CHL Update: Harpoons’ Unis Get Lost

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.’”

The missing Hartford 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.

CHL Update: Screaming Eagles Move to Colorado Springs, Affiliates Shuffle

Change is coming to the SHL for 2018, as the Boston Badgers and Kansas City Smoke will be joining the fold.  Similarly, change is coming to the SHL’s minor league, the Continental Hockey League.  The CHL will also be adding two teams to match the SHL’s expansion; in addition, several teams will be swapping affiliates, and one team – the Albuquerque Screaming Eagles – will be relocating.

The Screaming Eagles lasted only one season in New Mexico, finishing fourth in the West with a 24-34-2 record that led to coach Butch Slazenger‘s firing.  The team drew poorly, finishing last in the league with an average attendance under 3,000 per game.  Arguably the most memorable features of the team was their garish uniforms, featuring gigantic stars on the sleeves and flames on the breezers.

“It’s going to be a lot easier on the eyes this year with the Eagles gone,” quipped Utah Owls coach Wiley Kiyotie.

The Eagles franchise was purchased by shipping magnate Rick Gilborn, who will relocate the team to his hometown of Colorado Springs.  In addition to a new home, the franchise will have a new nickname: the Zoomies.  Gilborn, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, said that the name is a slang term applied to cadets at the Academy.  “Speed, valor, skill,” said Gilborn.  “Makes for a great cadet, and makes for a great hockey player.”

To go along with their new city and name, the Zoomies will have a new parent club.  The Screaming Eagles were affiliated with the SHL champion Hershey Bliss, The Bliss wanted an affiliate closer to home, so they chose to partner with the Milwaukee Hogs, one of the CHL’s expansion clubs.  Colorado Springs will instead link up with the Seattle Sailors.  Seattle was in the market for a new minor-league club after their previous affiliate, the Omaha Ashcats, decided to link up with the Smoke.

“We couldn’t be happier to be in Colorado Springs,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay.  “It’s closer to us, so I should be able to get out and see our prospects in person more often.  And it should be a strong market with a great bunch of fans.  I can’t wait for the new season!”

Over in the CHL’s Eastern Division, the picture is less complicated, as no teams will be moving or changing affiliates.  The division’s expansion team, the Hartford Harpoons, will be affiliated with (and partially owned by) the Badgers.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” said veteran coach Mel Lonigan, who was hired as the Harpoons’ first bench boss.  “Hartford’s a great hockey town – hell, the Whalers never should have left – and we’re getting in on the ground floor with a new team.  I see no reason why we can’t compete right out of the box.  We’re going to bring some exciting, competitive hockey here to Whale Country.”

SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell is excited by the growth and change in the CHL.  “There’s been a little reorganization between seasons, but in a good way,” said Commissioner Mitchell.  “By adding two great expansion teams in Hartford and Milwaukee and relocating to Colorado Springs, our minor league is stronger then it’s ever been, just as the SHL is stronger than it’s ever been.  2018 is going to be our best year yet.”