Mon Feb 01 04:25pm EST
Minor League Malarkey focuses on the goofy world of minor-league hockey; from the characters to the fights to the promotions to the die-hard fans that half-fill the stands. Know of a quirky upcoming hockey promotion? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best "Diff'rent Strokes" episode? Pretty much any of the "very special episodes." Arnold and Dudley menaced Gordon Jump as the Tarzan-obsessed bike shop owner. Kimberly suffering from bulimia. Attempted ratings-booster Sam getting kidnapped, and the family finding the trail because he crushed bags of chips in a convenience store. Or the one with K.I.T.T. from "Knight Rider" that ... OK, that really didn't have a message beyond "don't sneak onto movie sets filled with explosives."
What does this have to do with hockey? As usual, nothing, yet everything. Gary Coleman, diminutive star of "Diff'rent Strokes," is scheduled to drop the ceremonial first puck before the ECHL Utah Grizzlies' game against the Las Vegas Wranglers tonight. While a D-list celebrity doing the pregame honors usually isn't breaking news, there's some interesting context here. The NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City reports that Coleman recently added a bit more infamy to his post-"Strokes" life:
Coleman was arrested last weekend on a warrant for failing to appear in court after police were called to his home on a domestic disturbance call. The warrant is related to a domestic violence charge filed against Coleman in the city justice court on Aug. 26, 2009.
That's precisely the reason the Grizzlies extended the invite to Coleman, according to the team's formal invitation to the former child star:
"Gary has struggled a bit since his move to Utah, but we'd like to take this opportunity to introduce him to Grizzlies hockey," said Grizzlies Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting Adrian Denny. "He had a fan bail him out of jail Monday and as fans of him and Diff'rent Strokes, we'd like to show him a great night of hockey entertainment and take that opportunity to wish him all the best."
Yes, because most minor league teams are quite philanthropic in their ripped-from-the-headlines promotions. Coming up, we speak with the Grizzlies about "Gary Coleman night" and explore yet another collision between "Star Wars" and minor league hockey ... this time with 100-percent more Boba Fett!
Regarding Gary Coleman and the Utah Grizzlies, we spoke with Denny about this unusual invite.
"He's iconic. His show was No. 1. He lives in our state. We thought it would be a fun," said Denny. "Hopefully this can be something that helps Gary out, and gets him going in a good direction."
Of course, there's also the chance to capitalize on what's been a fairly big local story.
"If something happens in the news, we're going to find a way to make us part of it," he said. "We're a minor league hockey team in a big market. We don't take ourselves too seriously, and we like to entertain our fans."
Denny said the details were worked out last Friday with Coleman's father-in-law, with issues surrounding Coleman's health (he takes dialysis) among the concerns.
So, has Gary Coleman every participated in anything like this before in hockey?
"I don't believe so. I've been scouring everything trying to find something," Denny said. "The closest thing I found was a picture with Mark Messier."
Will Mr. Coleman be receiving a commemorative jersey, and if so, will it be boys'-sized?
"It is not boys'-sized. I believe it's an adult small," said Denny.
Adult sized? Whatchu talkin' about, Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting?
OK, needless to say this is the biggest star the Grizzlies have ever had to drop the puck, right?
"Without question," Denny said. "And we've had Olympians before."
Face-off at the E-Center is scheduled for 7 p.m., so the ceremonial one may precede it. Good luck to Mr. Coleman, and don't worry about how the faceoff goes. Because it don't matter that you got. Not a lot? So what? They'll have theirs, and you'll have yours, and I'll have mine. And together we'll be fine ...
Thanks to Alex C. for the Gary Coleman tip.
Star Wars culture and hockey have collided many times before, including a year ago when a Stormtroopers costuming club invaded an NCAA game.
Saturday night, the IHL's Port Huron Icehawks sported the Boba Fett-inspired jerseys pictured at the top of this post for their third annual (!) Star Wars Night at McMorran Arena, with the jerseys then auctioned off to benefit the Cherry Beach Council on Aging.
Fan can test their skills at the Blaster Range, while kids can compete in a Wookiee Roar contest. Over twenty characters from the 501st and Rebel Legions will invade the arena; some will be on skates, including the one that drops the ceremonial first puck. The action [went] into hyperspeed as the Icehawks [took] on the Flint Generals at 7:30 p.m.
So ... hyperspeed then.
Incidentally, the Boba Fett jerseys were designed by Great Lakes Garrison member Scott "Crow" Withers. Or TK-1491 in your programs.
(Full disclosure: I have a Star Wars bathroom. And that is Punch Out in the background.)