The AAL can have its victory lap after this weekend’s down-to-the-wire games involving its top two seeds, but the undercurrent of cancellations besieging this league hit riptide status when the Rochester Kings and New England Cavalry failed to play their scheduled game at the Bill Gray’s Iceplex on Saturday.
The game was one of four to be cancelled last weekend, twice as many as were played. With so many other cancellations now on the books, what’s the big deal about this one? Well, given the complete communication breakdown of all interested parties, Cavalry v. Kings is the most effective dipstick yet for measuring the depth of the league’s dysfunction.
Granted, each folding team presses CEO Tony Zefiretto and President Jack Bownman into a meatball surgery of the schedule that would make Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John wince. To their credit, the pair was surgical in dispatching the Atlanta Havoc to Carolina on Saturday after both teams had opponents bail, and the result was memorable as the Energy took down the Havoc and their unbeaten season. But as Zefiretto and Bowman were plugging holes in their sinking ship, the Kings and Cavalry were shooting new ones into it.
After a scheduling snafu caused the Cavalry to no-show in Rochester earlier this season, Saturday’s scheduled matchup figured to happen. Yet, while the Iceplex facilities team remained “ready, willing, and able” to accommodate the game, Kings owner Felix Joyner and Cavalry principal owner Kevin Corbin hadn’t spoken in nearly two weeks, each pointing at the other in communications sent to the AAL’s front office. Rather than bringing both parties together like responsible parents, Zefiretto and Bowman sided with Joyner and allowed him to cancel out last Friday, leaving the Lattimore rink (the centerpiece of Bill Gray’s four-rink facility) and its 2,500 empty seats in darkness Saturday night.
Communications that have come out in the aftermath of the aborted game reveal two ownership groups that couldn’t establish an ongoing dialog. Corbin presented Fifty Yarder with a series of emails that were exchanged between his staff and Joyner as early as March 8 to begin preparations for this game. The emails show the Cavalry took the early initiative to confirm the game and work out details, and in a cordial last exchange on May 20 the Kings provided lodging information to the Cavs, who responded with a request for a game-day itinerary.
Everything went radio-silent after that.
Spokespersons from both franchises recently told Fifty Yarder they spent the next 11 days attempting to contact the other and absent any success, each claims to have elicited assistance from Zefiretto and Bowman. The Cavalry did produce a text exchange with the AAL on May 18, two days before the parties seemingly settled things. However, in an AAL text sent to Joyner on June 1, the day of the cancellation, the league agreed that New England’s claims of attempting to contact Joyner were “not accurate.” That’s when he was granted permission to cancel and be awarded a forfeit win.
This whole matter was headed to the non-story trash heap until Corbin announced the Cavalry, too, was cancelling the game, which he did on social media two hours after the Kings cancelled. In support of his decision, Corbin points to a graduation ceremony being held at the Iceplex on Saturday, as well as a failure to remove the tempered glass installed above the dasher boards that protects hockey crowds from wayward pucks. However, representatives from the Iceplex indicate there was no graduation on the Lattimore rink on Saturday, and the decision to leave the tempered glass installed was made at the beginning of the season and affected every game. Safety issues can be debated, but that debate should have happened back in March.
Although the evidence indicts the Cavalry, circumstances acquit them. Saturday marked the third time Kings games have been cancelled this season. In fact, Iceplex workers called it “typical.” The Kings are easily the most reclusive franchise in the AAL and communication problems have been reported by several other teams. Earlier this season, the Western Maryland Warriors faced obstacles similar to those that plagued the Cavalry. They, too, had to cancel. Guests just don’t want to ring the doorbell and find their host not at home.
Yes, Zefiretto and Bowman have their hands full, as would anyone trying to manage a Zefiretto-Bowman joint venture. And in a league that could be celebrating a watershed game last Saturday and preparing for a post-season seeded with NAL-caliber teams, questions continue to surround the front office”s ability to control its quarrelling children.