CHL Update: Garcia’s Time in Oshawa Comes to Ugly End

Diego Garcia has a well-earned reputation as a malcontent.  The 26-year-old has played in several SHL organizations since the league’s inception, but he’s never seemed happy with his role wherever he’s been.

Diego Garcia

He started on the third line in Dakota, but quickly lost his starting spot, and complained about it until he was traded to Hamilton.  With the Pistols, his lackadaisical work habits and indifferent focus wore out the patience of coaches, and they dealt him to New York the following season.

He played regularly in New York for the rest of the 2016 season, but then Night coach Preston Rivers was fired, and new head man Nick Foster benched Garcia due to his poor defensive work.  Garcia griped to the press about the benching, implying that racial discrimination was a factor in the decision.  Shortly thereafter, the Night demoted him to their farm team in Utah.

Garcia played well in Utah over the next season and a half, but failed to earn a call-up.  This led him to once again demand a trade.  The Night accommodated him at last year’s deadline, shipping him up to Boston.  He played in the bigs for the final 20-odd games of the season, but the Badgers weren’t impressed enough to re-sign him this season.

Failing to land any major-level offers, Garcia signed with the Oshawa Drive.  But his usual issues – lack of hustle and his penchant for bellyaching – landed him in hot water with coach Harvey Williams.  The simmering tension between the two boiled over this week, when Williams benched the winger and Garcia responded by leaving the team.

According to team sources, Garcia’s latest frustrations began when he was passed over for the CHL All-Star Game.  He made the team last season, and felt that he deserved a return trip.  He became even more upset when the Pistols, Oshawa’s parent club, traded for F Cary Estabrook from Boston.  In Garcia’s opinion, he is a superior player to Estabrook, and deserved to be called up instead.

“I knew [Estabrook] from Boston,” Garcia fumed to reporters.  “They say I don’t hustle?  He hustles way less than I do.  They say I’m bad at defense?  He’s worse.  They say I don’t show up for practice?  He cares more about what time the bar closes than what time practice is.  But he’s the golden boy, the great white hope, so he gets a second chance.  And the lazy brown guy rots in the minors.  I wish I was surprised.”

Harvey Williams

Garcia’s rant rubbed Williams the wrong way.  The coach told reporters that Garcia “has been a pain in my [butt] all season.  He’s always in my office whining about how he ‘deserves’ to be in the majors.  And I always tell him the same thing: If you want to make it to the next level, go out there and show me something special.  Make it so they can’t deny you a shot.  And he doesn’t want to do it.  He’s been fine, but nothing special.  He’s had five years to make it in the majors, and he hasn’t stuck.  He’s got talent, but he doesn’t want to put in the work.  So I don’t want to hear about it.”

When informed of his coach’s comments, Garcia shot back: “Oh, so now I’m lazy and uppity, huh?  I wonder why I haven’t gotten a fair shake in this organization.  All my life, I’ve had to work twice as hard to get half as far.  It’s the same old crap.”  He then said that – yet again – he wants to be traded.

Williams reacted to the trade demand with derision.  “Oh, here we go again: ‘Trade me, trade me.’  Every time someone calls him out on his [crap], he demands a trade.  Anything to avoid taking a hard look in the mirror.  Well fine, then.  I’ll do it for him.”

The coach announced that he would bench Garcia indefinitely.  “Everywhere else, people got sick of him and they punted so they don’t have to deal with him.  Well, I’m gonna deal with him.”  Williams said he would play Garcia again “when he finally owns up that he has no one to blame but himself.  Given his track record, he might be sitting awhile.”

Garcia responded by leaving the team and returning to his offseason home in Vancouver.  He said he would not return to the ice until the Drive traded him.  “Obviously, I’m never going to get a fair shot with this organization, so let’s move on.”

Three days later, the Drive terminated his contract.  “If Diego is not going to provide his services to our team, then he is in breach of contract,” said Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire.  “He said that he wants a fresh start; he is now free to pursue that with any team he wishes.”

This may be the end of the line for Garcia in the SHL; he has worn out his welcome with multiple organizations, and he does not put up the kind of numbers that would compel a team to sign him in spite of the headaches.

“If some desperate team takes a chance on him, I wish ‘em the best of luck,” said Williams.  “He’s a legend in his own mind, and guys like that – there’s just no reasoning with ‘em.”

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CHL Update: Wild Third Period Leads to OT Thriller in Oshawa

Fans who showed up at Oshawa’s General Motors Arena on Sunday for a CHL interdivision clash between the Oshawa Drive and the Idaho Spuds probably weren’t expecting anything noteworthy.  The Drive and Spuds have no rivalry to speak of, and on paper, the matchup between Western-division-leading Idaho (14-7-3 coming into the game) and third-place Oshawa (9-12-3 coming in) seemed like mismatch.

Surprisingly, the fans were treated to a thrilling contest, highlighted by a crazy third period in which the home town built a three-goal lead, lost it, and had to head to overtime before finally claiming a 4-3 win.

“That game was just plain bat-[guano] insane,” said Oshawa coach Harvey Williams.  “No other way to put it.’”

Going into the third, it looked like things were going to end well for the home team, despite being outplayed.  Although Idaho outshot Oshawa 23-14 through two, Drive goalie Hector Orinoco was in top form, turning aside every shot and staking his team to a 2-0 lead.

When LW Troy Blackwood went top-shelf on Spuds goalie Guy Laroche to put Oshawa up 3-0 a mere 96 seconds into the third, the crowd was ready to start celebrating its victory.  They began chanting “Start the bus!  Start the bus!” at the dejected Idaho bench.

Spuds coach Gilbert McCoyne saw the crowd’s taunting chant as an opportunity.  “You hear that?  Hear it?” McCoyne barked at his players.  “The folks up in the stands seem to think the game’s over already.  Are you gonna let ‘em get away with that?”

“Hell no!” responded Spuds F Trace Walker.  “Time for us to turn the bus around!”  His teammates thumped their sticks on the ground in approval.

Just over three minutes later, Walker found D Gray Torian with a laser-beam pass in the slot.  Torian tipped the puck past Orinoco’s catching glove to break the shutout.

Unfortunately for the Spuds, they struggled to generate another goal as the minutes ticked off the clock.  With just under six minutes to go and the Drive still up 3-1, the fans began the “Start the bus!” chant again.

“They’re really trying that again?” hollered Walker.  “Time to really make ‘em pay.”

A few seconds later, Walker ripped a shot over Orinoco’s left shoulder to make it 3-2.  Walker skated around with his hand cupped over his ear, but the crowd had fallen quiet.

Just over a minute later, Drive C Albert North tried to draw a penalty, snapping his head back as though Torian had hit him with a high stick.  But eagle-eyed referee Alan Cole wasn’t fooled, and he sent North to the box for embellishment.  Oshawa managed to kill off the penalty, barely, but were unable to get the puck out of their own end.  Idaho kept up the pressure after the penalty expired, as the exhausted Drive desperately tried to hold off the vistors.

Finally, with 15 seconds left, the puck got lost in a scrum in front of the Oshawa net.  It seemed to bounce off a forest of sticks and bodies before winding up on the blade of Spuds D Rodney Black, who jammed it home to tie the game and stun the crowd.

Orinoco slumped on the ice and several Oshawa players slammed down their sticks and looked at the ceiling in frustration.  Williams argued vigorously for a goaltender interference call, to no avail.

The Spuds turned the heckling back on the fans, chanting “Stop the bus!  Stop the bus!” before launching into a round of the nursery rhyme “The Wheels on the Bus” as the fans sat in disconsolate silence.

“I was really proud of the way the boys didn’t give up when it looked bad,” said McCoyne.  “Especially on a long road trip like this, it can be hard to find the energy.  But they found it – thanks to the fans.  Appreciate it!”

At the end of regulation, the Drive filed quietly into their locker room, unsure what had happened.  “It’s like [the Spuds] drove the bus right over us,” said C Pat Collistone.

But with a pep talk from Williams and a crucial opportunity to catch their breath, Oshawa pulled themselves together, and D Elvis Bodett banged home the winning goal 24 seconds into overtime.

“I don’t know if they were trying to give me another heart attack or what,” quipped Williams, who only recently returned to the bench after collapsing on the bench due to cardiac trouble.  “I told ‘em after the game, ‘Don’t do that to an old fart with a bad ticker like me!’”

CHL Update: Oshawa Coach Williams Suffers Health Scare

In an era when hockey coaches are increasingly allergic to controversy and colorful quotes, Harvey Williams – in his first season behind the bench for the Oshawa Drive – stands out.

The 63-year-old Williams cheerfully admits that his nickname was “Hangover” during his playing days, and boasts that he can still drink his players under the table.  He motivates his players with saying such as, “Go out there and work your [expletive] off, because hard work makes you thirsty.  And the thirstier you are, the more beer you can drink after the game.”

Harvey Williams

Williams shuns the usual postgame clichés that other coaches rely on, saying: “Look, nobody here’s an idiot. If we got our [expletive] kicked, we all know it.  So I’m gonna come out and say we got our [expletive] kicked.  If I mumbled something about it being a ‘learning experience’ and we’re ‘focused on the next one,’ we all know that’s a bunch of crap.  So why bother?  I’d rather tell the ugly truth.”  If the Drive ever get in a line brawl, Williams says that he’ll join his players in the fray: “I know they’ve got my back, and I’ve got their back.  Anybody messes with my boys, they gotta answer to me.”

In short, Williams is a throwback to an earlier era, and his players enjoy it.  “He’s definitely not like any coach I’ve played for before,” said Drive C Pat Collistone.  “He’s serious about winning and working hard, but he keeps things fun and loose.”

Things took an unfortunate turn this week when Williams collapsed during Thursday’s game against the Virginia Rhinos.  The coach began feeling ill during the first period, complaining to assistant Rob Mancini that he was feeling dizzy and short of breath.  This did not stop the coach from getting into a shouting match with referee Doug Mollis over a disputed goal early in the second period.  About fifteen minutes later, Williams collapsed.

Mancini quickly drew the attention of the officials, who stopped play while both teams’ trainers rushed to Williams’ assistance. He was taken out of the arena on a stretcher as a hush fell over the crowd and the Oshawa players kneeled in a prayer circle.

“It was really a shock to all of us,” said RW Anders Pedersen.  “One minute, he was clapping and barking out shifts.  The next minute, he’s laying on the floor.”

Williams was rushed to the hospital, where it was determined that he had suffered a mild heart attack.  He was discharged the next morning.  “It’s revenge from my old man for all the heart attacks I caused him raising hell as a teenager,” he quipped after his release.

The coach wanted to get back to his duties right away, but the Drive, on the advice of team doctors, announced that Mancini will coach the team for the next week while Williams recuperates.

“I’ll be a good boy and sit in my rocking chair and take it easy for a week,” the coach told reporters.  “But I’ll be back out bending the elbow before you know it.  Save a barstool for ol’ Harvey!”