Lombardi Accuses Night of “Going Home Early”

Biff Lombardi is likely to be a footnote in the history of the New York Night.  He was the assistant coach for three-plus seasons under Nick Foster, and he became the interim head coach when Foster was fired three weeks ago.  The Night have made it clear that they don’t plan to consider him for the permanent job.  Perhaps because he knows he’s a short-timer, Lombardi has felt free to speak his mind.  And this week, he criticized his team in no uncertain terms, calling their competitiveness and work ethic into question.

Biff Lombardi

Lombardi spoke to the press on Tuesday after a game at Neon Sky Center against New York’s rival, the Hamilton Pistols.  In that game, the Night blew a 3-1 lead and lost to the Pistols 4-3.  A reporter asked Lombardi why New York lost the game.  The interim coach replied, “That’s easy: we went home early.  We thought we had the game in the bag, so we let our foot off the gas, and we blew it.”

After a pause, Lombardi went on: “Of course, that shouldn’t be a surprise, since we’ve been going home early all season.  When times are good and the spotlight is on, this team knows how to shine.  But give ’em half a chance to sleepwalk, and they’ll take it every time.”

Pressed to elaborate, Lombardi referenced Foster’s firing.  “You know why Nick got the ax?” he said.  “Because he couldn’t make this team care enough to work hard.  I know you all thought the feuds Nick picked were ego, or to get his name in the paper.  But that wasn’t it; it was the only way he could get this team fired up.  You’d think that a team of well-paid professionals could find their own motivation, but you’d be wrong with this group.”

A reporter asked Lombardi if he was concerned his remarks would cause friction with the players.  The coach replied, “Who cares?  In a week and a half, I’ll be gone.  This might be my only chance to get them to take a hard look in the mirror.  I can tell you this: teams that win championships work harder than anyone else.  They work hard in practice and play hard as a team for the full 60, because that’s what it takes to win at this level.  This team might pile up stats and get endorsement deals, but they don’t know how to win a championship.  And until they get that, really get it, they never will.”

Unsurprisingly, most of the New York players didn’t take kindly to Lombardi’s critique.  “What has he ever won?” said RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson.  “I’m a legend in this league, one of the best scorers of all time.  What does he know?  He’s just bitter because he’s going to get fired.”

“It’s hard to put a lot of stock in that kind of talk from a guy with one foot out the door,” agreed C Brock Manning.  “Yeah, we’ve got some work to do.  But I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about what our soon-to-be-ex-interim coach thinks of us.”

Not everyone was so dismissive of Lombardi’s comments, however.  “Honestly, I think there was some truth in what he said,” noted D Dave Frederick.  “If we want to get serious about winning the Vandy, we ought to take some of that to heart.  And I think we will, once we’ve gotten past the disappointment of this year.”

As Lombardi said, he’ll likely be gone in a couple of weeks.  Will the Night dismiss his criticism as well?  They’ll have a long offseason to think about it.

Night, Pistols Resume Unpleasantries in OT Thriller

On Sunday, the Hamilton Pistols and New York Night faced off for the first time this season at Gunpowder Armory.  Even though the teams came into the game with very different records, with the Pistols undefeated and the Night winless, the game between the two bitter rivals was expected to be very closely contested.

Nick Foster

In case anyone thought that the mutual enmity between the clubs had cooled since last year, Night coach Nick Foster happily re-stoked the flames in his press conference the day before, stating: “We’ve had this one circled on our calendar since the schedule came out.  We’re excited to come to Tank Town and skate into that festering old dump and snatch a win from the Nutcracker and his boys.  My guys all got their tetanus shots and their cups, so they’re ready.  As long as we get out before the roof caves in, we’re good.”

Pistols star Steven Alexander shot back, “It’s too bad [the Night] can’t play as good as their coach runs his mouth.  Apparently Foster forgot who won the Vandy last year.”

The match lived up to its advance billing, as a sellout crowd got to see a fast-paced see-saw of a contest with action from beginning to end.  Regulation wasn’t enough to settle things, but in the end the Night backed up Foster’s boast, heading back to the Big Apple with a 7-6 win.

According to league sources, the Pistols sought permission from the SHL to delay their banner-raising ceremony until this game, but the league vetoed the idea.  So instead, when the Pistols took the ice for the pre-game skate, Alexander came out holding the Vandy over his head and took a lap while the PA system played “We Are the Champions.”  As Alexander skated past the New York bench, the visitors greeted him with upraised middle fingers.

Once the game began, it took the champs a mere 25 seconds to get on the board, as D Burt “Hacksaw” Hampton deflected a shot by RW Ben Summers into the lower right corner of the net.  The rest of the period, however, belonged to the Night.  Just over two minutes after Hampton’s goal, the visitors struck twice, as D Rocky Winkle and C Rod Remington scored just eight seconds apart to give the Night the lead.  When Hampton went to the sin bin for high-sticking late in the period, Remington banged home a slapper to make it 3-1.

In the locker room between periods, Pistols coach Keith Shields exhorted his team to get back into it.  “Coach Shields never curses,” said Alexander, “but you could tell he wanted to.  ‘All right, boys, let’s go stick it to those flipping buggers!’”

Hamilton drew back even early in the second.  About ninety seconds into the frame, LW Magnus Gunnarson finished an odd-man rush with a shot that went through the five-hole on Night netminder Sherman Carter.  Less than a minute later, LW Jamie Campbell got the equalizer on a shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle that snuck in above Carter’s catching glove.  The score remained even for much of the second, but Night LW Charlie Brooks jammed one in from the slot with just under seven minutes left to give New York a 4-3 edge, which they took to the dressing room.

Steven Alexander

Less than two minutes into the third, Campbell got his second goal of the night, finishing on a beautiful pass from RW Kenny Patterson that split the Night defenders.  Campbell waved his arms to the crowd, which responded with ecstatic approval.  That tie lasted barely over three minutes, before Brooks scored again on a tip-in for a 5-4 New York.  A few minutes later, Alexander scored on a laser-beam slapper that bounced off of Carter’s blocker and in.  The feisty winger by holding his stick like a rifle and firing “shots” at the New York bench, who responded with another middle-finger salute.  Alexander was later fined by the league for his actions.

The crowd was roaring for more; they got it with six minutes remaining, as C Calvin Frye redirected an Alexander slapper just under the crossbar to give the Pistols their first lead since the opening minutes.  If the Hamilton fans thought it was over, though, they had another think coming.  Two minutes after Frye’s go-ahead tally, rookie C Norris Fletcher jabbed home the tying goal for New York, prying it loose from under the pad of Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen.  The Pistols argued vigorously that the play should have been whistled dead, but the referees denied their appeal.  As boos filled the arena, Fletcher smirked and cupped his hand to his ear.

Less than two minutes later, Fletcher cemented his status as Public Enemy#1 in Hamilton by felling Alexander with a high stick that opened a gash under the winger’s eye.  Alexander went down the tunnel to get stitches, and Shields argued that Fletcher should be ejected for attempting deliberate injury.  Instead, he got a double minor.  Angry fans poured beer on the rookie as he sat in the penalty box; Fletcher responded by blowing kisses.

In the wake of the penalty, Hampton challenged New York D Donald Duckworth to answer for Fletcher’s high stick, but Duckworth declined the invitation.  “Typical New York,” Alexander fumed after the game.  “Big talk and cheap shots, but they won’t back it up.”

The Pistols tried furiously to score the game-winner on the ensuing power play, but their shots kept missing the net.  The penalty continued into the overtime session, when a sewed-up Alexander returned to the ice to rapturous applause.  Even with their star on the ice, though, Hamilton couldn’t get the puck over the line.  Finally, about midway through the overtime session, LW Chase Winchester scored from a severe angle to give the Night the win.

The visitors celebrated by blasting Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove” in the locker room – “loud enough for [the Pistols] to hear,” said RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson.  In his postgame press conference, Foster sarcastically thanked the Pistols for their pre-game Vandy skate.  “That gave us all the inspiration we needed,” the coach said with a grin.  “No matter what else happens this season, we’ll always remember we got our first W here in Tank Town.  Love you guys!”

Continue reading “Night, Pistols Resume Unpleasantries in OT Thriller”

2020 Uni Changes Feature New KC Logo and New Alts for Night, Shockers

Earlier this week, the Portland Bluebacks revealed the uniforms for their debut season after relocating from Seattle.  But the Bluebacks aren’t the only team that will be donning new togs in 2020.  Several other SHL teams are modifying their look, in ways both small and large.

The biggest changes came from the Kansas City Smoke, who also rolled out a new logo this season. When the Smoke took the ice for their debut season, their logo was mocked by KC ‘cue heads for omitting a key element: smoke.  “One of the consistent pieces of feedback we got on the logo was that it was about grilling, not smoking,” said team president Eddie Whitmore.  “I’d point out that plenty of people smoke ‘cue in their backyard kettle grill, but what we kept hearing was that it wasn’t real ‘cue.  So we decided to go a different direction.”

The Smoke drew up a new logo that features wisps of smoke, and they put the logo front and center on their uniforms, replacing the old “SMOKE” wordmark that looked like it was being licked by flames.

In addition to that change, they updated their jersey templates with a more modern look that replaces the previous diagonal-stripe-based motif.  The team kept its existing color scheme of gray, black, and burnt red.

“We figured: as long as we’re changing the logo, why not go ahead and freshen it all up?” Whitmore said.  “This gives us a uniform that can stand the test of time, that our fans can wear with pride as we build toward our goal of winning the Vandy.”

The Smoke and the Bluebacks are the only teams making wholesale uniform changes for the coming season, but two other teams are debuting eye-catching alternate uniforms.

The New York Night, aiming to remain on trend, ditched their previous silver alternates for a dramatic gradient look that changes from purple to black.

“Gradients are really hot right now,” said new Night GM Jay McKay.  “This gives us a look that’s flashy but still classy, and full of energy, just like the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps!”

Star RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson was one of the players who modeled the new sweater at the unveiling, and he was audibly impressed.  “Damn,” he was heard to exclaim, “these threads look almost as fine as I do!”

McKay predicted that the new jerseys would become the top sellers in the SHL.  After the unveiling, at least, his words seemed prophetic: local sporting goods stores indicated that the jerseys were flying off the shelves.

The Saskatchewan Shockers, meanwhile, did make changes to their home and road jerseys, simplifying the striping pattern on the socks and sleeves.  But that change was not what had people talking after Saskatchewan rolled out its new look.  Rather, it was the new third jersey the left mouths agape.

For the past couple of years, the Shockers have sported an electric-blue third jersey that they generally wore on Sundays and holidays.  It was eye-catching, but in the same template as their home and road jersey.  Their new third jersey, however, doesn’t match their usual template – or any other, for that matter.

The new jersey is half yellow, half blue, split diagonally with a white lightning bolt.  Immediate reactions were mixed: some fans on social media dubbed it the “Franken-jersey” while others noted its resemblance to the Grateful Dead’s logo.

According to Shockers owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz, the polarizing look was inspired by some of the NHL’s uniform designs from the ‘90s.  “In those days, it was all about trying new stuff and moving the merch.  Yeah, some people think those styles were a complete disaster, but nobody ever forgets them!  And they’re not going to forget us either!”

Saskatchewan’s players regarded the new uniforms a bit warily.  “It’s going to take some getting used to,” said LW Troy Chamberlain.  “It’s definitely different than what other teams are wearing.”

“We’re not going to be able to sneak up on anyone in these,” quipped C Lars Karlsson.

Other smaller changes for 2020 include:

  • Last year, the Michigan Gray Wolves switched from using the “Gray Wolves” wordmark to the wolf-and-moon logo as its primary home jersey. This season, the Wolves are making the same change to their road jerseys. “We wanted to unify our look,” said GM Tim Carrier.  Also, the numbers on the back of the jersey have changed from blue to red.
  • The Washington Galaxy have updated their logo, but their uniforms will remain the same as last year.