Smoke Penalized for Mid-Game Ribs

Kansas City is a barbecue town.  They’re famous for, and justifiably proud of, their love of slow-smoked meat.  The Kansas City Smoke took its name in honor of the city’s ‘cue heritage, and they refer back to it at every opportunity.  Several of the city’s best-known barbecue joints operation concession stands at Heartland Telecom Center.  They even had youth hockey players take the ice dressed up in the colors of local institutions Arthur Bryant’s and Gates B-B-Q to “decide” which reigned supreme.

Up until this point, the Smoke’s ‘cue connections have been a good thing for the team.  This week, however, the team’s fondness for KC’s favorite food led to trouble, as the team was penalized for snacking on ribs instead of taking the ice.

The incident occurred in the third period of Sunday’s game against the Michigan Gray Wolves.  The Smoke recently added half-racks of ribs to their concessions offerings, and team president Eddie Whitmore wanted to make fans aware of the new option.

Pitmaster Pete

In order to make a splash, the team armed their mascot Pitmaster Pete with a vending tray full of single ribs, and turned him loose during a stoppage in play to hand out free samples in Section 101, near the Smoke bench.

The idea was a hit, as fans clamored to get their hands on a rib.  The promotion was so popular, in fact, that the fans jammed the aisle, briefly leading Pete to fear for his life.

But the real trouble began when some of the Smoke players noticed the commotion going on behind them, and discovered the rib giveaway taking place.  A visibly annoyed D T.K. O’Neill began banging on the glass and shouting at the mascot, “Yo, bring those ribs over here!  We want a taste!”

“The fans were way more excited about those ribs than anything that was happening on the ice,” noted O’Neill after the game.  “On the one hand, that’s a little hurtful.  On the other hand, I totally get it.  Because who doesn’t love ribs?!”

With the help of his handlers, Pete wriggled free of the mob of fans and made his way down toward the bench.  Several players, including O’Neill, held out their hands and demanded ribs.  The mascot unstrapped the vending tray from his neck and passed it over the glass, where the players gratefully grabbed it and began chowing down.

Only one problem: the stoppage was over, and the Smoke were expected to send players over the boards to take the faceoff, but they were otherwise occupied.  Referee Darren St. James skated over and asked coach Randy Bergner to put his team on the ice.  Bergner ignored him, as did the rest of the team.

After asking repeatedly and receiving no cooperation, a frustrated St. James finally whistled Kansas City for a delay of game penalty.

“There’s a time and a place for eating, and it’s after the game is over,” noted St. James.  “It’s my duty to keep things moving along.  And besides, they didn’t offer to share.”

Bergner designated O’Neill to serve the penalty.  He complied, albeit reluctantly.  When he arrived at the penalty box, the first thing he requested was a towel to wipe the barbecue sauce off of his hands.

After the game, a 5-4 Smoke win, O’Neill indicated that he had no regrets.  “Look, I love this game,” he told reporters.  “But I really love ribs, and it’s not fair to make me choose between the two.”

Whitmore seemed pleased with the outcome.  “We knew that the ribs were going to be a hit, but I didn’t think that they would be so popular that even the players would demand a taste,” the president said.  “I’m just glad that Pete made it through all right, and that we still won the game.”

Whitmore said he would ensure that going forward, ribs would be included in the team’s postgame spread.  “In-game snacks are a no-no, but I want to make sure they get their fix.”

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Smoke Hail Chiefs With “Super Sports-Tastic Sunday”

When one sports team goes on a championship run, it’s not uncommon for other teams in the same city to express support, whether through social media posts or through players wearing the jerseys of the other team and showing up at games.  On Sunday, the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs won their first Super Bowl title in 50 years.  The SHL’s Kansas City Smoke honored their football brethren by hosting a Super Bowl watch party in their arena after their matinee game against the New York Night.

“It was a cool cross-sport event, and I thought it worked out great,” said Smoke president Eddie Whitmore.

The idea for the watch party came together quickly after the Chiefs won the AFC championship two weeks earlier.  In the wake of the win, some Smoke staffers consulted the schedule, and quickly realized that there was a home game scheduled on Super Bowl Sunday. It was due to start at 3 PM, which meant that the game would likely be ending around the time that the football game was kicking off.

Eddie Whitmore

“Obviously, we started worrying that people wouldn’t come to our game,” Whitmore said.

The team frantically explored its options.  They considered pushing the game back to Monday, but the visiting Night nixed that idea.  They considered moved the start time ahead to noon, but they had a game scheduled the night before.

At one point, a team marketing staffer jokingly suggested cancelling the game and just broadcasting the Super Bowl on the Jumbotron instead.  This gave Whitmore an idea, and he quickly worked to make it happen.

The team dubbed the event “Super Sports-Tastic Sunday.”  They moved the start of the Sunday game back to 1:30, and everyone who attended receive a rally towel that had the logos of both the Chiefs and the Smoke on it.  The concession stands offered discounts on popular Super Bowl snacks such as wings, nachos, and chips.  The crowd had a healthy portion of red Chiefs jerseys sprinkled among the gray Smoke sweaters, and Smoke goals and power plays were frequently accompanied by the Chiefs’ “Arrowhead Chop.”.

“It was a great energy,” said 36-year-old Scott Phillips of Independence, proudly sporting a Travis Kelce jersey in Section 122.  “The whole city’s fired up, and this was a great way to pre-game.”

After the Smoke closed out their 7-6 loss, the PA announcer invited fans to stick around in the lower bowl to watch the Super Bowl.  Several thousand fans did so; they were rewarded by appearances from the Smoke Show, the team’s cheer squad, as well as several players, who circulated through the stands offering high fives, autographs, and selfies.

“I thought it was an awesome way to watch the game,” said D Geoff Moultrie.  “Just me, the guys, and a couple thousand of our closest friends soaking up the electricity.”

The Smoke may not have brought home a win, but the Chiefs did, coming from behind for a 31-20 triumph.  As the final seconds ticked away, the fans at the Heartland Telecom Center began shouting and hugging.  They then poured out of the arena into the neighboring Power & Light District, where they mingled with the fans who’d been at the outdoor viewing party there.

In the end, Whitmore proclaimed himself pleased with the event.  “I’m glad we were able to turn our game into a big party and a celebration of both teams,” he told reporters.  “I’m sorry that we couldn’t bring home the W, but the Chiefs came through.  Hopefully they’ll be have a viewing party at Arrowhead when we make it to the Vandy!”

2020 Uni Changes Feature New KC Logo and New Alts for Night, Shockers

Earlier this week, the Portland Bluebacks revealed the uniforms for their debut season after relocating from Seattle.  But the Bluebacks aren’t the only team that will be donning new togs in 2020.  Several other SHL teams are modifying their look, in ways both small and large.

The biggest changes came from the Kansas City Smoke, who also rolled out a new logo this season. When the Smoke took the ice for their debut season, their logo was mocked by KC ‘cue heads for omitting a key element: smoke.  “One of the consistent pieces of feedback we got on the logo was that it was about grilling, not smoking,” said team president Eddie Whitmore.  “I’d point out that plenty of people smoke ‘cue in their backyard kettle grill, but what we kept hearing was that it wasn’t real ‘cue.  So we decided to go a different direction.”

The Smoke drew up a new logo that features wisps of smoke, and they put the logo front and center on their uniforms, replacing the old “SMOKE” wordmark that looked like it was being licked by flames.

In addition to that change, they updated their jersey templates with a more modern look that replaces the previous diagonal-stripe-based motif.  The team kept its existing color scheme of gray, black, and burnt red.

“We figured: as long as we’re changing the logo, why not go ahead and freshen it all up?” Whitmore said.  “This gives us a uniform that can stand the test of time, that our fans can wear with pride as we build toward our goal of winning the Vandy.”

The Smoke and the Bluebacks are the only teams making wholesale uniform changes for the coming season, but two other teams are debuting eye-catching alternate uniforms.

The New York Night, aiming to remain on trend, ditched their previous silver alternates for a dramatic gradient look that changes from purple to black.

“Gradients are really hot right now,” said new Night GM Jay McKay.  “This gives us a look that’s flashy but still classy, and full of energy, just like the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps!”

Star RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson was one of the players who modeled the new sweater at the unveiling, and he was audibly impressed.  “Damn,” he was heard to exclaim, “these threads look almost as fine as I do!”

McKay predicted that the new jerseys would become the top sellers in the SHL.  After the unveiling, at least, his words seemed prophetic: local sporting goods stores indicated that the jerseys were flying off the shelves.

The Saskatchewan Shockers, meanwhile, did make changes to their home and road jerseys, simplifying the striping pattern on the socks and sleeves.  But that change was not what had people talking after Saskatchewan rolled out its new look.  Rather, it was the new third jersey the left mouths agape.

For the past couple of years, the Shockers have sported an electric-blue third jersey that they generally wore on Sundays and holidays.  It was eye-catching, but in the same template as their home and road jersey.  Their new third jersey, however, doesn’t match their usual template – or any other, for that matter.

The new jersey is half yellow, half blue, split diagonally with a white lightning bolt.  Immediate reactions were mixed: some fans on social media dubbed it the “Franken-jersey” while others noted its resemblance to the Grateful Dead’s logo.

According to Shockers owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz, the polarizing look was inspired by some of the NHL’s uniform designs from the ‘90s.  “In those days, it was all about trying new stuff and moving the merch.  Yeah, some people think those styles were a complete disaster, but nobody ever forgets them!  And they’re not going to forget us either!”

Saskatchewan’s players regarded the new uniforms a bit warily.  “It’s going to take some getting used to,” said LW Troy Chamberlain.  “It’s definitely different than what other teams are wearing.”

“We’re not going to be able to sneak up on anyone in these,” quipped C Lars Karlsson.

Other smaller changes for 2020 include:

  • Last year, the Michigan Gray Wolves switched from using the “Gray Wolves” wordmark to the wolf-and-moon logo as its primary home jersey. This season, the Wolves are making the same change to their road jerseys. “We wanted to unify our look,” said GM Tim Carrier.  Also, the numbers on the back of the jersey have changed from blue to red.
  • The Washington Galaxy have updated their logo, but their uniforms will remain the same as last year.

Smoke Hosts “KC Bar-B-Q Battle”

The expansion Kansas City Smoke want to provide their fans with, in the words of team president Eddie Whitmore, “an authentic KC experience.”  As anyone who’s ever been to the city knows, barbecue is an essential part of that experience.  So it comes as no surprise that during Tuesday’s game, the Smoke treated their fans to the “KC Bar-B-Q Battle.”

Between the second and third periods, public address announcer Curtis Burton told the fans that “it’s time to settle the oldest question in Kansas City once and for all: Arthur Bryant’s or Gates?”  At that moment, two teams of youth hockey players skated onto the ice.  But instead of wearing Smoke jerseys as usual, they were sporting the logos of Kansas City’s oldest and most venerable ‘cue chains.  One team was clad in red and yellow with the familiar script of Arthur Bryant’s, a KC institution since 1940.  The other team was dressed in black and red, emblazoned with the logo of Gates Bar-B-Q, which opened its doors in 1946.

“For generations, folks in KC have argued about whose ‘cue reigns supreme,” Burton continued.  “Tonight, we declare a winner on the ice!”

The fans roared as the teams of youngsters raced up and down the rink, in search of slow-cooked glory.  The Bryant’s team got on the board first, as 8-year-old Danny Kneuven buried a shot from the hash marks.  But the Gates team didn’t have to wait long to get even, as 7-year-old Sam Gillard slipped one through the five-hole to make it a 1-1 game.  Gates fans roared approval for the tally, and the whole stadium expressed their delight when Gillard celebrated by dropping to the ice and doing the swim.

In the final minute of the contest, Gates got a goal from 8-year-old Millie Watkins, and it looked as though they would be the victors.  But in the waning second, Kneuven got free on a breakaway and banked one home off the right post to make it 2-all.  Rather than settle the contest with overtime or a shootout, Burton indicated that the winner would be determined by which restaurant had the highest sales at that night’s game.  (Both Bryant’s and Gates have stands at Heartland Telecom Center.)  Fans of both joints lined up well into the third period to put their favorite over the top.

After the final horn sounded, Burton announced that Gates was the winner, prompting a joyful celebration from some fans and a moan from others.

The Bar-B-Q Battle proved so compelling that coach Randy Bergner hardly cared that the Smoke lost the game.  “To tell you the truth, I was more invested in the Bryant’s-Gates contest than the actual game,” Bergner told reporters.  “Too bad the wrong side won.  Bryant’s for life!”

Whitmore proclaimed himself delighted with the event.  “This one was a real hit with the fans,” he said.  “Since it happened, I’ve been flooded with emails from people wanting us to include other places.  ‘What about Joe’s?  What about L.C.’s?'”  Asked if he planned to stage the event again with a wider selection of restaurants, the president smiled and said, “Stay tuned.”

Whitmore indicated that the team was planning to expand the contest to music at future games.  “There are other KC arguments that we want to settle,” he said.  “Who’s the king of KC blues?  Who’s the best jazz band in the city?  We’ve got plenty of material to work with, because we’ve got such a deep and rich cultural history.  As deep and rich as the sauce on Gates’ burnt ends.”