So . . . did something funny — as in strange or bizarre — happen in the camp of the Portland Winterhawks, or was it business as usual?
Whatever it was, it has the Winterhawks’ fans in a tizzy and on the verge of blogosphere fisticuffs.
Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province was among the first to touch on the situation over at his blog, The Dub Hub.
Here’s what Ewen wrote on Aug. 31:
“Rumours are funny.
“There was a buzz on the Internet that Rocco Grimaldi has shown up at Portland Winterhawks training camp. The buzz even got to Vancouver Giants brass, who had traded the ballyhooed Grimaldi to Winterhawks for a conditional draft pick. Supposedly if Grimaldi, a slick American-born forward who is so highly touted that he was featured in a recent Sports Illustrated story on the next generation of stars, plays in Portland, they send a first-round pick back to the Vancouver.
“A quick phone call to the Winterhawks . . . put a kibosh on it all, though. The Portland version of proceedings has the Winterhawks leaving a player off the training roster sheet they gave out to the fans who came to watch. The player put on a good show early, somebody suggested it was Grimaldi, and, in the time you can say ‘ain't the web great?!?’, a sighting was posted in several chat rooms.
“The Winterhawks maintain it's not Grimaldi and he's still slated to start at the University of North Dakota in 2011-12.”
Now . . . that was posted a few days ago. Since then, nothing has changed. No one, at least no one outside the Winterhawks organization and the player himself, seems to know the identity of that player.
Here’s what Graham Kendrick, the Winterhawks’ director of media and public relations, told me today, via email: “We had a number of players fill out rosters for the scrimmage and players were switching jerseys to complete teams so I don’t have a record of who he was.”
And here’s what general manager/head coach Mike Johnston told me: “I understand some people have been speculating that Rocco was in camp but I am sure you know that is not true. Also Graham informed me that certain local bloggers were also speculating that we were hiding players in camp. Under no circumstances did we have a player here who might be considering College and agreed to keep his name out of the team lists.
“We held a tournament with four teams over the four days and on Sunday I heard people wondering who scored particular goals. There were 60-plus goals scored in the eight games and, to be honest, I didn't keep track of who was scoring. The announcer did his best but there were situations where he didn't know who the player was because we switched jerseys and added local kids in for injuries.”
That isn’t about to silence the blogosphere, although what’s going on there, I’m sure, is at least as entertaining as any training camp scrimmage.
Here is one of the first posts on the subject from oregonlive.com:
“The first game for 3rd place was good but not NEAR as enjoyable as the final! Tye Rattie was superb! As was the phantom player No. 23 in red who had a hat trick who the hawks would not list nor say his name until the last minute! They announced his goals as Kopitar, Cam Neeley jr and finally said something like — don't quote me — David Smitzer or something close! . . . This kid dominated play today whenever he was in there!”
One fan, noting that he didn’t know who the player was, posted this: “But he looked pretty good to me!! Not on the program roster! A sleeper /bob bell type? Stay Tuned!!”
Which was a pretty good line, considering that the Winterhawks, a number of years ago, were disciplined for playing goaltender Lanny Ramage under the name Bob Bell in a preseason game.
Another fan, who claims his wife got a photo of the player in question, examined at the photo and then posted this: “sure looks like Grimaldi on the dallas web site.”
And then the debate began . . .
One poster wrote: “When Bob Bell/Lanny Rammage went incognito, it was at his request — he did not want the world at large to know he was playing in the games. mysterious ‘23 Red’ simply played in a few inter-squad scrimages . . . how many other players come in for tryouts over the course of the year we never hear about?
“The player and/or team obviously want's this players identy a secret . . . why can't we just be happy with that and move on?
“The last thing I want is the 'hawks office deciding to close practices and training camp because they get tired of all this attention.”
A hockey team that depends on ticket sales tired of attention? Now that’s an interesting concept.
And there was this one in response:
“It's because the team is stretching rules, and they know it. The player doesn't want to commit to NCAA or the WHL, the team is trying to kiss the player's a-- as much as possible.
“The ‘Bob Bell incident’ was the same thing, but they actually got in trouble for it since it was a preseason game.
“I'm not sure if they were breaking any rules with this or not, but obviously they're being shady about it . . . they can't expect to pull stuff off like this and not have rumors start flying, especially in this day and age.”
I was hoping to have a photo of Red No. 23 to post with this piece, but my request — posted on the oregonlive.com forum — didn’t draw a response.
Other than one from a fan wondering: “Can a team invite overage players from another team that stand a chance of being odd-man out to their own camps? What if they just show up for one day worth of scrimmages?”
We may never find out exactly who was Red No. 23. Apparently, he/she was small in stature. Maybe it was Todd Robinson, getting ready for a Central league season now that he has signed with the Odessa Jackalopes.
Or, perhaps, Red No. 23 was working for Oliver Stone.