Prince Blasts Night, Gets Bronx Cheer in NY

Boston Badgers coach Cam Prince put his foot in his mouth this week when speaking about his old team, the New York Night.  Prince’s ill-advised comments provided the Night with some bulletin-board fodder and led to a rude reception when the Badgers went to the Big Apple.

Cam Prince

On Sunday, Prince spoke to a Boston reporter about the ups and downs of life with the Badgers, who were an expansion team last season but are off to a competitive start this year.  At one point, the reporter asked Prince about his time in New York, where he served as assistant coach to Preston Rivers for a couple seasons.  Prince laughed and said, “Ah, New York… that was an educational experience.”

Pressed to elaborate, the coach said his time in New York “taught me how important it is for ownership and the front office to have a realistic view of your team… [Night management] expected us to win championships when we didn’t have the talent.  I mean, come on, you’re going to win the Vandy with Rick NelsonChase Winchester?  A top D pairing that can’t defend?  You’re smoking crack if you think you can go all the way with that.  But [owner Marvin] Kingman thought we could.”

Prince added that current Night bench boss Nick Foster “is a damn good coach, but he’ll get run out of there in a year or two.  Why?  Because you can’t win a title with that talent, but the guys at the top won’t accept less.  Here [in Boston], ownership and the front office understand what a winning team looks like, and that it takes time to build one.”

The story ran the next day, and immediately generated a firestorm of criticism.  After initially claiming he’d been misquoted, Prince then claimed he’d thought he was off the record when he made his remarks.  The reporter countered that they’d never talked about going off the record.

The Night reacted with a mix of outrage and glee.  Nelson represented the former: “Anyone who thinks we can’t win a championship with me is the one smoking crack.  If anything, it should be impossible not to win with a star as great as me. I’m a gift to any team.”

Foster, on the other hand, seemed delighted by the dust-up.  “Boy, Cam really kicked the hornet’s nest, didn’t he?” the coach said when informed of Prince’s controversial interview.  “I’ll bet the wonderful folks here in New York will be happy to remind him about it.  And we’re here in first place with Rick and Winch and all those players he called losers.  But hey, he called me a ‘damn good coach.’  So him and me, we’re all right!”

As bad luck would have it, Prince’s Badgers were scheduled to play at Neon Sky Center on Tuesday.  During the introductions, Night PA announcer Sonny Claussen rattled off Boston’s starting lineup, then paused before saying, “And now, let’s all give a big New York welcome to Badgers coach Cam Prince!”  As the arena filled with boos and shouted curses, Claussen played the ‘90s hit “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” by the Spin Doctors.  The first couplet of the song goes as follows: “Been a whole lot easier since the [expletive] left town/Been a whole lot happier without her face around.”  The camera zeroed in on Prince, who gave a half-hearted wave while grimacing.  The fans continued to harass Prince and the Badgers throughout the game.

After the 7-3 drubbing, in which New York scored six goals in the third period, Prince seemed to take the heckling in stride.  “I guess I had that coming,” said the coach.  “I shot my mouth off, and they responded in kind.  But hey, if the Boston-New York rivalry needed a jump start, I guess I provided that.  And don’t worry, I still love New York.  Or at least the pizza!”

Continue reading “Prince Blasts Night, Gets Bronx Cheer in NY”

Night Name New Coaches

The New York Night announced this week that they hired Nick Foster as their new coach for the 2017 season.  Foster replaces Preston Rivers, who was fired after two seasons of disappointing results on-ice and tremendous dysfunction off of it.

“It’s no secret that we have high aspirations as an organization,” said New York GM Royce McCormick.  “We want to be a championship organization, and we think Nick is the guy to get us there.  He’s got the qualities that we were looking for: he’s smart, tough, and he knows the game inside out.  There’s no limit to how far he can take us.”

Nick Foster

Sources close to the organization say that the Night strongly preferred a veteran coach, and Foster definitely fits the bill, with over 15 years of experience coaching at a variety of levels, from college to junior to the minor leagues.  “This isn’t my first rodeo,” said Foster.  “I know we’ve got some work to do, but that doesn’t scare me.”

Foster has a reputation as a turnaround artist; at several stops, he’s taken poor and struggling teams and turned them into contenders.  “He’s a guy who knows how to get results, and quickly,” said McCormick.  “That’s exactly what I want to see.”

Foster was coy about setting expectations at the press conference.  When asked if he thought the Night would make the Finals this season, the new coach replied with a grin, “I’m not going to make any guarantees.  That’s a good way to get run out of town in a hurry.  But we’re going to be competitive, and we’re going to win sooner than later.  That’s why I love New York; it’s a winner’s town.”

The Night certainly expected to be competitive under Rivers, and the coach never shied away from boasting about his team’s prowess.  But New York’s grand ambitions crumbled into a wreck of poor defense, inconsistent effort, and internal dissension.  Several players took public shots at their teammates and Rivers, with star RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson even bolting the team in the final week of the season.

Foster acknowledged that repairing the Night’s toxic clubhouse is a priority.  “Obviously, things got out of control here last year, and that can’t happen again,” said Foster.  “I want to get us focused on winning and working together.  I’ve always found that it’s a lot easier to keep everybody happy when you win.”

Asked if he planned to seek trades for any noted troublemakers, Foster said, “Nah.  Not right away.  As far as I’m concerned, they’ve all got a clean slate with me.  Everybody’s got a chance to get on board with what we’re doing.”

Biff Lombardi

Along with Foster, the Night introduced new assistant coach Biff Lombardi, replacing Cam Prince.  Lombardi was reportedly a finalist for the head job as well.  Lombardi has been an assistant for almost 20 seasons, primarily in the minor leagues.  He is known for his defensive instruction, and he hopes to address the team’s defensive issues.

“Look, let’s be honest: this team is never going to be Michigan in terms of defense,” Lombardi said.  “That’s not our identity.  But if we can make more of an effort, police our own end better, that goes a long way.  We don’t have to turn into a bunch of grinders and trappers, but we need to make that effort.  I’m OK with winning 5-4, but we can’t give up 5 or 6 goals a game and expect to win.”

New York players responded positively to the hirings of Foster and Lombardi.  “Nick Foster seems like a good guy and a serious, professional guy,” said Nelson.  “He’s not going to be out glossing himself all the time.  He’s into winning, and that’s what we’re into too.  Let’s do this.”

New York Fires Rivers After Tumultuous Year

New York smallIn a move that comes as a surprise to few, the New York Night fired coach Preston Rivers.  The move came at the end of a season of acrimony and disappointment, as the Night slogged to another mediocre season and an enormous and public rift developed between the coach and several key players.

“The only shocker was that he made it all the way to the end of the season,” said one player.

Preston Rivers
Preston Rivers

Rivers finishes his New York career with a record of 54-61-5, not nearly good enough for an organization that makes no secret of its lofty aspirations.  Night GM Royce McCormick focused on the record as the prime driver behind the firing of Rivers.  “Our goal is championships, nothing less,” said McCormick.  “Preston failed to deliver on that expectation, so we decided it was time for a new voice to get to that next level.”

According to team sources, though, Rivers’ record wasn’t the real cause f0r the dismissal; rather, it was the fact that New York’s star players were increasingly open in their disdain for the coach.  It started in midseason, when D Tuomas Nurmi claimed that Night players were being harassed as payback for Rivers’ boasting and taunting.  Later in the season, RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson bashed his coach and called for him to be fired.  The feud ultimately escalated to the point that Nelson and Rivers nearly came to blows in the locker room, after which the star winger left the team for three games.  It took McCormick’s intervention to get Nelson to rejoin the team.

The situation went from bad to worse over the final week of the season.  The entire team boycotted a mandatory practice on Monday as a show of no confidence in Rivers.  The coach stopped addressing the team in the locker room before or after games, preferring to lock himself in his office.  RW Daniel Bellanger went home to Montreal with two games left in the season.  G “Jersey Mike” Ross refused to take the ice for the final two games, although he did attend the games.  And the entire team just went through the motions in the last game, a 6-4 loss to struggling Saskatchewan.

The team announced the firing while Rivers and the Night were still in Saskatoon.  Rivers did not fly back to New York with the team, avoiding a potentially awkward situation.

Predictably, the coach went down swinging.  “I know everyone’s thinking they’ve seen the last of me,” Rivers told reporters.  “But they’d better think again.  You can’t keep a good man down, and you sure as hell can’t keep this man down.  I’ll be back, unless I go to work for Mr. Trump’s administration.  Either way, you haven’t heard the last of me.”

Meltdown in New York: Rivers, Nelson Escalate Feud

New York smallAs the New York Night skid toward a second straight disappointing season, rumors are flying that the situation in the locker room is deteriorating rapidly.  “This is Dysfunction Junction, right here,” said one anonymous player.

The situation seems to have come to a head this week.  Last week, New York star winger Rick “The Stick” Nelson openly called for the firing of coach Preston Rivers.  This week, according to team sources, the two nearly came to blows after a game, after which Nelson mysteriously disappeared from the team, with no explanation given.

When Nelson blasted the Night and Rivers last week, he joined a growing chorus of current and former New York players lamenting the team’s dysfunction.  D Tuomas Nurmi and RW Kenny Patterson have expressed similar sentiments in recent weeks.  At the time, Rivers seemed to take Nelson’s comments in stride, saying that they reflected understandable frustration with a season gone wrong.

Preston Rivers
Preston Rivers
Rick Nelson
Rick Nelson

Off camera, though, the coach’s attitude was different.  Nelson found his ice time decreasing in the games following his sound-off, similar to Nurmi earlier this year.  When arriving at a hotel during a recent road trip, Rivers reportedly said, “I’d better go in last, so Nelson doesn’t have a chance to stab me in the back again.”

The situation boiled over after the Night’s 5-4 loss to Hamilton.  According to team sources, Rivers started to address the team, then stopped.  “Wait, hold everything,” said the coach.  “Since I don’t know [expletive] about hockey, why am I trying to tell you anything?  I should let Rick come up here and tell you all that you suck.”  He then mockingly gestured for Nelson to take the floor.

In response, Nelson snapped, “Grow the [expletive] up.  If you’ve got something to say to me, say it.”

Rivers shot back, “According to you, all I do is talk.  How about I let my fists do the talking instead?”

Nelson sneered, “You want a piece of me?  Let’s go.”

Rivers took a couple menacing steps toward his star, but the two were quickly separated.  Nelson stormed out of the locker room, while Rivers retreated to his office.

After that fracas, Nelson did not appear on the Night’s bench for the next three games.  He didn’t show up for morning skates or join the team on the road, either.  Initially, teammates were mystified: Had Nelson been suspended, or was he refusing to report?

Rivers didn’t help matters, refusing to discuss Nelson’s absence with reporters or teammates.  “It’s an internal matter, and we’re dealing with it internally,” was all the coach would say.

Finally, Nelson’s teammates were able to reach him via text, and he confirmed that he had jumped the team.  He added that he had gone to GM Royce McCormick and issued an him-or-me ultimatum.  McCormick is reportedly trying to broker a peace between the two, to no effect so far.  It’s not clear whether Nelson intends to rejoin the team for the season’s last week, or whether Rivers would let him.

“I don’t see how they both come back next year,” said the anonymous player.  “And given the feelings about Rivers in the clubhouse, I bet he’s gonna take the fall.  Firing a coach is easy.  Trading a star and getting fair value is hard.”

McCormick declined to comment on the fracas, saying only that “We’re going to evaluate the status of everybody after the season.  Coaches, players, everybody.  We’re obviously not where we expect to be.”