- On Monday, the Washington Galaxy‘s CHL affiliate in Baltimore signed D Davis McNeely to a short-term contract. Baltimore had a hole on its blueline after injuries to Rich Behneke and Shane Gladchuk, and they turned to a familiar face to fill the role. McNeely is the younger brother of Galaxy star Jefferson McNeely, and he played three seasons in Baltimore. He appeared in four games for Cleveland earlier this season.
- On Friday, the New York Night‘s affiliate in Utah placed C Foster Culp on the injured list. Culp collided with a defender and wound up falling into the bench, fracturing his collarbone. Culp, who was among the league leaders in goals, is expected to miss the rest of the season. To replace Culp on the roster, Utah signed F Bobby Warner for the remainder of the season.
- On Saturday, the Galaxy’s Baltimore affiliate activated Behneke from the injured list. Behneke missed three weeks with a lingering upper-body injury. In order to make room for Behneke, the team waived McNeely, who appeared in 3 games with Baltimore and failed to record a point.
Ask the typical CHL fan for the first word that comes to mind when he or she thinks of Utah Owls C Foster Culp, that word would probably be something like “crazy” or “goofy.” Culp has a long history of off-kilter behavior, a history that has earned him the nickname “Bananas Foster.” The last time Culp’s name was in the news, it was for taking a pre-game skate in Cleveland wearing a parka and a miner’s lamp.
One word that’s rarely been associated with Culp is “leader.” And yet, if the season were to end today, the goofball widely known as “Bananas Foster” would win the CHL goal-scoring title.
“I can’t explain it either,” said Culp. “I think we must have slipped into an alternate timeline or something.”
Arguably, Culp is being too modest. Last season with Colorado Springs, Culp scored 29 goals, two less than the league lead. Last year’s co-leaders, Idaho’s Brady Prussian and Oshawa’s Elvis Bodett, are both currently playing the SHL. And Culp seems to have taken his game up a notch this season; he’s already scored 25 goals with a quarter of the season left to go. Culp is two ahead of his closest competitor, Halifax Atlantics LW Jarmann Fischer. Third place currently belongs to RW Harris Wondolowski, who was Culp’s Utah teammate until he was called up to the New York Night last week. (It comes as little surprise that Utah currently leads the CHL in goals with 158.)
Still, the idea of Culp actually being the CHL’s leading scorer seems to amuse or alarm many of his teammates. “I’m pretty sure that Culper leading the league in goals is one of the signs of the apocalypse,” said Owls RW Sylvester Catarino. “If I see any dudes on horseback, I’m going to run. That’s all I’m saying.”
Utah coach Wiley Kiyotie, on the other hand, thinks that Culp deserves more credit for his performance. “Honestly, Foster’s got a lot of natural talent,” said Kiyotie. “He’s fearless about getting to the net, and he knows what to do once he gets there. From an offensive standpoint, he’s a really capable player. Everyone tends to forget about that because he acts like a clown. But he’s not just a clown; he’s also a good hockey player.”
If Culp does pull off the improbable, does he have a celebration in mind? “Nothing too over the top,” Culp told reporters. “Just me, my teammates, a couple hundred girls in bikinis with my name on them, and a thousand bottles of champagne. You know, pretty low-key.”
Might the Night look at calling Culp up if he continues to produce at this rate? GM Jay McKay wouldn’t say for certain, but he did say that “Foster’s performance is definitely getting attention here in the front office. If he can manage not to get arrested or burn the locker room down in the meantime, then yeah, I’d say we’ll be having a conversation.”
Utah Owls C Foster Culp has a reputation as… a bit of a flake. He once got his team detained at the airport for hours by joking that he had guns and drugs packed in his luggage. On another trip, he and a teammate stole a baggage tractor and went joyriding, causing a ground stop at the airport. He once nearly burned down his team’s practice facility by overcooking a microwave burrito. These and other stunts caused Culp to earn the nickname “Bananas Foster.”
Culp has been in the minors for the last couple of seasons, but his goofiness remains undimmed, as he demonstrated this week with a stunt that earned the anger of his coach and a razzing from visiting fans.
The Owls traveled to northeast Ohio on Sunday to take on the Cleveland Centurions. The Centurions’ home, Cleveland Arena, is a 70-year-old facility that is showing its age, as demonstrated last season when some roosting pigeons caused a power failure at the arena. Even in the absence of birds, the arena is considered drafty, dim, and outdated. It’s universally agreed to be the worst facility in the CHL.
Many players have grumbled about having to play there, but Culp took his protest to a new level. During the Owls’ pre-game warmups, the center hit the ice wearing a parka with a miner’s lamp strapped to his helmet.
“Lots of guys complain about the conditions here,” Culp explained, “but no one ever does anything about it. I decided that it was time for someone to take some action. Why not be comfortable out there?”
Unsurprisingly, Culp’s stunt wasn’t popular with the fans in Cleveland. When he first came onto the ice, there were a couple ripples of laughter at the site of his bright-red parka, and a couple more when he turned on the miner’s lamp. But the laughs were quickly drowned out by heckling, as the fans told Culp to “lose the coat” and “act like a man.”
The Centurions didn’t appreciate the display much, either. When Culp wandered toward center ice, Cleveland LW Fendrick Scanlan stuck out his stick and sent his opponent tumbling to the ice, earning appreciative cheers from the crowd. The Centurions’ defensemen also seemed to target Culp for multiple hard hits during the game. Cleveland also punished Culp’s team on the scoreboard, pummeling the Owls by a 5-1 score.
The home team and fans weren’t the only ones who didn’t appreciate Culp’s stint. Owls coach Wiley Kiyotie called Culp out after the game. “Look, I know Foster is a nut job; that just comes with the territory,” said Kioytie. “But a stunt like this just gets the other team fired up, and we definitely didn’t need that, especially not with the beatdown they gave us. I know Culp thinks he’s a comedian, but if he’s looking for laughs, he should go do a stand-up set at the Improv. We’ve got a job to do.”
Culp reacted defensively to the criticism. “I don’t get what all the fuss is about,” he told reporters. “I was just having a little fun, but the way everybody’s reacting, you’d think I body-slammed Miss America at center ice or something.”
In the end, after airing his complaints, Culp’s coach took a philosophical view of the incident: “At least he didn’t burn the building down or get us arrested,” Kiyotie said. “So by his usual standards, this wasn’t a big deal.”
The Colorado Springs Zoomies have been one of the CHL’s strongest teams since the league’s inception. They made the playoffs in 2016 and 2017, only to lose in the divisional round. This season, Colorado Springs is mired around the .500 mark, but they’re hoping to get hot in the second half and win their first title. If they do reach the promised land, the Zoomies may look back on this week’s comeback win – and coach Artie Gambisch’s unusual inspirational speech – as a turning point.
On Wednesday, Colorado Springs rallied after blowing a third-period lead and snatched a 3-2overtime win over the contending Idaho Spuds. After the game, several of the players pointed to a between-periods Gambisch pep talk as the key to the comeback. When asked what the coach had said, the players were a bit vague. “It’s hard to describe. It was… a work of art,” said RW Joel Hagendosh, who scored the game-winning goal. “You should ask him about it.”
Accordingly, the reporters asked Gambisch about the speech in his postgame press conference. After a long laugh, Gambisch said, “I don’t know. I feel like it should just be between me and the boys.” Upon follow-up questioning, however, Gambisch elaborated.
“I was telling them not to give up hope just because we had the lead and lost it,” said Gambisch. “I told them that they shouldn’t be afraid, that fear is the only thing that could hold them back.”
Gambisch’s tempo and volume picked up as he got into the rhythm of it, “I told ‘em, ‘If you’re afraid you can’t win it, kill that fear! Stab it right in the heart with a rusty jackknife! Be brave! Punch a lion in the nuts! Fear is useless! Fear is temporary! Glory is forever!”
Pounding the podium, Gambisch shouted, “You deserve greatness! Kill anyone who says you don’t and build your castle out of their bones! Now go out there, grab this game by the throat and choke it to death with your bare hands!!” The assembled reporters broke into spontaneous applause as Gambisch grinned and said, “That’s what I told ‘em, basically.”
The Colorado Springs players were just as charged up by the speech as the reporters. “It was the most inspirational thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” said D Ernie Blake. “When he first got going, we weren’t quite sure what was happening. We were looking at each other like, ‘Is he having a stroke? Do we need to call 911?’ But then we got into it, and we got pumped up. By the time he was done, the other team didn’t stand a chance.”
“If General Patton had given that speech to the troops,” said G Sonny Kashiuk, “World War II would have been over in a week.”
“That speech… man, I get chills just thinking about it,” said C Foster Culp. “He got me so fired up, I was ready to run through a brick wall. In fact, I was gonna go find a brick wall and run through it, but my teammates kind of grabbed me and guided me out to the ice instead.”
Asked what he planned for an encore, Gambisch said, “I didn’t. You mean I’ve got to find a way to top that? Oh Jesus. I should have saved this one for the playoffs.”