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.”

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Shockers, Tigres Lead List of Uni Changes for 2018

The SHL’s 2018 season will see the addition of two new teams, the Boston Badgers and Kansas City Smoke.  But Boston’s and Kansas City’s uniforms aren’t the only new threads that fans will see on the ice this year.  Almost half of the league’s existing teams are making changes to their looks, with two teams – the Quebec Tigres and Saskatchewan Shockers – making major overhauls.

New Quebec Tigres Home Uniform

According to Quebec GM Pete Gondret, the Tigres’ revamp was the brainchild of owner Marc Delattre, who felt that the team’s old uniforms – which famously featured striped sleeves and socks – were too busy.  “Mr. Delattre was not a fan of our old costumes,” said Gondret.  “When he watched our games, he said ‘We look like a junior team, not professional.'”  Delattre wound up hiring fashion designer Rene Saramond to develop something cleaner.

Saramond’s design, which was reportedly inspired by vintage hockey sweater designs of the 1920s, preserved the stripes, but compressed them into a narrower band across the chest, sleeves, and socks.  Each band contains seven stripes, which symbolize the seven gates in the ramparts that surrounded the old city of Quebec.

“These uniforms are a perfect blend of old and new,” said Gondret.  “They speak to the history and tradition of both hockey and of Quebec, but at the same time they are fresh and sleek and modern.”

The Tigres unveiled their new jerseys at a season-ticket holder event in late November.  Captain Stephane Mirac, who modeled the home jersey, said that he is a fan of the new look.  “The old uniforms, they were a bit too garish,” Mirac told reporters.  “Now, we have a better look, and as we start winning more games, we can be proud of how we look and how we play.”

Meanwhile, the Shockers’ uniforms are largely similar in design to last year’s, but they’ve made a significant change to their color scheme.  Previously, the Shockers were notorious around the league for sporting the eye-searing combination of yellow and seafoam green  Reportedly, this unusual look was chosen by owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz, as those are his favorite colors.

New Saskatchewan Shockers Home Uniform

The fact that the colors clashed with one another apparently did not trouble the owner, although it did trouble Shockers fans and players.  Former Saskatchewan RW Daniel Bellanger, who played for the Shockers for half a season in 2015, likened the color combo to “a wound that is infected and filled with pus.”

After years of lobbying by the players, coaches, and front office, Doofenshmirtz finally relented this season, dropping seafoam and replacing it with electric blue.  GM Cooper Matthews hailed the new look, calling it “striking and eye-catching, but more pleasant to look at.”

Upon receiving news of the new colors, Saskatchewan players erupted in celebration.  C Napoleon Beasley declared the new combination “really cool!  We’ve got a new look we can be proud of.  The old look kind of made guys a little sick just looking at it, to tell the truth.  And we definitely came in for a lot of heckling about it from fans in other arenas.  But that’s over now!  Now they can just heckle us for our play instead, and that’s way better.”

A couple of other teams are making smaller but still noticeable changes to their uniforms for the new season:

  • The New York Night are are making a number of tweaks, adding drop shadows to the numbers on the back of their uniforms and adding more silver to their black-and-white-heavy palette. They’ve also gone from single-color stripes to a two-color pattern on their home and road unis (and changed the stripe pattern on their alternates to match.)  GM Royce McCormick called their new look “sophisticated and classy, just like our city.”
  • The Washington Galaxy have added white outlines to the logo on the front of their home jersey and to the numbers and name on the back.  According to GM Garnet “Ace” Adams, the team made the tweaks in response to feedback from fans, who sometimes had a hard time reading the jerseys from the upper rows of the Constellation Center.  “We always put the fans first,” said Adams, “and we want them to be able to see who they’re cheering for.”  In addition, the team switched from gold to blue numbers on their road jerseys, as well as changing from red socks and helmets to white.

 

Delorme to Coach Quebec

Quebec Tigres

Michigan Gray Wolves coach Martin Delorme is going home.  Delorme, who guided his team to a strong second-place finish in the Western division, has accepted an offer to become the coach of the expansion Quebec Tigres, who take the ice next season.

“From the beginning when I was awarded this team,” said Tigres owner Marc Delattre, “the very first thing I knew was that I wanted Martin to coach us.  I am the sort of person who persists until I get that which I desire.  And I persisted until I got Martin.”

Martin Delorme
Martin Delorme

For the Tigres owner, the appeal of Delorme is clear on a number of levels.  Delattre has made a point of seeking out Quebec natives for his team; Delorme was born in Trois Rivieres.  Delattre envisions the Tigres as a hard-working, defense-first squad; Delorme is famous around the SHL for molding the Gray Wolves into a defensive powerhouse.  Delattre wanted a coach with a good reputation and a strong track record; Delorme is a Coach of the Year candidate for his performance in Michigan.

“If I had tried to create a coach from the ground up that reflected my ideal, I would have created Martin,” said Delattre.

For his part, Delorme admits that it was a very difficult decision to leave Michigan.  “It breaks my heart, to be honest with you,” said Delorme.  “I am leaving behind unfinished business here.  I am walking away from a championship-caliber team.  I believe that very strongly.  It tears at my heart to leave that behind.  However, I could not resist the desire to come back to Quebec and guide the development of this team.”

As part of his deal, Delorme will become the highest-paid coach in the SHL, and he will have a strong say in player personnel decisions alongside GM Pete Gondret.  “These were things I was pleased to offer,” said Delattre.  “I did not hesitate to offer Martin the amount he was worth.  And I wanted him to have the chance to build the team in his image.  Since we want the Tigres to be a team worthy of Martin Delorme, who better than the man himself to build the team?”

Delorme said that he hopes to mold the Tigres into a group resembling the Michigan squad he’s leaving behind.  “Absolutely, if this team develops on the same lines, I would be very pleased,” said Delorme.  “The Gray Wolves work hard, they are not afraid to be physical, and they thrive on controlling the defensive end and winning the battle for the puck.  I intend for the Tigres to become a similar sort of physical, aggressive team.”

Gray Wolves GM Tim Carrier issued a statement wishing Delorme well.  “Obviously, it’s not an easy thing to lose a coach like Martin Delorme, especially after only one season,” the statement read.  “However, it is certainly understandable that he would want to return to his home province and help build the new Quebec franchise.  The Gray Wolves organization would like to extend a ‘thank you’ to Coach Delorme for his contributions to the Gray Wolves, and best of luck in his new position.  We look forward to meeting Coach Delorme and the Tigres in the championship someday.”

The Gray Wolves have not begun their search for Delorme’s replacement, although sources close to the team say that Hamilton Pistols coach Ron Wright and Washington Galaxy assistant Keith Shields are both strong possibilities.