Igloos’ Kennedy Skips Game to Play Shinny

Gene Kennedy has been a fan favorite in most of the cities where he’s played.  Even though the 2y-year-old forward has generally been a lightly-used depth guy throughout his career, his quick wit and his penchant for pranks and colorful quotes have won him fans in Washington, Hershey, and Boston.

Like most players, Kennedy wants as much ice time as possible.  Unlike most players, when Kennedy doesn’t get the opportunities he wants, he doesn’t hesitate to go public with his protests.  It’s a quirk that’s either endearing or infuriating, depending on your perspective.

Gene Kennedy

Back in 2017, Kennedy wasn’t getting into games with the Bliss, so he crashed a between-periods “Pee Wee Playtime” youth hockey scrimmage, claiming that he was “just trying to get my work in.”  This season, Kennedy signed with the Anchorage Igloos.  As in Hershey, he’s at the bottom of the forward depth chart, and he’s appeared in only a handful of games so far.  This week, he once again decided to skate with the kids – but in a slightly different way.

On Sunday afternoon, Kennedy was a healthy scratch as usual.  Typically, healthy scratches on the Igloos will spend the first period in the weight room or on an exercise bike, and then will watch the rest of the game from the press box.  Kennedy spent the first period riding the bike, but then did not join his fellow healthy scratches in the press box at the start of the second.  This led to a brief period of concern, as the Igloos wondered if something bad had happened to him.

The Igloos checked with their clubhouse staff, who said that Kennedy had grabbed his uniform and equipment bag and left the arena.  A couple staffers then set out to look for him.  Within 45 minutes, they’d located him at an outdoor rink about a mile from Arctic Circle Arena, playing shinny with a group of local teenagers.

“It’s been a while since I got in a game, so I just got the itch,” said Kennedy.  “Afternoon bag skates just aren’t the same thing.  Sometimes, it take a game to really get the blood pumping.  You can’t experience the thrill of competition from up in the press box, you know?”

While the Bliss largely laughed off Kennedy’s 2017 stunt, Igloos coach Sam Castor reacted to this incident with annoyance.  “Everyone knows Gene’s a flake, and I think this was mostly Gene being flaky,” Castor told reporters.  “But if this stunt was about embarrassing me into giving him more playing time, I’m not impressed.”

“If he’s not happy that he’s not getting a sweater, he should come to my office and we can talk about it like men,” the coach continued.  “My door’s always open, and I’d be happy to talk about what he needs to do to earn more ice time.  But we’re in a tight playoff race, and you have to earn a sweater.  In the meantime, he should pay attention to the guys who do play and try to learn something, instead of playing hooky to play shinny with a bunch of kids.  I’d expect a little more professionalism.”

Kennedy apologized and said that he was not trying to embarrass Castor or the organization.  “Honestly, I didn’t think anyone was going to miss me or notice I was gone,” Kennedy said.  “From now on, I’ll only play shinny on my off days.”

Badgers Find No Escape on Bonding Trip

Cam Prince

As the Boston Badgers have struggled through their inaugural season, coach Cam Prince has looked for ways to encourage bonding among his players.  And with a number of new faces on the team after the recent trading deadline, Prince felt it was especially important to give his players a chance to get to know each other better.

With that in mind, on the Badgers’ trip to New York this week, Prince decided to take his players to an escape room.  In this increasingly popular form of entertainment, a group of players is locked in a room and must solve a series of riddles and puzzles in order to get out.  The Badgers’ trip to the room proved highly entertaining, but there were several surprises along the way that got in the way of the bonding aspect.

Since there are limits on the number of players that can share a single escape room, Prince divided his squad into four groups.  One group consisted of the top two forward lines; C Jens Bunyakin captained that group.  Another group included the third line and reserve forwards; F Randy O’Connor was in charge of that group.  The third group included the top two defensive pairings and starting goalie Dennis Wampler, with D Timothy “Cyclone” Winston as captain.  The final group included the bottom defensive pairing, reserve blueliner Horst Hasenkamp, and backup goalie Carson Wagner as captain.

The squabbles began as soon as the teams were announced.  Ds Jurgen Braun and Moose Baker argued over which of them was a second-pairing defender and thus belonged with Winston’s group; Prince ruled in favor of Braun.  Bunyakin asked to trade RW Gene Kennedy to Winston’s group for Wampler, a known puzzle enthusiast; Prince said that there would be no trades.  Wagner suggested scrapping the groups altogether and letting the captains pick teams; that request was also denied.

“If our guys don’t make it in hockey, they should all become lawyers,” said assistant coach Mark Morganhurst.  “They’re all great at arguing.”

Once the groups were locked away in their respective rooms, further hijinks ensued.  In Bunyakin’s group, RW Jorma Seppa and Kennedy were chained together, and had to find a key to free themselves.  Unfortunately, this confinement brought out a previously unknown claustrophobia in Kennedy, who suffered a panic attack and had to be calmed by Bunyakin until the key could be found.

“Fortunately, I have a 3-year-old at home,” said Bunyakin, “which equipped me perfectly to deal with Gene.”

In Winston’s room, there was a jigsaw puzzle that the team had to assemble in order to find a clue.  Wampler and D Brody “Bruiser” McCallan both wanted to be in charge of assembling the puzzle.  The disagreement became so heated that the two nearly came to blows and had to be separated by their groupmates.

“Wamp’s giving up at least 70 pounds to Bruiser in that fight,” said Winston, “so I knew we had to stop it.  I didn’t want to explain to Coach that we had to put our starting goalie on the DL because Bruiser broke him in the escape room.”

O’Connor’s group managed to figure out all of the clues well within the 60-minute time limit.  But when they tried to leave their room, they found that they couldn’t.  Escape room staff spent an additional half-hour just trying to free the trapped group.  As it turned out, the prank-loving Kennedy had jammed the lock to their room.  When O’Connor finally emerged, he had to be restrained from choking Kennedy.

“I hoped that this evening would bring us closer together,” said Prince.  “I’m not sure if we succeeded in that, or if we brought guys closer to killing each other.”

Wagner’s group wound up getting out first, despite being the smallest group of the four.  “Maybe we’ve just got a head for these things,” said Wagner.  “Or maybe it’s because we just focused on getting out instead of trying to fight each other.”

Prince said that he would continue to seek out bonding opportunities for his team.  He doesn’t plan to try another escape room, though.  “I’m pretty sure that once this story gets out,” said the Boston coach, “we’ll be banned from every escape room on the continent.”

Hershey’s Kennedy Skates With the Kids

Gene Kennedy

Hershey Bliss F Gene Kennedy is one of the few SHL players who has yet to see any ice time this season.  Tired of waiting for a chance to skate, Kennedy decided to make his own opportunity in an unorthodox manner that raised some eyebrows in the Bliss clubhouse and around the league.

Between the first and second periods of Tuesday’s game against the Washington Galaxy at the Chocolate Center, the Bliss held their usual “Pee Wee Playtime” game.  The game is a scrimmage between two team of local youth hockey players, who relish the opportunity to spend a few minutes on the same ice and shooting at the same nets as their heroes.

Observers quickly noticed that one of the players seemed a little different than the rest.  It was Kennedy, who had decided to join the youngsters for their scrimmage.  At 6-foot-2, the 25-year-old Kennedy didn’t exactly blend in with the 7-to-8-year-olds who made up the rest of the players.

“He just came out of nowhere,” said Bliss PA announcer Steve Leadbetter, who posted pictures and narratives of the scene on his Twitter account.  “At first, the kids were just doing their regular thing.  Then all of a sudden, Kennedy just came out from the Zamboni tunnel and just started skating with them.  Nobody was really sure what to make of it.”

“I was just trying to get my work in,” Kennedy explained after the game.  “I mean, you’ve got to stay sharp.  Skating in practice is okay, but I really need to get some work in at game speed.  Practice isn’t the same.  And from what I could tell, this was my best opportunity to get some ice time in-game.”

With a significant speed and size advantage over his fellow players, Kennedy dominated the scrimmage.  He had no trouble skating by the pee wee players, muscling them off the puck on occasion.  Shooting at both nets, the reserve forward scored 3 goals.

Nibs

At first, the fans assumed it was a deliberate joke, and reacted to Kennedy’s antics with laughter and cheers.  But as play continued and Kennedy hip-checked 7-year-old Jaylen Crossley and sent the young man sprawling to the boards, the cheers turned to boos.  At that point the Bliss mascot, Nibs, corraled Kennedy and ushered him off the ice.

“I felt bad about that,” Kennedy said of the check on Crossley.  “Totally unintentional.  I didn’t see him, but I felt him bump up against me.”  The winger signed his jersey and gave it to Crossley to make up for it.

Asked about Kennedy’s stunt, Bliss coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber quipped, “Well, I didn’t see it.  How did he look out there?”  The coach then added, “Look, I understand Gene’s frustrated about not getting to play. But all out forwards have been playing great.  Who do you sit?”

Kennedy’s teammates were more critical of his actions.  “It’s pretty unprofessional, if you ask me,” said Bliss C Henry Constantine.  “You’re not happy ’cause you’re not playing, fine.  Take it up with the coach.  Don’t show up your team and run the kids’ fun.  I know Gene’s kind of flaky, but there’s a limit.”

Barber said that he does not plan to discipline Kennedy for the incident, and he will look to get Kennedy some playing time.  “I’m doing it for the kids,” the coach joked.  “I’m trying to protect them from Gene.”

Injury-Plagued Sailors Grab Leonard from Hershey

Hershey BlissSeattle SailorsIn their first week on the ice, the Seattle Sailors struck the first deal of the SHL’s second season.  Thanks to an onslaught of early injuries, the Sailors found themselves with a critical lack of defensive depth.  They plugged that hole by picking up D Adam Leonard from the Hershey Bliss in exchange for F Gene Kennedy.

The league has seen a significant number of players hurt over the week, but Seattle has been hit the hardest.   The Sailors lost players to injury in three straight game.  Sunday’s 3-2 win over Saskatchewan was marred by the departure of D Wayne Snelling, who suffered a lower-body injury that is expected to keep him out for a couple weeks.  In Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to Michigan, RW “King George” Lane fell awkwardly against the boards and left with a lower-body injury; the team lists him as day-to-day.  On Wednesday, Seattle lost both another game — 5-3 against Anchorage — and another player, as rookie D Benny Lambert was felled by yet another lower-body injury that could put him out of action for up to a week.

Lambert’s injury sent the Sailors into crisis mode, as they looked to grab the first available blue-liner.  The Bliss, who were looking to enhance their forward corps, were a willing trade partner.

adam-leonard
Adam Leonard

“Obviously, we were hoping not to have to make a move this early in the season,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay.  “But we didn’t let ourselves get held up.  Adam is a promising young player who fills a need for us now, but has a chance to grow with the team later on.”

Hershey selected the 22-year-old Leonard, a recent graduate from Peninsula State, in the fourth round of this year’s entry draft.  He has a reputation as a stay-home defenseman and a good shot-blocker, although he is not an especially heavy hitter.  He had yet to appear in a game for the Bliss at the time of the trade.  He made his debut with Seattle on Friday in the Sailors’ 7-4 loss to Dakota.

gene-kennedy-hsy
Gene Kennedy

Seattle claimed the 24-year-old Kennedy from Washington in the expansion draft.  Kennedy was a reserve for last year’s division-champ Galaxy squad, putting up 5 points in 23 games.  Though he was only occasionally saw the ice, Kennedy’s fun-loving spirit made him a fan favorite.  The Sailors planned to use him as part of a third-line forward platoon with Yann Eberlein and Randy O’Connor.  He had appeared in one game for Seattle before being dealt.

“This was a great opportunity for us,” said Bliss GM Scott Lawrence.  “I’ve been a Gene Kennedy fan for a while now.  I always liked him when he was with Washington.  When I realized we had a chance to get him, I didn’t hesitate.”

With Leonard on board, the Sailors now find themselves hoping for better health in the upcoming games.  Until Lane is able to return to action, Seattle’s only available reserve player will be their backup goaltender.  As Sailors coach Stewart “Popeye” Corrigan said in his postgame press-conference Wednesday, “I don’t know if I’m running a hockey team or a sick ward.”

Galaxy Players Go Cow Crazy

Washington GalaxyOn the surface, it seems like things are going well for the Washington Galaxy.  The team has been at or close to the top of the standings throughout the season to date.  But beneath the surface, according to sources close to the team, a tension is building.  The source of that tension: a chocolate-theme jingle performed by a trio of singing cows.

This week, the Galaxy came to Hershey to play the Bliss.  Coach Rodney Reagle, figuring it was a good opportunity for the new team to bond, brought the Galaxy in a day early and took them to the Chocolate World exhibit at Hersheypark.  In addition to creating their own candy bars and tasting a variety of different chocolates, the team went on a ride that explains how Hershey’s chocolate is made.

singing-cows-of-hershey
The (real) singing cows

One of the most notable aspects of the ride is a trio of female cows (Gabby, Harmony, and Olympia) that sing about the glories of milk chocolate.  The players all agreed that this was a highlight of the experience.  Little did they know that it would be the bone of contention in the days to come.

Casey Thurman
Casey Thurman

According to team sources, Galaxy LW Casey Thurman, D Kevin Buchanan, and F Gene Kennedy were especially fond of the song.  And ever since, the three have taken to serenading their teammates with the jingle, in falsetto, everywhere the team goes.  In the locker room before games, on the team plane, in restaurants, everywhere.  The three players even bought pink boas to match those worn by the cows.

Kevin Buchanan
Kevin Buchanan

Needless to say, the constant singing has not been equally appreciated by all teammates.  In particular, C Drustan Zarkovich reportedly threatened to kill the singers with his stick if they didn’t stop singing during a particularly long plane flight.  The threats and complaints have reportedly only encouraged Thurman, Buchanan, and Kennedy to keep it up.

Gene Kennedy
Gene Kennedy

“I mean, it was funny at first,” said star LW Jefferson McNeely.  “But there’s a point where it’s too much.  I mean, you see three grown men walking down the street, singing in high voices and wearing pink boas… it’s weird.  They’ve even started calling each other by the names of the stupid cows.”

Apprised of McNeely’s criticism, Thurman (“Gabby”) responded, “I’ve never had more fun in my life.  I think in my soul, there’s always been a singing cow waiting to get out.”

For his part, Reagle doesn’t regret the bonding trip.  “It’s the kind of thing the guys will be talking about all season,” said the coach.  “Maybe eventually one of the guys will snap and start choking someone, and then I’ll have to intervene.  But for now, I’m cool with it.  Besides, I’ve heard them sing, and they’re not half bad.  Of course, they’re not half good either.”