch their ticket to playoffs.
“We knew they were going to make a move,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams of his Quebec rivals. “And if they were going to get better, we knew we needed to keep up, and hopefully get a step ahead.”
For the Tigres, the target areas for a trade were obvious. They wanted a better third-line center; Florian Theroux remains a fan favorite, but his stats were lackluster. And for a team that is built on defense, Quebec was relying heavily on a trio of rookies: Laurie Workman, Richard McKinley, and Geoff Moultrie.
They addressed both needs in one deal, acquiring C Phil Miller and D Doug Wesson from the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for Moultrie and minor-league winger Aaron Knorr.
“This was the perfect deal for us,” said Tigres GM Pete Gondret. “Kansas City had what we wanted, and the price was right.”
Wesson certainly add toughness for the Tigres; he is regularly one of the SHL leaders in penalty minutes and has been involved in several heavyweight bouts. He is an excellent fit with Quebec and coach Martin Delorme’s scrappy, hard-checking style. With the Smoke, he contributed 1 goal and 15 assists, in addition to 63 penalty minutes.
“I’m a two-fisted blue-collar guy, and Quebec is a two-fisted blue-collar team,” said Wesson. “Let’s go!”
With the deal, Miller continues his tour around the SHL. The Tigres are Miller’s fifth club in four seasons; he’d ben with Saskatchewan, Dakota, and New York before being claimed by the Smoke in the expansion draft. He rotated between the second and third lines for Kansas City, compiling 7 goals and 6 assists.
“Story of my life,” said Miller. “Good enough that teams want me, but not good enough to keep around.”
Moultrie was the least productive of Quebec’s trio of blueline rookies, putting up 6 points in 40 games. But at age 21, he presents considerable upside for a KC team that’s building for the future. Knorr was the leading scorer for the Tigres’ minor-league affiliate in Maine, with 19 goals, and he scored four goals in a game last season; however, he lacked the passing and defensive skills to make him a fit with Quebec.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, have struggled to get production from their bottom two lines, and their third defensive pairing has been a revolving door. To address those issues, Washington picked up RW Charlie Brooks and D Scott Hexton from the Boston Badgers in exchange for D Graham Bellinger and minor-league RW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli.
“I think we got underrated value here,” said Adams. “Charlie Brooks and Scott Hexton aren’t household names, but they’re both guys who can come in right away and help us get to the playoffs. We’re thrilled with this pickup.”
Brooks was one of the few offensive bright spots for Boston, producing 17 goals and 19 assists on the top line across from rookie Lix Darnholm. He’s known by the nickname “Sunny” for his cheerful disposition, which has made him a popular teammate throughout his career.
“Washington did well to land Sunny,” said Gondret; Brooks played for Quebec the last two seasons. “He’s a great guy to have around.”
Hexton, meanwhile, is known as a solid defender who isn’t as active on offense; he posted 9 points this season with the Badgers. It’s not clear whether he’ll replace Burt Hampton or Bruce Hogaboom on the bottom pairing, or whether the three will rotate. Coach Rodney Reagle said that “we’ll figure that out as we go, but it’s nice to have a lot of good choices to pick from.”
Bellinger was a highly-regarded prospect when Washington drafted him last year, but he struggled to get established and fell out of favor with Reagle. Twice in a row, he started the year with the Galaxy, only to be demoted to the minors in midseason. The Smoke hope that more consistent playing time and a longer leash will allow him to live up to the hype. Pescatelli is only 18 and showed some promise in the minors, scoring 5 goals and 18 assists in 41 games.
Will these deals put either team over the top? Perhaps not; neither acquisition is a blockbuster. But as Adams put it, “It really feels like we’ve got two teams that are about equal talent-wise. Any little edge that we can find to come out on top, we’re gonna take it.”