No matter how many sports reporters reference the epic sports flick Slap Shot, it will never wear thin within the hockey community. Yet few real-life circumstances parallel the greatest hockey movie of all time like the Salmon Kings’ current situation.
Recent reports of the major junior Western Hockey League’s Chiliwack Bruins relocating here for the upcoming season signal the end of the Salmon Kings.
The end of the Johnstown Chiefs, too, was imminent, though player-coach Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman) spun the dire situation into a motivating factor for his team.
And so too are the bottom seed Salmon Kings on a roll now winning the final two games in their first round upset of the No. 2 seed Bakersfield Condors.
Game one of the ECHL Western Conference playoff semifinals is tonight (April 15) against the Utah Grizzlies.
So while the team’s future in Victoria is likely to end, not much will change for the players trying to further their careers with a contract in 2011-12 -- be it with the ECHL Florida Everblades or AHL Abbotsford Heat.
And with that I present a cheat sheet for fans jumping on the Salmon Kings’ bandwagon.
Here are a few of the Slap Shot characters and Salmon Kings alter-egos.
Goalie Denis Lemieux:
While playing in the ECHL, David Shantz also takes online courses through McMasters University. Needless to say, the cerebral 25-year-old takes more of a philosopher’s approach to the game, a la Ken Dryden. That said, there is no escaping his Slap Shot equivalent as the Chief’s heavily-accented goalie Denis Lemieux.
• What Lemieux would say about the conditional sale of the WHL Bruins to unnamed owners (despite all fingers pointing to Victoria’s RG Properties):
“Who own da Bruins? Somebody own da Bruins!”
Dave ‘Killer’ Carlson:
The closest personification to Carlson, the meditative youngster who adores Dunlop, might be Tommy Maxwell.
Maxwell has scrapped with the best of them in the AHL, and is one of the toughest hockey players going, period.
But Maxwell’s on-ice discipline is tempered by a desire to win. Sent down from Victoria’s parent club, Maxwell’s humble acceptance as a role-player on an ECHL team mirrors that of Carlson, who finds guidance from the mythical Swami Baha, a meditative and spiritual leader.
• What Maxwell might be muttering while deciding not to clobber an opponent who just gave Salmon Kings’ ace playmaker Rob Hennigar a cheap shot:
“I’m one with the universe, one with the universe.”
This one’s a toss-up between coach and general manager Mark Morrison and wily vet Adam Taylor, with Taylor taking the edge.
A healthy scratch on several occasions this season (but not in the playoffs), Taylor made his way to the commentator’s booth for most games.
While on the air, however, Taylor refrained from placing a bounty on an opposing player, which Dunlop famously did in his movie radio spot.
Taylor has, however, played for two Florida-based teams (Pensacola Ice Pilots and Florida Everblades). The idea was floated by Dunlop to local reporter Dickie Dunn to excite the Chiefs.
• What Dunlop said: “They’re gettin’ a bunch of old geezers down there from the northeast … what do you think those old geezers really miss in Florida?”
• What Taylor might have said: “I heard there’s a bunch of diehard hockey fans in Chilliwack ... they’ll be looking for a championship ECHL team.”
To paraphrase the words of Ned Braden during a radio promo for his team, “I know a lot of kids would enjoy coming to the games to see (some great hockey players, like Taylor, Maxwell and Shantz) skate.
Tickets to see the Salmon Kings start at just $5.
Travis Paterson is the sports reporter for Black Press papers in Greater Victoria