Sailors Sold, Moving to Portland in ’20

Ever since it became clear last year that the NHL was planning to add an expansion team in Seattle, the SHL’s Seattle Sailors knew they were living on borrowed time.  Although the NHL’s new club won’t take the ice until 2021, Sailors owner Gary Blum isn’t the type to sit around waiting; he wanted to find a new home for his team as soon as possible.  This week, Blum announced that he was selling the Sailors to a group that will move the team to Portland, Oregon for the 2020 season.

“We’ve had a great run here in Seattle, and I wish we could stick around for the long term,” Blum told reporters.  “But we’re getting pushed out.  Luckily, I was able to find a strong ownership group that’s looking forward to continuing what we’ve built, just in a new city.”

The Portland group is led by Jared Carmichael, a Rose City native and owner of a craft brewery and several local bars and restaurants.  “This is a really exciting opportunity for our city,” Carmichael said.  “Portland is growing rapidly, and it’s about time that we had another big-league sports team here.  I’m confident that the fans will support this team just as strongly as they did in Seattle, if not even better!”

Carmichael wasted no time announcing the new name for the team.  They will be known as the Portland Bluebacks, a name with a local connection.  The USS Blueback is a decommissioned US Navy submarine that was in service from 1959 and 1990.  Based out of the Pacific, the Blueback saw action in the Vietnam War and participated in multiple RIMPAC exercises.  She also appeared in the movie “Hunt for Red October.”

After being decommissioned, the Blueback was purchased by the Oregon Museum for Science and Industry, which towed it to the Willamette River and uses it as an interactive exhibit.  The Blueback is a popular local landmark, and has been mentioned in the TV series “Portlandia.”

Carmichael said he chose the name as a tribute to his late father, a Navy officer and Vietnam War veteran.  “I know if Dad were still with us, he’d be right there at center ice, cheering the team on,” said the incoming owner.  “I love the name; it’s uniquely Portland, it connects to our nautical heritage, and it honors my father and others who have served our country.”

At the press conference, Carmichael also unveiled the Bluebacks’ logo, which he explained was inspired by the patch worn by those who served on the submarine.  The logo features a submarine coming out of the water, with a fish emerging from the conning tower.  The fish is a blueback salmon, a common species in the Pacific Northwest, for which the submarine was named.

The Bluebacks will play in Willamette River Arena, located in Portland’s redeveloping South Waterfront neighborhood not far from the OMSI.  “SoWa is a great emerging area, one of the neighborhoods that really shows how Portland has grown and changed in recent years,” Carmichael said.  “With the Bluebacks coming, it’s going to be the hottest spot in town!”

The sale is contingent upon approval of the SHL’s owners, but league sources said this should be just a formality.

The Sailors are currently deep in the hunt for their first-ever playoff spot.  Asked if the sale news would dampen the team’s momentum, Blum replied, “I don’t think so, no.  In fact, I think it would be a nice parting gift for Seattle if we’re able to go out on a high note.  I’d love to leave the city with a happy memory, and I know our organization feels the same.”

Carmichael declined to comment on whether he planned to keep current Sailors personnel such as GM Taylor Teichman or coach Harold Engellund.  “Hey, let’s let the season play out,” Carmichael laughed.  “I will say that they’re doing a heck of a job so far!”

Sailors RW Vince Mango was at the press conference, and he reacted positively to the news.  “As a player, you don’t want to have to keep getting questions about where you’re going to be next year.  I’m excited to know what our future holds,” Mango said.  “And I hear that Portland’s a cool place to hang out!”

Hamilton’s Dramatic New Look Highlights 2019 Uni Changes

As the SHL prepares to take the ice for its 2019 season, several teams are announcing updates to their uniforms.  The list of changes isn’t as extensive as last season, when there were two new teams and four other clubs with new or modified looks.  This time around, however, there is one team – the Hamilton Pistols – that has completely overhauled its look, with a new logo, color scheme, and uniforms.

“Last year, our team showed that it was ready to be a rising power in this league,” said Pistols owner Cory Blackwood, Jr.  “Now we’ve got a fresh, up-to-date look that matches our fresh young roster.”

The Pistols’ logo has evolved over their tenure in the SHL.  The original logo prominently featured the silhouette of a handgun, a controversial choice that drew protests from gun-control groups.  Possibly as a result, the team began de-emphasizing the gun as a design element, increasingly featuring a secondary logo consisting of the letter “H” superimposed over a red maple leaf.  The team claimed that this logo was designed to highlight the team’s Canadian identity.  However, that logo earned the ire of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, who threatened the Pistols with trademark action.

Now, the Pistols have scrapped both their original gun-based logo and the secondary maple-leaf logo in favor of a striking new “Pistols” wordmark that includes a gun sight in place of the “O.”  

“We wanted something simple, clean, and modern-looking,” said Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire.  “Our old logo had kind of a ’70s Starsky-and-Hutch type of appearance, especially with that mustard yellow.  It was a little dated, and not suitable for today.  We found ourselves asking, ‘When our team wins the Vandy, do we want to be in these uniforms?’  We quickly realized that we did not.”

New home uniforms

The Pistols’ new uniforms pay homage to their previous look, while still providing a major departure.  Red is still Hamilton’s dominant color, but the secondary color has gone from mustard yellow to black.  The uniforms still have a contrasting color band along the shoulders and down the sleeves, but it narrows below the numbers.  The stripe at the bottom of the jersey kicks up at the end, as the silver trim has been modified to look like a hockey stick.

“We’re going to look a lot cooler on the ice now,” said Pistols star Steven Alexander.  “Our new threads are cutting-edge, cool, and a little dangerous.  No one’s going to want to mess with us.”

New alternate jersey

In lieu of their previous maple-leaf jersey, the Pistols unveiled a new third jersey that’s primarily black. In place of the “Pistols” wordmark that appears on the home and road jerseys, the jersey includes the team’s secondary logo – a gunsight with a capital “H” in the crosshairs.

“I really like the alts,” said D Raymond Smyth.  “They make us look like assassins, ready to take out the competition.”

Blackwood said that the team’s new look symbolized a new era of championship competition.  “We want our fans to know, and the world to know, that we’re going all in,” the owner said.  “We’re expecting big things from the team in the next few seasons.  We’re breaking out in a big way, and we want everyone to know about it.”

While the Pistols’ image overhaul is the biggest sartorial news of the offseason, a couple of other SHL teams also announced smaller refreshes:

  • The Seattle Sailors are brightening their accent color, going from spring green to a neon green.  “Between the Seahawks and the Eclipse,” said owner Gary Blum, referencing Seattle’s NFL and UBA teams, “neon green is a popular color around here, and we thought it would work for us too.”  In addition, the team is adding more black to their alternate uniforms, and are dropping the numbers on their sleeves.
  • The Michigan Gray Wolves are switching their home and alternate jerseys.  Now, their jersey with the wolf-and-moon logo is their primary home uniform, while the one with the “Gray Wolves” wordmark has been relegated to alternate status.  “Just looking at our merchandise sales, it’s clear that our fans love the moon logo,” said GM Tim Carrier.  “So we figured it was time for us to catch up.”  The “Gray Wolves” wordmark remains on the team’s road jerseys, however.  Also, the numbers on the back of the home and alternate jerseys have changed from white to red.

Sailors Name Hamilton’s Teichman as New GM

Last season, Seattle Sailors GM Jay McKay shot the moon at the trading deadline, moving several prized prospects to acquire C Lars Karlsson and D Hans Mortensen in a long-shot bid for a playoff spot.  When Seattle wound up missing the postseason by 22 points, McKay wound up losing his job.

Taylor Teichman

This week, the Sailors tapped Hamilton Pistols assistant GM Taylor Teichman as McKay’s replacement.  Teichman had been chiefly responsible for the Pistols’ drafts and minor-league development, and was widely regarded as the chief architect of the up-and-coming Hamilton team that made its first trip to the playoffs season.

“We identified Taylor as our #1 pick early on, and we didn’t stop until we got him,” said Sailors owner Gary Blum.  “We couldn’t be happier to have him on board to help us shape the future of our club.”

The hiring of Teichman seems to signal a shift in Seattle’s team-building strategy.  As mentioned above, McKay favored big-money acquisitions and major trades.  Given Teichman’s record in Hamilton, it seems likely that the Sailors will now look to cultivate homegrown talent.  This strategy may be complicated by the fact that Seattle has no picks in the upcoming draft and has shipped out several of its top prospects in recent deals.

“I can’t wait to get started,” Teichman told reporters.  “When I was considering this opportunity, I saw an organization with a strong base of talent, a great owner in Gary Blum, a strong coach in Harry Engellund.  This team is a lot like the Pistols from a season or two ago; we just need a few tweaks here and there to take it to the next level.”

It’s rumored Seattle’s courtship of Teichman wasn’t without controversy.  According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Hamilton initially denied the Sailors permission to speak with their assistant GM about the position.  Teichman then threatened to resign his job with the Pistols if he wasn’t either promoted to GM with the Pistols or allowed to interview for the Sailors position.  According to the same sources, SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell ultimately had to intervene and clarify that Hamilton couldn’t prevent Teichman from interviewing unless it was stated in his contract.

Teichman declined to comment on the behind-the-scenes drama around his hiring.  “I had a great time in Hamilton, and I appreciate everyone there.  But my focus is on the future.”

The Pistols issued a brief statement that read: “We thank Taylor Teichman for his four seasons of service to the organization and his help in building a contending team for many seasons to come.  We wish him the best of luck as he takes on his new challenge with the Sailors.”

Teichman said that his top priorities would be to resolve the open questions at center (Karlsson is a free agent) and in net (Rocky Goldmire and “Jersey Mike” Ross are both signed through next season, but prospect Sonny Kashiuk looks ready for the majors).  Beyond that, he said he would look for “opportunities to replenish our minor league club and build through the draft.”

Sailors Announce GM, Coach

Seattle SailorsThe expansion Seattle Sailors have turned to a pair of colorful characters to guide them through their inaugural campaign.  Sailors owner Gary Blum held a press conference today to announce the hiring of Jay McKay as the team’s general manager and Stewart Corrigan as head coach.

“I’ve succeeded in business by hiring smart, capable people and get out of the way to let them do their thing,” said Blum.  “That’s the same model I’m applying in hockey.”

Jay McKay
Jay McKay

The 60-year-old McKay has ties to the Pacific Northwest, having starred with the WHL’s Seattle Totems and Portland Buckaroos during his playing days.  He’s been working front-office jobs for over 25 years, and he has been the architect of multiple minor-league championship teams over that time.  He has a reputation for being brash and outspoken, which has led to his changing jobs frequently.  But McKay’s reputation doesn’t bother Blum in the least.

“In tech at the elite level, there are a lot of big personalities,” said the Sailors owner.  “The same is true in sports.  You’re going to deal with big egos, guys who want to do things their way.  That’s fine by me.  As long as you deliver the goods, that’s what matters.”

For his part, McKay is looking forward to putting down roots in Seattle.  “I’ve lived out of a suitcase for most of my career,” he told reporters.  “I’ve passed through just about every two-bit hamlet in North America with a hockey barn.  But you get to a certain age, and you get sick of bouncing from town to town.  I hope I can stay here a long time and bring a lot of hardware to our fans.”

Stewart Corrigan
Stewart Corrigan

The 45-year-old Corrigan has spent much of his career as a junior league coach, most recently a five-year stint in Sault Ste. Marie.  He is well-known for his fiery and intense demeanor on the bench.  He earned the nickname “Popeye” due to his frequent bulging-eyes rants at referees, which often led to his ejection.

“I’m a heart-on-my-sleeve guy,” admitted Corrigan.  “I don’t believe in keeping things bottled up.  If I don’t agree with a call or I think my team’s getting lackadaisical, they’re going to hear about it.”

Off the ice, Corrigan is a noted wine aficionado.  He is part-owner of a Napa Valley vineyard, and his personal collection contains over 200 bottles of vintage wine.

“That’s my outlet for relaxation,” said Corrigan.  “A lot of times, I’ll give it to a ref or a player or an opposing coach, and the next day I’ll invite him over to share a bottle and light up a couple cigars and bury the hatchet.”

Blum made his high expectations for the Sailors clear in his press conference.  “A lot of times with an expansion team, you see years of futility and a slow building process to become good, if you’re lucky,” said the owner.  “That’s not going to happen here.  The people here in Seattle want to see a winner, and so do I.  I expect us to ramp up quickly and get to contention in the near term.  You’re not going to have to wait a decade to see the Sailors get good.”

McKay didn’t get into specifics about how he plans to build his team, saying that he’d “have to wait until we see what’s available in the expansion draft.”  The Sailors have the first pick in the entry draft, and are expectation to take high-scoring collegiate star Vince Mango.  McKay wouldn’t confirm that, but said, “A guy who’s got that kind of scoring touch would be a heck of a player to build around, no question.”

On a lighter note, Corrigan broke the reporters up with laughter when he implied that he’d chosen Seattle because he was fond of their uniforms: “Green has always been my favorite color.”