The Hartford Harpoons, one of the CHL’s two new expansion teams, took the ice for the first time this week. They played their first road game on Tuesday against the Baltimore Blue Crabs. Unfortunately for them, they were unable to take the ice in their attractive white-and-blue uniforms. Thanks to a luggage handling error, the Harpoons’ uniforms didn’t make the trip with them to Baltimore.
“It’s really kind of hilarious,” said Harpoons coach Mel Lonigan. “You spend all this time working and planning and dreaming about this moment. Then you show up and the first thing you hear is, ‘Sorry, guys, we lost your uniforms.’”
Apparently, when the Harpoons boarded the plane for Baltimore, most of the team’s luggage didn’t go with them. The majority of the team’s uniforms and gear, along with the personal baggage of the players and coaches, wound up on a flight to San Francisco instead.
The team’s equipment managers were stunned when they went to retrieve the team’s gear and were unable to find it. After a frantic series of phone calls and conversations with the airline, it was determined that the team’s gear was in California. But by that point, there was no way to get it to Charm City in time for the game.
For Lonigan, the solution was pretty straightforward. “I just went to Men’s Wearhouse and got a new suit and tie,” the coach said. “Fortunately, I’m a pretty easy guy to fit.”
For the players, things weren’t that simple. Team staffers were able to get sticks, gloves, skates, and pads at local sporting goods stores. But they couldn’t just go in and get uniforms.
“Maybe if we were in the NHL, we could have bought them off the rack,” said C Caden Ritz. “But a bunch of minor-leaguers on a brand-new team no one’s heard of? Not a chance.”
Faced with the possibility of having to cancel or postpone the game, the visiting Blue Crabs came through with some help. They allowed the Harpoons to borrow their road uniforms so that the game could go on as scheduled.
“We may be opponents, but we’re all brothers in the hockey fraternity,” said Baltimore GM Pierre Lacorcet. “We weren’t going to let the game not happen. I know they’d do the same if the situation was reversed.” In addition to borrowing uniforms, the Blue Crabs also permitted Hartford to use some of their extra gear.
The Harpoons looked good in their borrowed duds, at least on the ice. They rallied in the third period, scoring three goals to tie the game, including a pair by Ritz. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get the winner across, and the game ended a 5-5 tie.
“If we’d managed to pull it out,” said Lonigan, “we might have wanted to keep wearing those unis. But I doubt Baltimore would have been that generous, so it worked out for the best.”
Fortunately, the Harpoons got their uniforms back when they returned home. And when the team made it to Virginia for their next game, their gear was waiting for them.
“Good thing, or we’d have had to have guys stuff their unis in their carry-ons next time,” quipped Lonigan.