Interview of the Week: Peter James

This week’s interview is with Washington Galaxy coach Peter James.

SHL Digest: We’re here today with the first-year coach of the Galaxy, Peter James.  Coach James, thanks for speaking with us.

Peter James

Peter James: Certainly.  Speaking to the press is part of my job.

SHLD: When the Galaxy fired Rodney Reagle after last season, the Galaxy front office seemed to think a new coach would be able to lift the team back into playoff contention.  Obviously, things haven’t unfolded that way.  Do you consider this season a disappointment?

PJ: Well, there are a lot of assumptions in your question.  Let me state for the record that when I was interviewed for this job, I was never told that I was expected to get this team back to the playoffs.  Obviously, the organization would like to contend, but they understand that it’s a time of transition.  Particularly when [G] Roger [Orion] chose not to resign, the goal has been to manage the transition to a younger roster.

SHLD: Well, how would you say that transition is going?

PJ: We’re still in the early stages, but I have a positive feeling about it.  We’re looking for opportunities to give our young players more exposure.  For instance, when Brooksy [LW Charlie Brooks] went down, we took the chance to promote Alan Youngman and see what he could do at this level.  As we go, we’ll look for more such opportunities.

SHLD: For a locker room that was accustomed to the jokey, free-wheeling attitude of Reagle, it must have been an adjustment for them to have a more straitlaced coach like you.  How has that transition gone?

PJ: Overall, I’ve been pleased.  Obviously, it took some time for both sides to get familiar with each other, for me to understand them and for them to understand me and my expectations.  I tried to ease in a bit, knowing that this is a room full of established professionals.  But I made it clear that certain hijinks that might have been tolerated under the old regime wouldn’t be tolerated under me.

SHLD: Can you give an example of something that you don’t tolerate that might have been tolerated before?

PJ: One obvious example had to do with behavior on the road.  Without naming names, some guys take that time as a license to run wild, to stay out all night in bars and clubs.  Some of that is fine – again, these are grown men – but if you’re staying out late enough that it’s affecting you the next day, that’s a problem.  I found that some well-timed morning skates helped get that under control, without having to call anyone out.

SHLD: And has the adjustment gone both ways?  Have you learned things from your players?

PJ: Absolutely.  I’ve definitely learned to be a little less strict than I had been in the minors.  At that level, you’re primarily guiding and developing players.  In the pros, you’re helping established players be their best.  It’s a more collaborative relationship.

SHLD: Obviously, you aren’t going to make the postseason this year.  So what are your goals for the rest of this season, and looking ahead to next year?

PJ: Well, for the rest of this season, we’re going to continue to look for chances to spotlight and evaluate our younger players, as I mentioned.  In the offseason, we’ll probably be looking to move some of our veteran guys, to facilitate that transition to young players.  We’re focused more on a reload than a rebuild, with an eye toward contending in the next couple of seasons.

SHLD: One more question.  Last season, you made headlines around the league when you physically broke up a fight by throwing an opposing player off your bench.  Any chance we’ll see a replay of that incident in DC?

PJ: (chuckles) I certainly hope not.  I don’t go Incredible Hulk very often.  But it doesn’t hurt for other people to know that I can do that if I need to.  You won’t like me when I’m angry.

SHLD: Good to know!  Well, that wraps it up for this interview.  Thanks again, and good luck with the rest of the season!

PJ: You bet!  I appreciate it.

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Bellmore’s Prank Backfires, Leads to Injury

Washington Galaxy C Harvey Bellmore is well known around the SHL as a prankster.  Virtually everyone who’s crossed path with Bellmore has a story about him, whether it’s his fascination with joy buzzers or the time he crashed a team Faith Day celebration to sermonize about his love of alcohol.  This week, one of his pranks backfired on him, and wound up causing himself to miss multiple games with injury.

Harvey Bellmore

The Galaxy were on the road this week, and they held a morning skate on Wednesday in Grand Rapids.  In the middle of the practice session, Bellmore stopped by the bench to get a drink of water.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw teammate Bruce Hogaboom skating by, so he stuck out his stick to try and trip the rugged defenseman.  Hogaboom stumbled, then lurched right into Bellmore and caused the center to flip over the boards.  Putting out his hand to break his fall, Bellmore sliced his right thumb open against the latch on the bench door.

Hogaboom, not realizing that Bellmore was hurt, flung his glove at his teammate and loudly (but cheerfully) cursed him out.  When Bellmore didn’t get up, Hogaboom and other Washington players came to his aid.

When Bellmore finally stood up, he said, “Guys, I think I’ve got a problem.”  Blood was pouring from his thumb and dripping on the ice and down his sweater.  Even then, his teammates weren’t convinced that Bellmore wasn’t trying to prank them.

“My first thought,” said LW Charlie Brooks, “was that he’d gotten one of those fake blood things they use in the movies, and he was trying to trick us into thinking he was bleeding to death.  It’s the kind of thing he would do.”

They ultimately realized that he wasn’t joking, and helped him off the ice and to the trainer’s table.  Bellmore ultimately needed several stitches to close the gash in his thumb.

“I’ve punked a lot of guys in my career, but this is the first time I ever punked myself,” said Bellmore, holding up his bandaged thumb.  “I’ll never try to trip Boom Boom again.  That’s like throwing yourself in front of a Mack truck.  I’m probably lucky I didn’t break every bone in my body.”

Washington coach Peter James was not impressed with Bellmore’s stunt.  “I’ve aged about 10 years since I took this job, and at least 90% of that is because of Harvey Bellmore,” James grumbled to reporters.  “Who thinks it’s a good idea to deliberately trip your own teammate during practice?  Only Bellmore.  I’ve met kindergartners who were more mature than him.”

As punishment for the prank, James said Bellmore would be suspended for three games.  The center said that was fine with him, since “I can’t really grip my stick right now anyway.”

Galaxy Pick James as New Coach

The Washington Galaxy surprised a number of observers around the league when they fired coach Rodney Reagle, who had guided the team to a pair of Finals appearances in four seasons.  After the surprising dismissal of Reagle, the team made an unsurprising choice for his replacement, tapping Oshawa Drive coach Peter James to take over the bench next season.

Peter James

“When we looked for our next coach, we had several criteria in mind,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams.  “We wanted a coach who was professional and dedicated.  We wanted someone who was firm but not overbearing, someone who was serious but not too straitlaced, someone who could help mentor younger players while also relating well to veterans.  We wanted someone who was comfortable with the demands of a bigger market, but wouldn’t be looking to grab headlines.  Peter met all of our criteria.”

Several of those criteria could be interpreted as a veiled shot at Reagle, who had a well-earned reputation as the SHL’s clown prince.  He was well known for wearing costumes on the bench and frequently dropping movie quotes and offbeat accents into his press conferences.  These antics made Reagle a colorful and popular character, but team sources say the front office and some players found his behavior childish and that owner Perry Dodge felt the coach was too easy with the players.

James represents a virtual 180-degree change in personality from Reagle.  The 55-year-old Kitchener native has a reputation as for being serious and mild-mannered; one Oshawa player described James as having “milk running through his veins.”

The coach confirmed the accuracy of his reputation at his introductory press conference.  “If you’re expecting a lot of memorable quotes out of me, well, you’ll be disappointed,” said James.  “I’m always willing to talk to the press, but my plan is to keep my head down and do my job.”

Those who might equate James’ politeness and lack of flair with meekness or weakness, however, are mistaken.  He demonstrated this in Oshawa last season when he physically repelled an opposing defender who attempted to climb onto the Drive’s bench and start a fight.  Asked about this incident, James said, “My first instinct to protect my players, always.  I’m not a fighter, but I’m also not a pushover.”

James will face a challenge navigating an aging roster that lost key contributor Walt Camernitz to free agency last season and may see #1 goaltender Roger Orion depart this offseason.  “I would really like to see us re-sign Roger,” James said.  “He’s a really top-notch goalie.”

The new bench boss will also have some work to do in the clubhouse, whose chemistry reportedly went south during the Galaxy’s second-half swan dive, when they went 11-20-1 to finish below .500 for the first time in team history.  “Obviously, losing makes things tough on everybody,” James said.  “But even during tough times, if you put the right foundation in place, the team will hold together.”

The team reportedly didn’t interview many candidates for the vacancy.  The team is known to have also spoken to former assistant coach Herman Chambers and Michigan assistant Morris Thompson.  Sources say that the front office was torn between James and Thompson; the latter’s reputation for building stout defenses was appealing.

It was James’ calm demeanor, Adams said, that put him over the top.  “The longer we talked to Peter, the more I noticed how calm and confident he was, no matter what questions I threw at him,” said the Galaxy GM.  “He was so calm that he made me feel calmer just listening to him.  And I knew this was the guy to guide us through good times and bad.”

As for Washington’s ex-coach, it appears unlikely that Reagle will find himself behind a bench this season.  The only remaining open SHL job is with the Saskatchewan Shockers, who are said to be looking for a disciplinarian.  Reagle said that he was open to a job in broadcasting, but “if I wind up spending the season at home with my wife, sipping lemonade and cashing checks, I’m okay with that too.  I’m not sure if she will be, though.”

CHL Update: Oshawa’s James Mixes It Up

Oshawa Drive coach Peter James is well-known as a mild-mannered man.  He never yells at referees or makes theatrical displays of displeasure when a call or a game doesn’t go his way.  He has never been ejected from a game.  His idea of a colorful post-game quote is “It was a pretty tough one out there, but we’re looking past it and we’re focused on tomorrow.”

As Drive C Pat Collistone puts it, “Coach James is the most even-keel guy I’ve ever met.  Nothing shakes him.  If you set his tie on fire, he’d just say, ‘Huh, my tie’s on fire.  I oughta do something about that,’ and then go find some water and put it out.  He’s got milk running through his veins.”

Peter James

So when a skirmish broke out between the Drive and the Virginia Rhinos during Wednesday’s game, the last thing anyone expected was for James to get involved.  But when Virginia D Roscoe “Ruckus” Corbetta began throwing punches at the Oshawa bench, James took matters into his own hands, grabbing Corbetta and flinging him back onto the ice.

“It was awesome, like a WWE move almost,” said Collistone.  “I think Coach is my new hero.”

The incident occurred in the third period of the game, when Corbetta laid a hard check on Collistone that sent him tumbling into the boards.  The Drive felt that the hit was dirty, and D Colt Mayhem quickly skated over to Corbetta and challenged him to a fight.  It was the second tilt of the day between the two heavy hitters, and it got ugly in a hurry.  The skirmish quickly spread, as players from both teams began shoving and tussling as a knot began to form in front of the drive’s bench.

As the donnybrook continued, Corbetta and Mayhem wound up moving close to the Oshawa bench.  LW Troy Blackwood, who was sitting on that end, took the opportunity to squirt a water bottle at Corbetta.  The angry Rhinos blueliner whirled around, fired a couple of wild haymakers, and tried to climb onto the bench to scuffle with Collistone and others.  His advance, however was stopped cold by James.  The Oshawa coach grabbed Corbetta by the jersey and shoved him down onto the ice.  Fortunately, the officials were able to calm things down before the got worse.  Mayhem, Corbetta, and Collistone were all ejected.  James was not.

After the game, the coach explained that his actions were a reflex to defend his players.  “The situation started to spiral a bit when Stoner squirted water on the guy, and then he came at our bench,” said James.  “I don’t take kindly to someone coming after my guys, and especially not coming on our bench to do it.  So I put a stop to it.”

Other coaches might have been reluctant to confront an angry opponent, but the 6’5” James said he didn’t hesitate.  “I’m a pretty big guy, so I’m not worried about getting hurt,” the coach said.  “My first priority is keeping it from getting out of hand.”

After the game, a 6-4 Oshawa win, the Drive thumped their sticks on the locker-room floor in salute of their coach.  “If I ever get caught down a dark alley, I hope I have Coach James with me,” said Collistone.  “Him and Colt could bust some guys up.”

CHL Update: Oshawa’s Mayhem Causes Havoc In Stands

The CHL has a few rough customers in its ranks.  Cedric Meloche of Albuquerque is one.  Valeri Nistrumov of Virginia is another.  But according to most league observers, D Colt Mayhem of the Oshawa Drive is hands-down the league’s most pugnacious player.  “Colt is just plain crazy,” said teammate Pat “Stoner” Collistone.  “Look at him cross-eyed, and he’ll lay you out.  I wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alley.  Or even in an alley in broad daylight.”

Colt Mayhem

This week, Mayhem’s ferocious attitude crossed the line, as he went into the stands to attack some obnoxious fans.  His actions earned him a five-game suspension, and may have landed him in legal trouble as well.

On Friday, Mayhem and the Drive were at Wasatch Arena to take on the Utah Owls.  The scrappy defenseman got into trouble in the first period by hauling down Owls RW Jon Garfield hard, resulting in a minor penalty for hooking.  That set the stage for a chippy period in which the teams combined for 16 minutes in penalties.

The game settled down in the second period, but Mayhem riled up the opponents at the crowd midway through the third when he rammed Utah C Lloyd “Goofy” Banjax in the solar plexus with the butt end of his stick, causing him to crumple to the ice.  Mayhem was hit with a four-minute penalty for spearing, but Owls coach Wiley Kiyotie (as well as the fans) felt that he should have been ejected.  Banjax did not return to the game.

The crowd’s mood turned even more sour after the Drive scored two goals in the last 35 seconds of regulation to erase a 4-2 Utah lead.  On the tying goal, Mayhem fed a pass to LW Alvin Fawn, then opened a path to the net with what the Owls felt was an illegal cross-check.  The referees reviewed the goal, but ultimately upheld it.  The arena echoed with boos as the fans expressed their displeasure.

The fans behind the Oshawa bench started heckling Mayhem, banging on the glass and hollering insults.  Mayhem turned around and yelled back.  When Drive LW Jamie Campbell scored the winning goal three and a half minutes into overtime, one of the fans boiled over and tossed a cup of root beer over the Plexiglas, dousing Mayhem.  The irate defenseman attempted to climb the glass to get at his tormentors, only to see the panel bend and give way.

With no glass to restrain him, Mayhem jumped into the stands and began punching one of the fans.  The people surrounding him frantically tried to tell Mayhem that he was attacking the wrong person.  Eventually, the defenseman realized his mistake and asked where the perpetrator had gone.  The fans pointed toward the aisle, where 27-year-old David Glazer of Orem was attempting to escape.  Mayhem caught up with him in the concourse and slammed him against the wall.  Four other fans attempted to hold Mayhem back, to no apparent effect.  “He was just flinging people off like they were flies,” said one observer.

The fracas was finally interrupted by security guards and Salt Lake City police, who finally managed to pull Mayhem off of Glazer.  They had to taser the Oshawa blueliner to subdue him, then they handcuffed him and took him away.  Mayhem remained behind in prison while the Drive left town, although the team was attempting to free him at press time.

Speaking to reporters from his cell, Mayhem was defiant.  “They got no right to treat me like that,” the defenseman said.  “Next time we come to Utah, I’m bringing my buddy Snake.  Me and Snake could take out a hundred fans if we had to.”

Drive coach Peter James acknowledged that Mayhem’s actions were uncalled for.  “The fans behind our bench were behaving reprehensibly,” said James.  “It certainly was inappropriate of them  to throw a drink on our players.  They should have been ejected from the arena.  But none of that justifies what Colt did.  In a time so filled with hostility and anger, the last thing we need is for a situation to tip over into physical violence.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to call our front office to see if they will bail Colt out of jail.”

The suspension was announced the next morning, and the team confirmed that Mayhem will not appeal.  It is not yet certain whether he will face legal charges as a result of the incident.