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.”

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Galaxy Parts Ways with Reagle

In a move that surprised many around the league, the Washington Galaxy this week announced that they had fired coach Rodney Reagle.  In making the move, the Galaxy part ways with the league’s most colorful coach and a man who led the team to a 129-105-10 record and two Finals appearances – but also a coach whose comic act was reportedly wearing thin with an aging roster that seemed to be heading in the wrong direction.

Rodney Reagle

There was a good deal of discontent in the capital city after the Galaxy finished with their first-ever sub-.500 record, going 31-32-1.  Washington was widely expected to take a step back this season after losing several key players in free agency, including LW Walt Camernitz, RW Sindri Pentti, and backup netminder Ron Mason.  Throughout the first half of the season, the Galaxy surprised with a strong performance, contending for a playoff spot for much of the season.  However, the team struggled to get production beyond their top line and collapsed after the trade deadline, going 7-19-1 over the last six weeks of the season – a stretch that sealed Reagle’s fate.

“Rodney Reagle is a good man and a good coach, and a guy I’m proud to call my friend,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams.  “We’ve achieved a lot together, and I thank him for all the good times.  But we’ve made the difficult decision to go in a new direction.”

Reagle had a well-earned reputation as the clown prince of the SHL; he was famous around the league for dressing up in costumes on the bench and for giving post-game interviews laced with movie quotes and strange accents.  The coach’s public goofiness made him a controversial figure around the league, and even reportedly within the Galaxy front office.  As long as the team was winning, Reagle was generally viewed as charmingly eccentric.  Once the team started to slide, however, it was easy to paint the coach as insufficiently serious.

“I’ve always known that my sense of humor was a high-wire act,” said Reagle.  “As long as you win, you can be totally coo-coo bananas and everything thinks it’s a sign of a quirky genius.  When you stop winning, suddenly you’re not funny anymore.  I thought two trips to the Finals would have bought me a little more rope, but turns out there was just enough to hang me with.”

There are conflicting reports about whether the coach had lost the clubhouse.  Some sources said that many players found Reagle’s antics silly and embarrassing.  Others claimed that the players were actually quite loyal to Reagle, and that the decision was driven by owner Perry Dodge, who reportedly felt the coach was too loose with the team.

Several players spoke out in support of Reagle after word of the firing broke.  “Coach Reagle is a great guy to play for,” said C Eddie Costello.  “He treats you like a grown man and he keeps things light and fun.  I feel bad that we let him down.”

Adams declined to comment on who Reagle’s replacement might be, other than to confirm that assistant coach Herman Chambers would be “strongly considered.”  According to team sources, other possible candidates include Michigan assistant Morris Thompson, Anchorage assistant Kyle Barrow, and minor-league coach Peter James.

Night’s Foster Accuses Officials of Anti-NY Bias

Nick Foster

In a bizarre coda to the New York Night‘s 6-5 victory over the Washington Galaxy on Saturday, Night coach Nick Foster used his postgame press conference to accuse referee Brandon Fosse and his crew of being biased against New York.  Foster went on to argue that the league was “scared of” his team and determined to keep them out of the postseason.

In a lot of ways, the game was a successful one for the Night.  They outshot the rival Galaxy 47-32 and secured a key win that all but guarantees them a third-place finish in the East.  But the third period was a harrowing one for New York, as Washington scored four unanswered goals that nearly erased a 6-1 Night lead.  Many observers thought the late rally was evidence that the Night took their foot off the gas, or that netminder Jesse Clarkson was continuing his recent stretch of shaky play.  But to Foster, the real cause of the Washington rally was a string of penalties called by Fosse and his crew.

“It’s pretty impressive that we pulled that one out, considering that we were playing against 10 guys there in the third,” said the Night coach, referring to the six Washington players and the four officials.  “They really didn’t want us to win this one, but we got the W anyway.”  Asked to elaborate, Foster said, “Come on, you’re all smart guys.  You’ve got eyes.  You think it was a coincidence that all the whistles went against us down the stretch?  I’m not sure what we did to piss [Fosse] off, or if the call came from upstairs, but he had it in for us.”

Foster continued, “I’m going to talk to the league; I don’t want his crew working our games any more.  I don’t think they’ll listen, though.  Now that we’re getting better, they’re scared of us winning.  The last thing they want to see is us in the playoffs.”

On the surface, it seemed Foster’s complaint might have some merit.  The last four penalties of the game, called in the latter half of the third period all went against New York, including two in quick concession that gave the Galaxy a 5-on-3 edge for over a minute and a half.  Foster contended that the fatigue of the extended penalty-kill shifts left his team exhausted and vulnerable to a late rally.

On the other hand, only one of Washington’s third-period goals actually came on the power play.  And Foster’s accusation ignored the fact that over the game as a whole, New York actually had more power plays than Washington.  In fact, the Galaxy didn’t go a man up even once until the third.

Fosse and the other officials join a lengthy list of people and teams with which Foster has feuded this season, including the Hamilton Pistols, their star Steven Alexander, the Dakota Jackalopes, and the Corn Palace.

The league did not make Fosse available for comment after the game, but they did take swift action against Foster, fining the coach $5,000.  “The idea that our referees or our league are biased against any of our teams is ludicrous,” said Commissioner Perry Mitchell.  “I don’t know why Coach Foster would make crazy accusations like that.  It’s disappointing on a personal level; more importantly, it’s inappropriate and unacceptable.”

Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle, on the other hand, reacted to Foster’s accusations with amusement.  “I’ve got to hand it to that guy,” Reagle said.  “Ordinarily, after a game like that, you’d figure he’d be answering questions about why his team can’t close out a game, or why his goalie couldn’t stop a cold.  Instead, he’s got us all talking about whether the refs and the league have a vendetta against his team.  Talk about post-game spin!”

Galaxy Wear Unique Unis for Ladies Night

On Wednesday, the Washington Galaxy held a “Ladies Night” promotion, something that’s fairly common around the league.  The Galaxy put a little different spin on it, however, as they wore specially colored uniforms designed by their coach.

Rodney Reagle

Originally, the plan was for the Galaxy to wear pink jerseys during the game, as other teams have done for similar promotions.  But when coach Rodney Reagle heard about that, he called GM Garnet “Ace” Adams and proposed a different idea.

“I really didn’t like the idea of pink jerseys,” said Reagle.  “They’re so stereotypical.  I’ve got a wife and three daughters, and none of them likes the color pink.  Why is it that whenever we want to show we care about women, we slather everything with pink?  It’s a cheap, transparent stunt.  If you’re going to do something, why not do something unique?”

The coach offered to design the uniforms himself, and Adams agreed.  With the help of his wife Debbie, an interior designer, Reagle drew up a prototype in a light-blue-and-coral color scheme.  Adams approved, as did owner Perry Dodge, and they went ahead and ordered uniforms based on the design.

“Naturally, when we heard that Coach was designing our uniforms, we all got a little nervous, because his fashion sense is a little out there,” said Washington C Eddie Costello.  “But when they actually showed up and we had a chance to see ’em, we thought they looked pretty sharp.  And it was kind of cool to think that we’re doing something special that most other teams wouldn’t do.”

Ladies Night Uniforms

The uniforms were also a hit with the fans, who gave the Galaxy a raucous ovation when they hit the ice in their special threads.  “I liked that they were like our normal uniforms, but different,” said fan Sherri Hilson of Landover.  “It’s a really nice look.”

During the game, the team held a silent auction for the jerseys, with the proceeds going to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.  The team wound up raising over $15,000.  The winning fans got to come down to the ice after the game and take the jerseys right off of the players’ backs.  Hilson wound up bidding for and winning the jersey of her favorite player, D Kevin Buchanan.

The uniforms weren’t the only thing that made Ladies Night special in DC.  The female fans in attendance received a Galaxy logo tote bag, and the team played only songs by female artists and groups throughout the game.  Between the first and second period, the team did its usual “Tykes on Skates” promotion between two teams of girls.  And between the second and third period, fan Jessica Stevenson of Ashburn got to take the “Tater Tot Shot,” sliding a puck into the net from center ice and winning free tater tots for a month from Ted’s Bulletin.

Reagle was very pleased with the outcome of the promotion.  “I’m glad we were able to put a special stamp on this.  It wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill event to pretend we care about our female fans.  We pulled out all the stops.  Well, almost all of them.  I offered to have my wife come coach for the night instead of me, but the front office didn’t go for it.  Probably a good thing, too; she might have done it better and I’d be out of a job.”

Reagle’s Surfer Garb Earns League Reprimand

Washington Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle has a long and illustrious history of coaching games in unorthodox outfits, dressing up as a cowboy or a vampire or Mr. T.  The league’s tolerance for Reagle’s eccentric apparel appears to be waning, however, as his latest costume earned him a fine and a stern warning from the commissioner.

Rodney Reagle

DC has been in a cold snap recently; the temperature in the nation’s capital has been unseasonably chilly.  Wednesday night was the second half of a home-and-home against the Quebec Tigres; the Galaxy had dropped the first game 6-3.  Before Wednesday’s game, Reagle made a seemingly off-hand remark, telling reporters that “my mom always told me it’s important to stay on the sunny side, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

When Reagle took the bench that evening, however, it became clear exactly what he meant.  The coach was dressed more for a day at the beach than a hockey game.  He wore a Hawaiian shirt, board shorts, flip-flops, and sunglasses.  He even appeared to have smeared zinc oxide on his nose.

The Galaxy players took the costume in stride, but the visiting Tigres and the officials were taken somewhat aback.  “I didn’t notice anything at first,” said head referee Scott Pritchard.  “But then I hear Reagle calling me over to talk, so I skate over and suddenly I’m staring at Jimmy Buffett.  I’m thinking, ‘What in the world is going on over here?’”

After the Galaxy’s 4-0 win, Reagle (still in his beach garb) explained the method to his madness.  “It’s just been too darn cold here lately,” the coach said, “so I’m just trying to think sunny!  Change your mind and you can change the world, right?  If I’m dressed for good surfing weather, then good surfing weather will come!  That’s, like, totally how it works.”  Reagle continued the beach theme by dropping phrases such as “cowabunga” and “totally tubular” into his answers.

The league was unamused, fining Reagle $500 for violating the rules against coaches wearing “professional attire” on the bench.  “Coach Reagle is a colorful character, and I appreciate that,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell.  “And we’ve looked the other way at some of his costume choices before.  But at some point, we’ve got to draw the line.  We don’t want to turn the league into a sideshow.”  The commissioner added that the league would consider further action, including possible suspensions, if Reagle continued to flout the dress code.

Washington’s front office and fans both responded with outrage to the decision.  The hashtag “#FreeRodney” began trending on Twitter shortly after the decision was announced, and Galaxy GM Garnet “Ace” Adams stoutly defended his coach.  “Look, we all know that Rodney’s a little kooky,” said Adams.  “Okay, maybe more than a little.  All right, he’s basically a lunatic.  But we love him for that!  And this is a free country!  Who’s the commissioner to say that Rodney can’t wear a Hawaiian shirt on the bench?  He has a right to bare arms!”

For his part, Reagle reacted with bemusement.  “I mean, this is where they draw the line?  Really?” the coach said.  “Dressing up like Mr. T was OK, but wearing a beach outfit is demeaning to the game?  I don’t get it.  It’s not like I was naked out there or anything.”

The coach added that the decision is popular with at least one person.  “My wife is behind the commish 100% on this one,” said Reagle.  “Being married to me is embarrassing enough as it is.  She told me that from now on, I’m not leaving the house until she’s approved my outfit.  That’s probably for the best.”

Quebec Coach in Hot Water After Late-Night Escapades

This year has been a struggle for Quebec Tigres coach Martin Delorme.  His team’s ambitions have been undone by goalie Riki Tiktuunen‘s struggles to stay healthy; they’re likely to finish with a record barely better than last year.  In midseason, Delorme engaged in a public spat with star winger Stephane Mirac.  The coach, who was hailed as a savior when he agreed to coach the expansion Tigres last season, is starting to hear jeers from impatient fans.

Martin Delorme

Delorme’s season took a major turn for the worse this week as he was arrested for drunk driving, an embarrassment that only got worse when his arrest led to the revelation of the coach’s messy personal life.

The arrest happened early Monday morning, a few hours after the Tigres’ 1-0 overtime victory over Hershey at Centre Citadelle.  Delorme was pulled over in the village of Saint-Anselme around 4 AM after he was spotted driving erratically.  He failed the field sobriety tests and blew 0.14 on the Breathalyzer.  The coach was also noted to be disheveled, a rarity for him, and was wearing s suit jacket and undershirt, but no shirt.  Delorme was arrested and held overnight before being released.

“It was very poor judgment on my part,” said Delorme.  “I am ashamed of my actions.”

Little did Delorme realize that the arrest would be only the beginning of his problems.  Reporters found the incident odd for a number of reasons.  For one thing, Delorme does not have a reputation as a big drinker.  For another, Saint-Anselme is not located anywhere near the coach’s home or the team’s facilities.  For another, “Martin wouldn’t leave the house unless he was perfectly dressed,” in the words of one reporter.  “Clearly, something weird was going on.”

To get to the bottom of it, reporters began trying to reconstruct Delorme’s activities after the game.  With some investigative work, they were able to piece together a timeline.  After the game and his postgame interviews, Delorme was seen leaving the arena with a woman not his wife.  (The coach’s wife has not been seen at games for most of the season.)  Later, Delorme and the woman were seen together at a bar in Levis, across the river from Quebec.  Later, the pair went back to the woman’s house, where they apparently stayed until the woman’s husband arrived home unexpectedly.  At that point, the coach fled and drove away, until he was pulled over a short distance away.

Stories about Delorme’s wild night broke on Wednesday, shortly before the Tigres’ game against Hamilton.  The coach reacted angrily when questioned about his activities.  “This is none of your concern,” Delorme snapped.  “This is not news; nothing but gossip.  What job is it of yours to examine my bedsheets?  I do not have to respond to this inquisition.”

Quebec players were hesitant to discuss the incident.  “It’s definitely a surprise, that’s for sure,” said LW Stellan Fisker.  “We wer all pretty shocked.  I don’t really know the details, so there’s not a lot I can say.  But it’s a tough break for Coach Delorme.”

Word of the incident traveled fast.  When the Tigres came to Washington on Friday to play the Galaxy, the Jumbotron displayed Delorme behind the bench while “Loverboy” by Billy Ocean blared over the speakers as the fans laughed and cheered.  After the game, a 3-2 Quebec win, Delorme called the stunt “unprofessional,” but had no further comment.

Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle couldn’t resist poking fun at the incident in his postgame press conference.  “Boy, Martin’s got himself in a mess, hasn’t he?”  said Reagle with a giggle.  “I wouldn’t have expected that out of him.  He seems like a careful sort of guy.  But I guess that’s how it goes with French guys, right?  That swingin’ lifestyle… Personally, as a married man, I’m really surprised.  I mean, I can’t even get dressed in the morning without my wife’s help.  If I was going to have an affair, I’d probably have to ask her to help me set it up.”