Notes from the edge.
The Greensboro Monarchs made very few friends last year on their way to the East Coast Hockey League title. One year later, as the Monarchs try to defend that title, the enemy list is growing.After the first extended road trip of the season, Greensboro's ECHL team is finding that a lot of people have been waiting with IOU's for the Monarchs. Six games into the second season, Greensboro is literally fighting its way through the schedule.
That, too, is taking its toll. ECHL commissioner Pat Kelly will rule this week on possible suspensions resulting from an incident in Erie over the weekend. The suspensions could include Monarchs coach Jeff Brubaker.
Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, the owners of the Thunderbirds demanded - and got - an apology from the Monarchs Monday over comments made last week about the Winston-Salem team pay scale. The official ``retraction' of those comments from the Monarchs went like this: ``We are sorry for making derogatory remarks that we can't prove, and we also apologize for whipping them in the playoffs last year.'
The apology came from Brubaker and Monarchs owner Bill Coffey.
Greensboro officials charged last week that Winston-Salem's owners were overpaying several members of the Thunderbirds team by illegally listing them as ``National Hockey League contract players.' A player under contract to an NHL team is not limited by the ECHL league salary cap.
The Thunderbirds now have eight players listed as NHL contract players. The Monarchs have one, Phil Berger.
Berger played in his first game Sunday night, and immediately made his presence known to the Johnstown Chiefs.
``It took him all of 24 seconds to score,' said Brubaker.
Brubaker had held out his top scorer from a year ago because of a difference of opinion between the two. It was rumored - and reported by one local sportscaster - that Berger was on strike because he could not get his uniform number from a year ago.
``That's hogwash,' Brubaker said, or something to that effect.
The game at Erie was typical of what the Monarchs are going to face this season, Brubaker said. The Panthers, whom Greensboro eliminated from the ECHL playoffs in the second round last year, had quite a game plan for the Monarchs. It resulted in some 234 minutes in penalties - almost four times the length of a regulation hockey game - and the possible suspension of three Greensboro players and Brubaker.
Kelly, who had to dish out similar sanctions last season when Erie players fought with Greensboro fans in the Coliseum here, said Monday that he will rule on the suspensions of Shawn Wheeler, Mike MacWilliam, John Sullivan and Brubaker later this week.
``I want to see the films and talk to the officials first,' Kelly said. ``I'm investigating it. The suspensions are for one game right now, and it could be for three.'
Brubaker claims that eight Erie players mugged Wheeler and forward Len Soccio in front of the Greensboro bench during a line change.
``They were pummeling them,' Brubaker said. ``MacWilliam was not about to let it happen, and I couldn't hold him back. I wasn't about to let it continue either. So I guess I could be in trouble, too.'
``The coach has to control his players,' Kelly said.
``Erie tried to push us around, and all they got for their trouble was cuts and bruises,' Brubaker said. ``They started it and we finished it.'
The Monarchs have one more game on the road, Wednesday night in Richmond, before returning home Friday to play Cincinnati. The Monarchs will play Louisville on Saturday in the Coliseum.
By then, Greensboro will have played seven of their 10 ECHL opponents. The other three, Nashville, Knoxville and Roanoke, are likely already forming the Welcome Wagon.
Brubaker, or a substitute coach, will have some decisions to make between now and then. But, unlike last year, he plans no major roster moves.
``I like this team,' he said.
No one else in the ECHL does, however.