Did Jackalopes Coach Nearly Walk Away?

The Dakota Jackalopes have had a tough season in every respect.  An early injury to star winger “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston undermined any hope that the Jackalopes had of producing a respectable season; at the same time, the flailing performance of the Kansas City Smoke kept Dakota from earning the top draft pick.  The team continued to bleed payroll and talent, trading their two top defensemen and even dealing their recently-acquired free agent goalie just weeks after signing him.  In the wake of the latter deal, starting netminder Christien Andersson slammed the organization as “cheap.”

This week, a surprising and discouraging rumor made the rounds: after only two seasons on the job, head coach Flim Dahlgren allegedly had to be talked out of resigning.  According to the rumor, Dahlgren was deeply concerned that the team’s alleged rebuilding effort had no end in sight, further fueling speculation that the team is in serious financial trouble.

Flim Dahlgren

With Dakota, Dahlgren has compiled a record of 43-76-9.  Coaching the Jackalopes, a young team whose roster has been in constant flux the last several seasons, is no easy task.  However, Dahlgren has generally earned positive reviews during his tenure.  He is regarded as a good teacher for young players, and has maintained a generally positive clubhouse atmosphere despite the losing records and salary-saving trades.

“If Flim can’t make things work over there, I don’t know who can,” said one SHL coach.

Given that, it would be a deeply distressing sign if Dahlgren were to walk away, especially without another job in mind.  (He is not reported to be in the running for the Boston Badgers’ newly vacant coaching position.)  Team sources say that the coach only agreed to stay after several lengthy conversations with GM Paul Mindegaard, during which they talked about the team’s payroll, its commitment to re-signing its own young players, and whether Dakota plans to trade away more high-salary players (of whom there is really only one left: Airston).

Dahlgren has often been eloquent in his postgame interviews – at the end of last season, he turned a state-of-the-team press conference into a philosophical musing on winning and losing – and he spoke thoughtfully in response to questions about his rumored resignation.

Asked whether he had planned to resign, the coach replied, “I can tell you that I intend to honor my contract [which runs through next season], and that I plan to return next season.”  Responding to a question about the Jackalopes’ finances, Dahlgren said, “There’s a lot of talk about that, and a lot of foolish rumors.  Certainly, I’ve gotten all my paychecks on time, and so have our players.  This is a small market, so we cannot expect to run New York-size payrolls.  But that does not mean we’re out panhandling for bus fare.”

He went on to discuss the team’s future.  “When I signed up for this job, I was aware the team was moving into a rebuilding phase and that there might not be a lot of wins in the near future,” Dahlgren said.  “There is a difference between rebuilding and perpetual destruction, to be sure.  The last couple of years have been challenging for the fans and the players both, but it’s a worthwhile pain as long as we are building to something.  I have spoken with Paul and the front office about their vision for the future, and I am confident that we have a core from which we can build.”

Mindegaard, who also declined to confirm or deny the rumors, praised Dahlgren to reporters.  “Speaking on behalf of the organization, we’ve been more than satisfied with Flim’s performance,” the GM said.  “I’ve talked with him, and we’re on the same page about where we’re headed.  I’m grateful for what he’s done the last couple of seasons, and I think the future will be even better.”

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Jackalopes Give Faraway Fan A Special Welcome

Marcelo Manzias is a Dakota Jackalopes fan.  That might not seem too strange, even though the Jackalopes’ fanbase is a little on the small side these days.  However, Marcelo isn’t just an ordinary fan.  The 14-year-old lives in Monterrey, Mexico.  Until this week, he’d never visited the Dakotas; in fact, he’d only been to the United States a couple of times before, to visit relatives in Texas.  Until this week, Marcelo had never seen a hockey game before, either.  He’d never even been inside an ice rink.

In short, Marcelo isn’t just an ordinary fan.  The story of how he managed to learn about – and fall in love with – a team from thousands of miles away playing an unfamiliar sport is remarkable.  And when the Dakota organization learned about it, they decided to give their most distant fan an experience he’ll never forget.

Like most kids in Monterrey, Marcelo grew up playing soccer and baseball.  He’d never even heard of hockey until three years ago, when he and his dad built a transistor radio from a kit.  When Marcelo began tuning his radio dial at night, he discovered that he could pull in signals from radio stations in faraway cities in the US and Mexico.  One night, he came across station KRJC out of Rapid City, which carried broadcasts of Jackalopes game.  Immediately, young Marcelo was entranced by the voice of play-by-play announcer Wayne Ballister.

“I did not know what was happening, but he made it sound very exciting and fun,” said Marcelo, describing Ballister’s broadcasts.  “I knew I must learn more.”

Marcelo went to the local library and checked out the one or two hockey books they had available.  Once he’d finished those, he used the library’s computers to learn what he could about the sport and the Jackalopes.  He continued to tune in the broadcasts at night; as he grew to understand the sport, he began keeping box scores by hand in his notebook.

“It all sounded so wonderful,” said Marcelo.  “The ice, the graceful skating, the exciting goals, the hard hits.  I dreamed about it all.”

Ryan Airston

After years of following the games, Marcelo finally wrote a letter to the Jackalopes, telling them who he was and how he came to root for the team from so far away.  He politely asked if they could send an autographed picture of his favorite player, LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston.

“I love him because he is small and fast, like me,” Marcelo explained.

When Jackalopes GM Paul Mindegaard read Marcelo’s letter, he was surprised and delighted.  “Most of us came to love hockey by playing it as kids, on the frozen ponds in the winter or whatever,” said Mindegaard.  “But here was a kid who’d never even seen a sheet of ice, and he’d fallen in love with the sport and with our team without ever seeing or playing it.  It was such a great story.”

Mindegaard decided that he wanted to give Marcelo more than just a signed picture.  He got in touch with Marcelo’s father, who confirmed that his son had somehow become a hockey nut from so far away.  And so the Jackalopes organization paid to fly Marcelo and his family up to Rapid City, put them up in a hotel, and gave them tickets to Thursday night’s game against the Michigan Gray Wolves.

When Marcelo arrived, Mindegaard gave him a personal tour of Black Hills Arena, taking him everywhere from the playing surface to the benches to the locker rooms to the team offices.  “The kid’s eyes were as big as saucers the whole time,” said the GM.  “It was like he couldn’t believe he was really here.”

Marcelo and his family had seats at center ice, where they could see the action up close.  Used to following along on the radio, Marcelo admitted it was a bit challenging to take it all in up close.  “When the players slammed into the boards, it was loud and a little scary,” he said.  “But I loved it.”

During the second period, Marcelo went up to the radio booth to meet Ballister, the man whose broadcasts had caused Marcelo to fall for the Jackalopes.  Ballister interviewed Marcelo on the air, and he gave a shout-out to his family and friends at home in Monterrey.  “I know some of them were listening, so that was cool,” Marcelo said.

Between the second and third periods, Marcelo got to ride on the Zamboni.  The PA announcer explained that he’d come all the way from Mexico for the game, and the fans cheered as he grinned and waved.  “I can’t believe I got to be on the ice, especially because I can’t skate,” Marcelo said.

Possibly inspired by the presence of their long-distance fan, the Jackalopes played one of their best games of the season.  Goalie Christien Adamsson made 37 saves, and Marcelo’s favorite Airston scored the game-winning goal in overtime to stun mighty Michigan by a 2-1 score.

After the game was over, Mindegaard took Marcelo down to the home clubhouse, where he got to meet his hero.  “At first, he was so shocked and nervous that he wouldn’t even go over,” Mindegaard said.  “But I said I’d told Ryan about him, and that Ryan wanted to meet him.  Eventually, he went over.  Airston greeted him in Spanish (“I learned it in high school a little,” Airston said), then talked to him a while in English.

“I think it’s cool that our sport and our team reaches all the way to Mexico,” said Airston.  “Marcelo’s story is really amazing, and it just goes to show what a great sport hockey is.”

He gave Marcelo his game-worn jersey, which he signed, as well as a puck from the game and a stick signed by the whole team.  Mindegaard also gave Marcelo pictures of all the players.

“I never dreamed I would be able to see a game for myself in person,” Marcelo said.  “All of this… it was more than my dreams.”

Marcelo’s father, Gustavo, expressed his gratitude to the team.  “I still cannot believe this,” Gustavo said.  “If they had sent my son the picture, it would have been enough.  For them to care so much, to do this for a kid who lives so far away, who discovered hockey for himself… they are a wonderful team, wonderful.”

In a tough year for the Jackalopes, Marcelo and his story have been a much-needed ray of sunshine.  “For once, it’s great to talk about something other than payroll and who we’re trading next,” Mindegaard said.  “This is why I love my job, because I get to do something like this.”

Continue reading “Jackalopes Give Faraway Fan A Special Welcome”

Jackalopes Slice Payroll Again, Deal Cherner, Anderson

One of the ongoing storylines in the SHL over the last couple of seasons has been the Dakota Jackalopes’ financial stability.  The Jackalopes have steadily pared payroll over the last couple of seasons, to the point that observers around the league have wondered whether the team will survive.  Those rumors bubbled up early this season when Dakota dealt netminder Dennis Wampler a few weeks after signing him to a sizable free-agent deal.  They swirled again a couple weeks later when goalie Christien Adamsson ripped the team as “cheap” in a postgame rant.

With the trading deadline arriving this week, the Jackalopes were expected to consider trades that would reduce their payroll even further.  They did just that, trading both of their top-pairing defenseman north of the border: Matt Cherner was dealt to the Quebec Tigres, while Rusty Anderson was sent to the surging Saskatchewan Shockers.

Predictably, the trades set off another round of rumors that the Jackalopes are in financial trouble.  GM Paul Mindegaard stoutly rebuffed those rumors while announcing the deals to the press.  “Neither of these was a dump deal,” said Mindegaard.  “These are hockey trades, and we think they’re going to make us stronger in the long run.”

Mindegaard noted that both Cherner and Anderson will be free agents in this offseason, and that Dakota had concluded that they couldn’t resign either player.  “We’ve been in talks with Matt’s and Rusty’s agents for a while now, but we’ve recognized there isn’t a fit there,” the Dakota GM stated.  “And we’re not competing for a playoff spot, so we made the difficult decision to make these trades and get some value back.”

The trade of Cherner was particularly hard on both the player and the fans.  The defenseman has been with Dakota since the SHL’s inception, and he has developed over time into one of the league’s top two-way defensemen.  Cherner has also been vocal about his desire to stay with the Jackalopes.  When news of the deal came down, he broke down in front of reporters.

“I’ve really been hoping there was a way that this wouldn’t happen,” Cherner said.  “Playing for this team in front of these fans has been a real joy.  This has become my home.  I guess I’ve seen the writing on the wall for a while, but now that it’s here, I just – just can’t… sorry, I have to stop now.”

In exchange for Cherner, the Tigres sent D Kirby Hanlon, C Jacob Cunniff, and their first-round pick to Dakota.  The 21-year-old Hanlon is having a solid rookie season with Quebec, putting up 16 points (3 goals, 13 assists).  Cunniff, also 21, has been a steady contributor with Quebec’s CHL affiliate (12 goals, 20 assists on the season), and he addresses a position of need for the Jackalopes, who are very weak in the middle.

“Matt’s one of the best defensemen in the league, and we weren’t going to let him go for cheap,” said Mindegaard.  “We got two very promising young guys – a quality blueliner and a top prospect center – plus a first.  I’ll stand behind that.”

Quebec, meanwhile, views Cherner as just the shot in the arm they need to make up ground in the East playoff race.  “Our identity is built around defense first,” said Tigres GM Pete Gondret.  “We’ve struggled a bit with keeping guys healthy, but we’ve added the best player available at the deadline.  I can’t wait to see what he achieves with us.”

To acquire Anderson, the Shockers parted with C Tanner Brooks.  The 22-year-old appeared in the CHL All-Star game; he’s known as strong on defense, and his offensive game has blossomed this season.  He’s widely regarded as the best center who hadn’t yet made the SHL.

“Tanner is a player we’ve coveted for a long time,” said Mindegaard.  “Between him and Jake Cunniff, we’ve gotten a lot stronger in our weakest area.  We’ve taken a step back on the blueline, but we have a lot of defensive prospects in the pipeline.”

This is the first time Saskatchewan has been a buyer at the deadline, and GM Cooper Matthews appreciates his haul.  “Rusty Anderson fits right in with our blueline corps, and strengthens us in an area where we’re already strong,” Matthews told reporters.  “It was a tough decision to part with Tanner, and I know I probably made [the Jackalopes] crazy going back and forth on that.  But we see an opportunity here, and we’re going for it.”

It must be noted that with the deals, the Jackalopes shaved about $2 million off of a payroll that was already second-lowest in the league.  Mindegaard stressed that he plans to work quickly to sign extensions with their newly-acquired players, as well as key members of their existing team.  “

“We’re not going broke, folks,” said the Dakota GM.  “Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s fake news.”

Adamsson Slams Jackalopes as “Cheap”

It’s no surprise to anyone in SHL circles that the Dakota Jackalopes are a team with a tight budget.  They play in the smallest market in the league, and after loading up in an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the power teams in the West, they’ve been cutting payroll the last couple of seasons.

If the Jackalopes players were upset about the cost-cutting, they’ve been quiet about it… until now.  G Christien Adamsson touched off a firestorm this week with a series of jokes accusing the organization of being cheap.

Christien Adamsson

Adamsson was interviewed after Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Saskatchewan, and he seemed visibly perturbed before the questions even started.  When a reporter asked the netminder if he was learning to coordinate with the team’s young defense, Adamsson snapped.

“Don’t say ‘young,’ say ‘cheap,’” the goalie said.  “Call it what it is.  This so-called ‘youth movement’ isn’t about building for the future, it’s about getting rid of the guys who make money.  You think they traded Wamp [G Dennis Wampler] to build for the future?”

Adamsson cited D Matt Cherner, who is in the final year of his contract, as an example of the team’s frugality.  “He loves it here, wants to stay.  He’d sign a lifetime deal here if he could.  But you know he’s going to get traded because they can’t afford him.  Just like Karly [C Lars Karlsson] and Bells [C Harvey Bellmore] last year.  Pretty soon, it’ll just be [LW] Ryan [Airston] and a bunch of 21-year-olds making the league minimum.  Maybe they won’t even keep Ryan.”

Adamsson finished on a light-hearted note: “We’re thinking about getting jobs at the Hardee’s down the street, or maybe starting a lemonade stand, so we can put a few bucks in the piggy bank and they might be able to keep some of our guys.  Every little bit helps, right?”

Adamsson’s jokes further fueled speculation that the Jackalopes were in serious financial trouble.  GM Paul Mindegaard firmly shot down those rumors.  “Everybody is getting their paychecks, and we’re doing fine financially,” Mindegaard told reporters.  “Ask anyone around here.  Any of that kind of talk can just stop.”

The GM defended the Wampler deal and the team’s other recent moves, denying that the team was executing a mere salary dump.  “Before last season, ownership and I made the difficult decision that the team we had was not built to win a title.  Since then, we’ve been looking to move some of our veteran guys, load up on prospects, and give the younger guys a chance to shine.

“Do we have to be careful with our money?  Absolutely.  But are we just dumping salaries to be cheap?  Absolutely not.  Coming from Christien, a guy I consider to be a part of our Dakota family, that’s a disappointing remark.”

Mindegaard denied that the team had decided not to re-sign Cherner, saying “we’re actively engaged with Matt and his agent to see if there’s a fit.  How that will turn out, I don’t know, but we certainly haven’t closed the door.”

For his part, Cherner declined to comment on Adamsson’s assessment of Dakota’s finances.  “I’m letting my agent handle all that; I’m focused on the here and now.  All I can tell you is, nobody’s said no yet.”

Other players, while declining to comment on the record, indicated agreement with Adamsson.  “A lot of guys are wondering about their future,” said one player.  “Once their rookie contracts expire and they start making real money, are they out the door?  A lot of guys are watching to see what happens with Matt.  If he can’t get a big-money deal from this team, no one can.”

Smoke, Jackalopes Make Trade, Raise Questions

Ordinarily, a trade between two of the SHL’s worst teams wouldn’t attract much attention.  Just shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic, a cynic might say.  But this week’s deal between the Dakota Jackalopes and Kansas City Smoke raised eyebrows around the league, and prompted the persistent whispers about the Jackalopes’ financial stability to grow a bit louder.

On its face, the deal looks like an old-fashioned challenge trade.  The Smoke shipped G Brooks Copeland and D Geoff Moultrie to Dakota in exchange for backup netminder Dennis Wampler and reserve D Terry “T-Rex” Hendricks.  There’s a case to be made that the parties involved could use a change of scenery.

Geoff Moultrie
Brooks Copeland

The 24-year-old Copeland began the season as KC’s starting goalie, and the team hoped the former Michigan draft pick would seize the opportunity.  However, he quickly lost the job to rookie Jim Fleetwood; he was later banished to the minors after compiling an 0-5-0 record with an unsightly 5.00 GAA and an .843 save percentage.

Kansas City acquired the 22-year-old Moultrie from Quebec last season, but struggled to find a spot in the Smoke’s blueline rotation.  Like Copeland, he was demoted to Omaha after recording a single goal and a -6 rating in 8 games with KC this season.  He had reportedly asked for a trade.

Like Copeland and Moultrie, the players KC received had worn out their welcome with their former team.

Dennis Wampler
Terry Hendricks

The 24-year-old Wampler has underwhelmed for Dakota this season, going 1-4-0 with a 4.50 GAA and an .865 save percentage.  According to sources within the organization, the Jackalopes were considering sending him to the minors before working out the trade.

The 24-year-old Hendricks was drafted by Dakota in 2016 and became a fan favorite due to his hard-hitting style.  However, his ice time has steadily decreased from season to season, and he seemed virtually certain to leave in free agency this offseason.  He appeared in 7 games for the Jackalopes this season, recording 2 assists.

So why the fuss about the deal?  In a word, money.  Dakota is the SHL’s smallest market, and their financial troubles have been an open secret for several years.  The organization has pared payroll sharply in the last couple seasons, causing fan discontent to grow and attendance to shrink.  It’s a negative spiral that may ultimately force the team to relocate.

This year, according to rival GMs, Dakota has been trying to dump its few remaining high-salary players.  They’ve aggressively shopped their top defensive pairing of Matt Cherner and Rusty Anderson, both of whom are on expiring deals.  They haven’t directly shopped star winger “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston, but they’ve said to be listening to trade proposals.  Dakota’s payroll is among the league’s lowest; if those players (especially Airston) are traded, they’d be well under $10 million, an alarming figure in a league with a $25 million salary cap.

Given that, it’s hard to ignore that the trade saves the Jackalopes $650,000 in salary.  While it’s not certain that this motivated the deal, it did raise some red flags around the league.

Trading Wampler, in particular, seems curious.  The Jackalopes signed him to a three-year deal worth $750,000 per season.  The contract was intended in part to reassure skeptical fans that Dakota was willing to spend.  Could the organization really have soured on him after less than half a season?

Wampler seemed perplexed by the trade.  “When I signed on with [the Jackalopes], I thought we were making a long-term commitment to each other,” the goalie told reporters.  “I knew it was going to be a long season, but I thought we were building toward the future.  A month later, I’m packing my bags.  Go figure.  But hey, I like barbecue, so KC should be fun!”

As if to prove his value to his new club, Wampler debuted on Thursday, stopping 24 of 25 shots to lead the Smoke to a 2-1 win over Quebec.

Jackalopes GM Paul Mindegaard vigorously denied that he’d made the trade for financial reasons.  “I know everyone thinks we’re passing the hat in the stands to keep the lights on, but it isn’t true,” Mindegaard said at the press conference.  “We made this deal for hockey reasons.  Brooks Copeland is a promising young netminder; we’ve had our eye on him for a while.  In the right environment, he can thrive.  Geoff Moultrie is a rugged two-way defenseman who fits right in with the corps of young, talented blueliners we’re trying to create.  That’s what matters to us.  We didn’t make this trade just to make payroll.”

The deal didn’t seem to trouble the team.  In their first game post-trade, the Jackalopes tied New York 2-2, snapping their 11-game losing streak.

Smoke GM Garth Melvin, meanwhile, likes his team’s return in the trade.  “We’re real glad to have Wamp on board,” Melvin said.  “He’s a rising young player, and I look forwarded to seeing what he and Fleet can do together.  And T-Rex is a great young D-man.  Our fans are going to love him!  We might not win the Vandy this year, but we’re in for a fun season.”

CHL Update: Squirrels Move to Gem State

Heading into 2019, the SHL’s minor circuit, the Continental Hockey League, will field largely the same lineup as last year.  With no expansion and no teams swapping affiliates, there is only one change, as the CHL disposed of a franchise that wound up in its hands last season.

In the closing weeks of last season, Muncie Squirrels owner Kenny Cheswell rocked the league by announcing that he was forfeiting his franchise, claiming that he was “tapped out” and losing a great deal of money on his team.  The CHL operated the Squirrels for the remainder of the season, but was determined to find a buyer.  Finding no one who was willing to keep the team in Muncie, they sold the franchise to William Franklin, the owner of a paper company based in Boise.

During his introductory press conference, Franklin announced that the team will be based in Boise and will be known as the Idaho Spuds.

“The Mountain West is really warming up to hockey,” said Franklin.  “You’ve seen what a big hit it is in Vegas, which proves that hockey can work in non-traditional markets.  And Boise is a growing city, one that’s a lot bigger and more vibrant that most people realize.  This team is our chance to show the rest of the country what we’re becoming.”

CHL Commissioner Denny McNerny noted that the Spuds were a good geographic fit with the other teams in the CHL’s Mountain region, the Utah Owls and the Colorado Springs Zoomies.  “From a travel perspective, having three teams close to each other makes things easier, especially for our East Coast teams.  And this is a great opportunity for some regional rivalries to form.”

The newly relocated Spuds will retain their affiliation with the Dakota Jackalopes.  Jackalopes GM Paul Mindegaard indicated his pleasure with the team’s new location.  “We’re at the edge of the High Plains, and we’ve always thought of ourselves as more of a Western than a Midwestern team,” Mindegaard said.  “Even though Boise isn’t that much closer to us, it’s a city that feels a lot like ours in spirit.  I think this will be a great fit for us.”

As part of the press conference, the Spuds introduced their new uniforms – which feature shades of brown highly reminiscent of Dakota’s popular fauxback look – as well as new coach Gilbert McCoyne.  McCoyne is an Alberta native, and he declared that “Boise feels just like home to me.”

McNerny noted that he was proud of the league’s stability.  “In a lot of minor leagues, you see teams moving like gypsies every year,” the commissioner said.  “The CHL isn’t like that, and I think it’s a testament to the strong roots we’re building in our cities.”

Bellmore Causes Ruckus at Dakota Faith Day

This week, the Dakota Jackalopes held a “Faith Day” celebration, which is a fairly common occurrence in the SHL and in other leagues.  This particular celebration, however, was anything but common, thanks to C Harvey Bellmore.  The quirky center, who has a reputation as a jokester, crashed the ceremony and put on a performance that startled and angered the fans and left the team scrambling to apologize and make amends.

Tuesday’s ceremony during the Jackalopes’ game against the Michigan Gray Wolves initially unfolded according to plan.  A local gospel choir sang the national anthem and performed a concert after the game.  The Jackalopes’ team chaplain led several players and the hundreds of fans in attendance in a prayer circle.

The highlight of the event came when several Dakota players stepped up to talk about their belief and how it helps them in their athletic careers.  Ds Rusty Anderson and Terry Hendricks and netminder Christien Adamsson all gave their testimony and talked about how their faith in Jesus Christ strengthened their lives on and off the ice. Their speeches were received warmly by the fans, with frequent applause and several shouted “amens.”

Harvey Bellmore

Once the other players had said their piece, Bellmore stepped forward and asked to speak.  He had not been scheduled to appear, but the emcee, Lutheran pastor Mark Emerlein, invited him to come forward.

Bellmore began by saying, “I’ve never really talked about my faith before, but I felt like this was the right time for me to do it.  My father was a gambler and my mother was a bartender, so it’s fair to say that Satan was my nanny.”  Some fans murmured agreement.  “But that’s all changed.  Now, the source of all my strength, my courage, everything that makes me the man I am today comes from right here.”  At this point, Bellmore reached into his pocket.  The fans assumed he was pulling out a Bible, but what he actually withdrew was a hip flask.  He took a hearty swig as the fans began buzzing with confusion.

“That’s right, folks, my religion is booze!” Bellmore shouted.  “Whenever I run into a rough patch in my life, or when I need a little something extra to get the winning goal or go after that fine-looking chick in the bar… I reach for the bottle!  That’s all the faith I need!”

The center continued, “Let me tell you what else I believe.”  Bellmore then launched into Crash Davis’ famous (and obscene) speech from the movie Bull Durham.  When he got to the part about “long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days,” Emerlein and Anderson escorted him away as the fans booed.

GM Paul Mindegaard apologized profusely to the fans, many of whom called or emailed the Jackalopes front office to express their displeasure.  “Obviously, the point of Faith Day is to celebrate faith and belief, not to ridicule it,” said Mindegaard.  “On behalf of the organization, I apologize to everyone who was there and all our fans who believe.  Harvey Bellmore likes to make jokes, but this one was over the line, and he knows that.”  In addition, the team suspended him for their next game against the Saskatchewan Shockers.

When asked if he was offended by Bellmore’s antics, Anderson laughed.  “Nah, I get it.  Harvey’s Harvey,” said the Dakota blueliner.  “He’s a total screwball.  Coo-coo bananas, you know?  He didn’t mean anything by it.  But yeah, he really ruffled some feathers out there.  Hoo boy.”

Some speculated that Bellmore’s stunt was an attempt to get the rebuilding Jackalopes to trade him.  Bellmore denied this, and sounded a mildly penitent note after the suspension was announced.  “They told me I was a bad boy, and that I made a lot of people mad,” said the center.  “And I feel bad about that, I really do.  I wasn’t trying to make fun of anyone’s beliefs.”

He then went on to question the focus of the event.  “But I thought that Faith Day was missing some other perspectives.  I mean, all the people who talked were Christians.  They’re not the only ones with faith, right?  I mean, nobody got up and talked about how being Jewish or Muslim or whatever made them better at sports.  So I thought I’d come in with a different opinion.  But I realize now it was dumb. They told me it was dumb, which makes sense, because I’m dumb.  So don’t listen to me, okay?”