Wolves Revise Classic Fairy Tales in Giveaway Kids Book

The Michigan Gray Wolves have not generally been known for their creative promotions.  When they bother to hold a giveaway, it’s typically a scarf, a knit hat, a T-shirt, or maybe a rally towel… nothing out of the ordinary.  This week, however, the Wolves held a children’s promotion that was truly unique — and reportedly developed by their mascot.

On Sunday, the first 5,000 children through the gates received a storybook that contained a retelling of a couple of classic fairy tales.  The cover stated that the book was written by the team’s mascot, Wally Wolf.  According to Michigan’s marketing department, Wally was inspired to write it in order to combat “rampant anti-wolf propaganda” found in many children’s stories.

Wally Wolf

“Honestly, Wally has a point,” said Wolves D Fritz Kronstein.  “Think about all the fairy tales that include the Big Bad Wolf.  What makes him so bad all the time?  I definitely think it’s time to hear the other side of the story.”

In Wally’s take on the classic stories, the “Big Good Wolf” was cast as the hero.  In the villain’s role were other animals — ones that bore a striking resemblance to the mascots of Michigan’s rival teams.

The first story in the book was a rewrite of “The Three Little Pigs.”  In this version, the pigs built hockey rinks out of straw, sticks, and bricks.  This time, they were visited by the “Big Bad Bear,” a giant earmuff-wearing polar bear that looks strikingly like Petey, the Anchorage Igloos‘ mascot.  After the Big Bad Bear blows away the straw- and stick-built rinks, the Big Good Wolf arrives and chases off the villainous bear with a hockey stick, then teaches the pigs the finer points of the slapshot.

The second story is a fresh take on “Little Red Riding Hood.”  Retitled “Little Blue Riding Hood” (because the heroine is dressed in Wolves’ colors), the story tells the tale of a young girl bringing Wolves tickets to her ailing grandmother.  But before our heroine can get there, Grandma is kidnapped by the “Dirty Dog,” a brown dog in a sailor costume who resembles Salty Sam, the Portland Bluebacks‘ mascot.  When Little Blue Riding Hood showed up at Grandma’s house, she noticed that something was amiss.  “What long ears you have, Grandma!” she says.  “What big jowls you have!”  Just before the Dirty Dog can spring up and snatch our heroine, the Big Good Wolf shows up, chases the villainous dog away, puts Grandma and Little Blue Riding Hood on the back of his motorcycle, and races them over to the Wolves game just in time.

“Finally, it’s a fairy tale where wolves get a fair shake,” said Wolves GM Tim Carrier.  “I’m glad that Wally decided to share his stories with our young fans.”

Wally’s book was a hit with the fans, but not everyone was so delighted.  The Igloos, for instance, weren’t pleased when they heard about  the portrayal of the Big Bad Bear.  “I thought that Petey and Wally had buried the hatchet years ago,” said Igloos C Jake Frost.  “But if the wolf wants to get things started again, I’m sure that Petey is willing to go back to war.  And we’ll all have his back.”

The Bluebacks were likewise unamused about the “Dirty Dog” portrayal, and expressed their displeasure.  “This is gross character assassination toward Salty Sam,” said RW Vince Mango.  “We all know that Sam is 100% pro-grandma, and he would never kidnap anyone or try to traumatize little girls.  And most importantly, he would certainly never try to steal Wolves tickets.”

Informed of the Igloos’ and Bluebacks’ objections, Carrier was unapologetic.  “Wally calls them like he sees them,” the GM said.  “Like most authors, Wally’s stories are informed by his life experience.”

Night Re-Acquire Winger Petronov

According to New York Night GM Jay McKay, letting LW Misha Petronov leave in free agency was his biggest mistake.  Petronov spent three seasons in New York, but after a mildly disappointing 2019 season, the Night allowed him to walk away and sign a 2-year, $2 million contract with the Michigan Gray Wolves.  But Petronov rebounded toward his career norms in Michigan, while New York has badly missed his production on the wing.  So McKay reversed his mistake on Wednesday, re-acquiring Petronov from the Wolves, along with F Cary Estabrook and D Brandon Arrowood, in exchange for LW Flynn Danner, F Henry Constantine, and D Anson Brank.

Misha Petronov

‘We knew we wanted some help on the second line,” said McKay.  “And we talked about a number of guys, but in the end I kept coming back to Misha.  He’s a guy we know and he’s a good fit for our team, so why not bring him back?  Then it was just a matter of making the salaries work.”

In 42 games with the Wolves, Petronov put up 31 points (9 goals, 22 assists) and a team-leading +12 rating.  He has generally been less involved on the defensive end and along the boards, which made him a somewhat awkward fit in Michigan’s style of play, but suits New York’s run-and-gun approach perfectly.

McKay said that the winger will slot right back into his old slot on the second line, beside C Rod Remington and RW Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek.  “I am glad to be back with my old friends,” said Petronov. “It will be just like my former times again.”

Along with Petronov, the Night acquired a couple young players with potential upside.  The 25-year-old Estabrook was the first player signed by the Boston Badgers.  He has struggled to convert on his potential in the SHL, due both to the lingering effects of a knee injury he suffered in college and his struggles with alcohol and conditioning.  He signed with Michigan in the offseason, and clashed with then-coach Ron Wright virtually from the beginning.  He appeared in only 10 games with the Wolves, failing to record a point, and then he was banished to the minors.  McKay said that Estabrook would be assigned to New York’s farm team in Utah initially, but he would be called up before the end of the season.

“We believe that Cary has a lot to offer this club,” McKay told reporters, “And I’m a big believer in second chances, and Cary deserves one.”

Arrowood, meanwhile, is a 24-year-old offensive-minded defenseman.  He has shown a consistent scoring touch in the minors, but his deficiencies on the defensive end have prevented him from earning a call-up to the majors.

In exchange, New York gave up a pair of prospects that should aid the Wolves as they move into a rebuilding phase.  Danner is a 24-year-old winger who has produced regular 50-point seasons in the minors.  He made his SHL debut this season and produced promising results, with 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) and a +6 rating in 28 games with New York.  He showed some upside on defense as well, with 23 blocks.

“Flynn checks a lot of the boxes we’re looking for,” said Michigan GM Tim Carrier.  “He’s a strong 200-foot skater, he can create his own shot, and he puts in good effort on defense.”

Brank, meanwhile, is a 20-year-old blueliner who was drafted by the Night two years ago.  He lost a position battle in training camp, but he produced strong numbers in Utah, putting up 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) in 41 games.

Michigan also adds Constantine, a veteran on an expiring contract who can play any forward position. He should be able to fill in an provide some short-term offensive help for the Wolves.

While the Wolves are looking to the long term, the Night are focused on the present.  McKay came up with a typically creative trade to bolster their offense.  Given the crowded playoff picture in the East, however, the GM will need to hope that neither Danner nor Brank gives him a reason to regret this deal down the road.

Tigres Swing Big, Land Center Marlow

At the trading deadline, the Quebec Tigres found themselves where they’ve been most of the season: within striking distance of a playoff spot, but not quite there.  Faced with a small but persistent gap between them and the Hershey Bliss, GM Pete Gondret decided not to waste time upgrading around the margins, and instead made a big-ticket acquisition, landing C Warren Marlow from the Michigan Gray Wolves in exchange for C Phil Miller, LW Carl Bleyer, and their first-round draft pick.

“We had the chance for a big move, and we took it,” said Gondret.  “Life is too short for weak measures.”

Gondret said that he’d originally engaged Michigan about acquiring veteran winger Todd Douglas, who would have provided some depth scoring for the Tigres.  But as they talked, Wolves GM Tim Carrier mentioned that Marlow was available.  “And then I heard the angels singing in my ear,” the Quebec GM said with a laugh.  “This was a player I have always wanted.”

Warren Marlow

Center has long been a weak spot for the Tigres, and the 34-year-old Marlow provides a reliable option to fill that need.  He has been a consistent two-way threat, averaging about 20 goals per season and providing stout defense.  He’s lost a step with age, but he still recorded 19 points (11 goals, 8 assists) with Michigan so far this season.  With the Wolves failing to contend this season, they chose to move on from their veteran center.

“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision to part with Warren,” said Carrier.  “He’s given so much to this team over the years.  We wouldn’t have won the Vandy [in 2016] without him.  But we’re at a stage where we need to get younger, and we had a chance to get a top pick and a prospect.  I couldn’t say no to that.”

For his part, Marlow is happy to join the contending Tigres.  “Obviously, in Michigan for so many years, we were always in the playoff hunt,” said the center.  “And as a player, you get used to that.  Being able to get back to a contending team… that’s huge for me.  I’m looking forward to helping bring the Vandy to Quebec.”

In the 21-year-old Bleyer, Michigan acquires a promising young winger.  He has appeared in a total of 14 games for Quebec over the past two seasons, recording a goal and an assist.  With the Tigres’ farm team in Halifax, Bleyer has produced 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 30 games.

“Carl is a prototype Michigan Gray Wolves player,” said Carrier.  “He’s good on defense, he’s a hard worker, and he knows how to score.  I think he’s going to be a big contributor for us down the road.”

Phil Miller

As for Miller, he was primarily thrown in for salary-cap reasons, but it represents another stop for the well-traveled journeyman.  Michigan is the sixth SHL team for which the 31-year-old Miller has played in his career.  This is the third time that he has changed teams at the trade deadline, having gone from Saskatchewan to Dakota in 2016 and Kansas City to Quebec in 2018.

Miller struggled badly with the Tigres this season, recording only 2 assists and a -10 rating in 27 games before being sent down to the minors.

Regarding his latest relocation, Miller displayed a sense of humor when speaking with reporters about the deal.

“At this point, I keep my suitcase packed around the deadline, because I just assume I’m going somewhere,” said the veteran.  “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s this; don’t buy any green bananas.”

Wolves Coach Wright Resigns

For the last four and a half seasons, Ron Wright has been the driving force behind the Michigan Gray Wolves.  He has pushed them hard in grueling practices, demanded a relentless commitment to excellence, and shaped the team’s selfless, hard-nosed identity.  It’s an approach that has yielded results, including a Vandy in 2016 and two playoff appearances.

Ron Wright

But Wright and his players have grown increasingly disenchanted with one another as the Wolves’ record has sunk.  They finished last season in a tailspin, ultimately finishing in fourth place.  And this season, Michigan has been battling with Dakota and Kansas City to stay out of the cellar.  This shocking performance led to an even more shocking development on Saturday, as Wright resigned as Wolves coach.

“Our performance this year has been a disappointment and an embarrassment,” said Wright.  “And the responsibility for that starts with me.  I have failed to motivate this team, and our performance has not been up to our standards.  So the only responsible thing for me to do is to step aside and let the team find a new leader.”

To say that the move was a surprise would be an understatement.  “I think you could sum up the mood in the locker room as stunned,” said C Hunter Bailes.  “Coach Wright always talked about the importance of commitment and being all in, and for him to walk away in the middle of a season is – well, it’s unexpected.”

According to sources close to the team, Wright’s intense, hard-driving personality was embraced by the players when the team was winning.  But as the team’s fortunes have declined, the grumbling about the coach’s demands and brutal practices have grown louder.

“Most of the guys in here are veterans, and we’ve been working in this system for years,” said one player.  “For [Wright] to still be yelling at us like we’re raw rookies, it doesn’t sit right.”

Several players also cited the departure of assistant coach Morris Thompson as a key factor in the decline of Wright’s relationship with his team.  Thompson left to become the head coach of the Saskatchewan Shockers for the 2019 season.  According to several players, Thompson served as a vital buffer between Wright and the players.

“Morris knew how to get [Wright] to tone it down a notch, cool out when needed,” said one player.  “And the players knew that if they had a problem, they could go to Morris and he’d smooth it over.  When he left, the emergency brake was gone.”

One theory is that Wright chose a midseason departure in order to control the terms of his exit.  Many on the team believed that, barring a second-half turnaround to claim a playoff spot, Wright was going to be fired at season’s end.  Rather than wait for the ax to fall, Wright could depart on his own terms.

The team announced that assistant coach Roger Stackledge will take over as interim head coach for the rest of the season.  Barring an unexpected turnaround, GM Tim Carrier will face some interesting decisions at the trading deadline and in the coming offseason.  The Wolves are the league’s oldest team, and while they arguably have too much talent (starting with G Dirk Lundquist and including a stellar defensive corps) to be torn apart, they do not have enough offensive firepower to be a top-tier contender.

“I was not expecting to be holding this press conference in the middle of the season,” said Carrier.  “But I am confident that this team is still capable of being a strong contender.  I am confident in Roger’s ability to lead this team.  We’ll re-group over the All Star break and come back strong.”