Great job by Ryan Ballengee and the Golf News Net Radio Network to get up these excellent interviews with Tony Korologos of Hooked on Golf Blog, Tom Coyne and his upcoming UK trip, and John Sanford of Ferry Point. You can catch those and other fine GNN interviews here.
How to Quell a Silly Trade Rumor in 1000 Words or Less
By Jay Flemma, Special to Facewash Magazine
SWIFTY’S PUB, UTICA, NY – It’s 3:30 p.m. on game day, and Swifty’s is already packed, the party in full swing. Smoldering redhead Carly is slinging hot pink drinks to cute, curvy 20-somethings while a crowd of hopeful guys mows down burgers piled five inches high while trying to collect phone numbers.
I can hear the slur in voices already, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for. Bars are the best place to interview fans – unfiltered drunks make the best copy.
Take, for example, the wanna-be Barry Melrose meets Mel Kiper sitting next to me. He’s surrounded by a pack of girls drinking Red Bulls and Vodka and singing, “It’s the Fiiiiinaaaaaaaaal Coooooooooount dooooooooown!” (They’re coming out of the woodwork tonight, let me tell you…)
Well, when hears me talk about yesterday’s Comets game with Carly he decides he has to show off his hockey IQ.
“I hear the Comets are gonna trade Markstrom!” he bellows confidently, nodding. Half the bar must have heard him.
“What? Where did you hear that?” I ask. You know the old journalist mantra in these situations. It’s normally “trust but verify,” but after this pronouncement it’s “bust this guy’s chops for fun” instead.
“It’s true! He’s trade bait and he knows it! He makes $2 million a year, and the team wants to dump salary.”
What do you know – Swifty’s just turned into the Fabulous Sports Babe Show in two jiggers flat…
First of all, Markstrom makes somewhere between $1.3 and 1.5 million, so we can start rating this guy’s opinion “unreliable” to begin with. But I have to follow up any lead just to be safe, and besides, my puckish sense of humor is getting the best of me, so I ask again…
”Where did you hear that?”
“I heard it from a reliable source.”
Wrong thing to say to a journalist. My idea of a “reliable source” might differ a bit from his.
“Yes, but who? And under what circumstances?”
“Well I was down at the Dinghy, and this guy…”
I stopped him right there. The Dinghy…the dive bar we used to call “The Dingy” when we were younger…the place we never went to because there were never any girls there…
“The Dinghy????” I asked suspiciously, pronouncing the word in the same way one would hold a dead fish.
“Yeah, and I met this guy who has this friend who’s got a cousin who’s close to some of the Comets guys and he says his pal heard right from these guys that he’s trade bait because he’s making $2 million a year.”
“This guy’s cousin is close to some Comets guys?”
“Which Comets guys?”
“I don’t know.”
“How did the pal of this guy you don’t know hear it from these guys?”
“They were out drinking.”
“Like you’re doing right now?”
“Okay, so let me say this out loud, so I have this right in my head. You’re telling me that the Vancouver Canucks are going to trade Jacob Markstrom, our All-star goalie and the best hope for the team’s future in net because you heard it from some guy – you don’t know who, but he’s from the Dinghy – and he told you this third-hand rumor over booze? I’m right about that? That’s your story?
“At the time I was told it sounded reasonable…”
“Something you heard from some drunk guy at the Dinghy seemed reasonable?”
“Well you’re the sports writer,” he remarks back. “What do you think?”
“I think I don’t go around telling people that the Canucks are going to trade Markstom because I heard it from some guy at the Dinghy who knows some other guy who has this friend who met this kid who saw Ferris Buehler pass out at 31 flavors last night.” That’s what I think.
“You don’t have to be like THAT about it.”
Yes I %$#&ing do. The Dinghy. But just to be safe, I asked around. (Not that the Comets or Canucks would actually tell anyone what they were going to do before they did it.) And all the pro journos around the team agree: Marky may have been trade bait earlier in the season, but it’s not likely now. Might we lose another big name to a trade? Yes, of course. That’s the way it works. Even Coach Green obliquely observes in post-game interviews that guys go up and down all the time, and guys get traded, and sometimes the person traded is someone who seems to be an integral or seemingly irreplaceable part of the squad, but that’s life in professional sports. To switch to baseball for an illustration: Orlando Cabrera and Doug Meintkewicz for Nomar Garciaparra? It seemed like suicide until the Red Sox became – arguably – the best sports story in 100 years.
To be honest, it’s for more likely the Canucks would call Marky up to the NHL, (and that’s a far better move than trading him…). Though he’s been in the AHL for five years, he may be the future of the team in net or at least provide depth while they deal with a rash of injuries.
I start to turn away to find someone else, anyone else, to talk to – I could interview the juke box and get a better trade rumor – but suddenly a squeal of delight erupts from the gaggle of giggling girls around this guy, and they all start shrieking, “Dirty Girl Scout! Dirty Girl Scout!” Carly is passing them all shot glasses filled with a muddy, viscous, brown liquid with what looks suspiciously like a giant brownish-gray loogie floating on top. My curiosity gets the best of me, so I ask the guy.
“What the hell is a Dirty Girl Scout?”
He grabs one off the tray and throws it back, rolling his eyes, and harrumphing as it tumbles down his gullet.
“It’s Baileys Irish Crème, Kahlua, Crème de Menthe, and vodka. It’s supposed to taste like a thin mint. We’re drinking them right now. Would you like one?”
“No, thanks,” I tell him. “But it looks like you’ve got a good thing going there. The drink I mean, not the rumor…”
[Editor’s Note: 11:00 am PST – Talk about calling the shot, Facewash has just learned Markstrom has been called up to the Canucks as of this morning due to Ryan Miller being out 4-6 weeks. Boy, we love being right all the time Also, Jay filed the story yesterday at 11 a.m. EST, but due to severe travel issues, we were not able to post it until now.]
“Sadly, this likely spells the end of the Markstrom era in Utica. Waivers are needed to return and he likely won’t clear.” —AWITP AHL source Pete Forgets.
Actually, that’s not necessarily true. If Markstrom does not appear in 10 games, he can be sent down to Utica on “emergency recall.” Hat tip: Comets Communications Director Mark Caswell
No Bobby, No Alex, No Problem! Comets top Marlies 5-2
By Jay Flemma, Special to Facewash Magazine
UTICA, NY – There’s no I in this team, but there sure is a capital D, because despite losing All-star Bobby Sanguinetti and workhorse Alex Biega to the parent Vancouver Canucks, the feisty Utica Comets smothered the Toronto Marlies 5-2 last night at the Utica Aud.
Five different Comets scored, the special teams tallied three goals, (one short-handed), and goaltender Jacob Markstrom snagged 26 saves as the Comets notched their seventh win in nine games, and opened up a nine point North Division lead over the Hamilton Bulldogs. The win also propelled the Comets (31-14-6, 68 pts.), into sole possession of second place in the AHL Western Conference, just two points behind the Oklahoma City Barons.
For those of you scoring at home, the Comets enjoy the largest division lead any team has in entire league.
The Comets took a 3-0 third period lead when Dustin Jeffrey tallied his 17th of the season, but two goals in a 2:41 span pulled the Marlies, to within one. But then Alexander Grenier tucked in a rebound with 8:29 to go, and Will Acton scored an empty net goal from center ice to close out the scoring. The loss dropped the Marlies to 21-20-9, (51 pts.), fourth placed in the North Division and 12th place in the Western Conference, eight points shy of a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Andrey Pedan and Kent Huskins were the sturdy backbone all evening long, keeping the crease clear for Markstrom and were seemingly effortless at times in frustrating the Marlie forecheck. Meanwhile Peter Andersson and Travis Ehrhardt helped trigger the Comets transition game, which helped Utica control the pace for much of the game. Newcomer Jeremie Blain and John Negrin were also solid, the former impressing Utica Observer-Dispatch editor John Piterresi come praise him both in post-game interviews and in last night’s game story. And everyone ran the blue line well on the power play as they went 2-for-4 with the man advantage.
Once again, the Comets defense was a gestalt creature, everyone playing as one, the system executed to a T – quintessential Comets hockey despite missing three talented and popular players in Frankie Corrado, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Alex Biega. This team is built on defense and happily for Comets fans the talent pool is deep.
“Defense is one of the things we pride ourselves on as a team,” explained Kent Haskins. “We try to make that one of our signatures and core values. Right from training camp, that’s the expectation and the work ethic that we have. It’s prescribed to us from the coaching staff from day one….And it’s an interesting facet of this league that guys go up to the NHL and down as well, but when you start with those values you can really rise to the challenge. It makes the coming and going easier.”
“it’s like the New England Patriots – next man up!” gushed fervent Comets fan John Fanelli, and he’s right. With interchangeable parts for players and flawless execution top to bottom through the line-up, it is like the Patriots, just without the cheating.
The Comets play their third of five consecutive homes games tonight against the Albany Devils. Hamilton and Adirondack tangle with the Comets at the Aud on Tuesday and Friday of next week respectively, before the Comets invade Syracuse.
“We’re gonna munch the Crunch like the little, grubby, uncooked popcorn kernels they are. Screw them!” shouted one Comets fan as he downed Kamikaze shots at Swifty’s last night. But that’s how fervent Comets fans are: there’s still tomorrow to play, yet they are already excited for next week. 18 sellouts this season and counting!
Indeed, it will be a week of serious fan-hate since the Bulldogs are desperate to hold on to the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, the Flames haven’t beaten the Comets since the Truman Administration, and Syracuse is…well…Syracuse. If you can’t get up for that game, you might not have a pulse.
So as the beating heart of the AHL starts to turn towards the season’s home stretch, it’s gut check time for everyone. Now is the time to get hot. After all, nothing thaws an I-90 winter like a rock concert or playoff hockey…and the way the Aud is rocking lately, you’d think we were watching the Rolling Stones.