WINNIPEG – As a member of the Winnipeg Jets‘ security staff, Glen Lafrenais spends a lot of time around the team but he never imagined one day he would be part of it.
“There were a couple chuckles when I came through the door,” the Venue and Event Security Manager at True North Sports + Entertainment said. “They were giving me the gears a bit.”
On Monday, Lafrenais replaced Connor Hellebuyck in net during practice after the Jets decided to give the all-star goalie a day off.
“They needed a quick guy to be a human shooter tutor,” Lafrenais said. “They asked me if I wanted to and I said ‘yeah’.”
A goalie his entire life, Lafrenais once suited up in the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League. He now plays on a beer-league team, facing shots that barely rise off the ice.
“I like to say I held my own a bit,” Lafrenais said. “I stopped a Patrik Laine one-timer when they were working on the power play. I think there’s some people in the NHL that may have not done that so I can hang my hat on that.”
RELATED: Olympic hockey selection still ‘hasn’t sunk in’ for Oakbank’s Quinton Howden
For his troubles, Lafrenais skated away with a few new sticks, some autographs and the right to call himself a NHLer.
“(My teammates) are joking now, saying don’t forget about us,” Lafrenais said. “Now I have a little bit more clout around the room hopefully.”
The U.S. Army is taking a golden opportunity and driving it straight off a cliff.
In disputing the Las Vegas NHL team’s use of the name Golden Knights, the Army is wasting a chance to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with a team that is about as successful and feel-good as they come.
Let’s look at the options here.
One, the Army could decide to co-exist with the Golden Knights, who share the name of the Army’s precision parachute team. Hello, appearances by the Knights’ star players to sign autographs at the parachute team’s performances, thereby helping the Army’s recruiting efforts. Hello, congratulatory messages from the Army to the Golden Knights for hitting milestones like becoming the winningest expansion team in the history of pro sports, thereby strengthening the hockey team’s appeal to patriotic Americans.
Now for the other option, which the Army has foolishly decided to take. That’s to pick a fight with the most inspirational and heartwarming team in major sports, and do it for a weak reason.
In an appeal to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Army claimed that the hockey team’s use of the name would dilute its brand recognition and would create confusion among people who follow sports.
The best response to that argument came from the team, in a deliciously understated statement that read, in part, “we are not aware of a single complaint from anyone attending our games that they were expecting to see the parachute team and not a professional hockey game.”
Brilliant. No word yet from the Army about how many folks have showed up to watch parachutists and asked, “Where’s the ice?”
Another kink in the Army’s argument is that there are other sports teams that use the name and a similar mascot. The Golden Knights of Clarkson (Potsdam, N.Y.) University and the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y., have been around for years and don’t seem to have caused any problems for the parachuting team or its fans.
Granted, the Vegas Golden Knights play on a much, much bigger fan base than those tiny schools, sell more merchandise and have made an enormous splash in the media while racing to the lead of their division and becoming a virtual lock for the playoffs.
For whatever reason, the Army sees all of that as a threat, or at least as unfriendly competition.
Too bad, because the Knights would be a great partner for anyone looking to make a good impression on the public.
This is a team that was pieced together with players that were considered disposable or expendable by other teams. But those players have refused to play the traditional punching-bag role of an expansion club.
It’s a team that played its first regular-season game shortly after the Oct. 1 mass shooting, and whose captain, Deryk Engelland, told the crowd that night: “To the families and friends of the victims, know that we’ll do everything we can to help you and our city heal.”
And it’s a team that has done just that, by doing things like making personal visits to thank first responders, staying around after practices and games to sign autographs and introducing Oct. 1 heroes and survivors at games.
It’s also not as if the team is operating in some way that would embarrass the Army. Team owner Bill Foley is a West Point graduate, and his operation reflects his background. The game atmosphere is family-friendly — Las Vegas naughtiness stays outside — which is one reason that fans have been packing T-Mobile Arena when the Knights are at home.
Why would anybody want to be the black hat against these guys? Why wouldn’t the Army instead see the name for what it is: a tribute to the armed services.
You’d think the Army might have enough challenges on its hands without starting this meaningless spat.