Well, Snakes fans, it's hard to believe another season has ended...and on such a sad note. What an up-and-down series against Augusta!!
Friday night's shutout, followed by Saturday's trip to the woodshed, then on to Sunday...
Thankfully, the ice surface was better. Not great. Not the Snake Pit, but certainly better. As I promised, I wrote to the RiverHawks management, with a copy to the commish, about my security concerns. There were almost as many security personnel as fans. Great job, Hawks management and arena security!
Right off the bat, I'll tell you that I didn't witness the ceremonial handshake. After the horn sounded and I thought that the Augusta players weren't going to pull anything, I sprinted for the elevator which would take me down to the locker room area.
When I came around the corner, there was Jerome. I can't tell you how weird it was because he had such a strange look on his face. Ya'all know as well as I do what an emotional man he is. I honestly didn't know if he was going to burst into tears or hit somebody or something. Since I was on deadline, there was no time to investigate. I was momentarily confused...does the coach go FIRST in the line? I always thought he was last. But, again, it was nearly 10:15 and my pal Paul Ezell was not there as my timekeeper...ugh.
I later heard from multiple sources that Jerome refused to take part in one of sport's great traditions. Two groups of 18 guys who tried their level best to beat the fire out of each other, join in the traditional postgame handshake. Again, according to tradition, all of the on-the-bench personnel join in too. That includes the trainer, equipment manager and the coach.
Jerome has taken a beating in some media outlets for poor sportsmanship. I must admit that I was very concerned when I heard PART of the story. As a former teacher, I preached good sportsmanship constantly to my kids. Learn how to lose...and learn how to win. But then I heard the rest of the story...
Remember the previous night at the buzzer? When Fukala took baseball swing at Kyle's head? He could have been arrested. :( There's no place in the sport for such foolish, reckless behavior.
Well, Sunday night was almost as bad. As the horn sounded, the Augusta CAPTAIN Matt Auffrey skated by the Cottonmouths bench, blew a kiss to Jerome and screamed an obscenity at him.
I can say right now that the hockey tradition of the handshake is all about respect. Respect for each other and respect for the game. You would never see a single captain in the Cottonmouths 15-year history behaving in that disgraceful manner. Jerome Bechard, Craig Stahl...WILL BARLOW???? Are you kidding?
I haven't asked Jerome about this incident personally as yet, but heard him talk about it tonight on the coach's show. He regrets his actions, only because of his love for the game and he believes that a coach should set an example for his players. He is an emotional guy in a difficult situation and he reacted. Should he have done the handshake? Probably. Could I? No way. Could you?
Taking this a step further...what happens if Auffrey smarts off again during the handshake? What if one or more of their other players do too? Try to imagine how ugly that could get.
Back to the post-game...my number one least favorite setting of the whole year. The guys are devastated. If you're disappointed, take that feeling and multiply it by 1 million. That's how awful they feel. As I've told you, the season ends so abruptly. You're playing...you're done. Ugh.
I talked to Pete, who was great. Sammy always is as well, but very subdued on this night. Always keep these interviews short as this is truly the last thing they'd like to do.
The one that broke my heart was Will. He's always so thoughtful, so positive. He was making it through the interview and was on the last question, which I don't even remember...:( His voice broke as he said he felt responsible for the last goal, which was the game winner. I swear I almost reached out and hugged him, but instead, just patted him on the back a couple of times and released him from the misery of talking to me.
The trip home was soooooo long and so sad. Lindsey and Whitney made the trip with me. Thanks again to Ken Vezina of the Hawks' front office who had plan B...or was it C or D? to try to make sure that I had internet access and a place to work. He dropped everything for us and I really appreciate him.
I'd also like to thank Wanda Amos. She is the most thoughtful person. Wanda always watches the game from down by the glass. I guess she came up to get some coffee, but she made it a point to come by and say hello and thank me for coming. She is always complimentary about my work and it's really nice to hear. Thanks, Wanda.
As I prepare for my post-mortem with Jerome, a big thanks to Lindsey, Erin, Jason and Whitney in the front office. They, too, are a team that supports the team...and me. No request is too big or too small. I appreciate the kindness and friendliness they display when they'd probably like me to go away...haha.
There are no words to describe Jerome and my working relationship with him. He gives me total access to the guys and is there whenever I need info or cooperation. I know for a fact that not every GM in the league is that way...and I truly appreciate it.
To my players...ok, ok...they're Jerome and Wanda's players, but for six months of the year, I have them on speed dial...haha. They will meet me anywhere, anytime. They sit there so patiently and answer question after question. They let me and my photographers boss them around and in return I get smiles and thanks. Ya'all are the best, boys!!! I appreciate you and am proud to work with you around the clock from October 'til April!
Finally, to you...my faithful readers. Some of you I know and some I don't. I love it when you come up to me at the rink and tell me about something you liked in a story or blog post. I enjoy meeting you and putting names and faces together. I even like debating the merits of this decision or that play. All in the name of the game we love!!
To the parents of my players...thanks so much for sharing this journey with me. I take very seriously the privilege of keeping you connected to your sons and grandsons, brothers, nephews. So excited to meet Jo-Ann and Rich Cole and Karen and Eric Barlow. Found out that I met Sammy's dad last night, but was too rushed to know it at the time...haha. Sorry, Mr. Bowles!
To my editor, Kevin Price, and design girl and creative partner Stephanie Pedersen, thanks so much for all of your support. Kevin and I began this journey seven years ago, but have worked together nearly twice that long. Thanks for your confidence that a "mature" woman who never played a sport can learn it...and live it. :)
To my family, who allows the hectic pace and demands that this job places on me...wait. Not true. I actually place the high standards on myself...haha. Anyway, we all share a love of hockey, but it sometimes takes me away from my husband and two grownup children. Larry, Reese and Lindsey...you are the best family a woman could ever ask for. Thanks for supporting me in this dream job. :)
Look for the Q and A a little later in the week. Probably not many updates from the SPHL playoffs as I have no dog in that fight. No interest in who wins or loses, sad to say.
Will take my traditional few weeks off from hockey and then start to think about next year's preview section. My beach trip with my sisters...two weeks from Wednesday!...has produced such ideas as Jerome with the playing cards, the mad chef and...Oh, Captain, My Captain...Will Barlow. Ideas for next year, anyone?
Thanks again, one and all!!