- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2005

Must be the time of year. Everybody’s in a cooped-up, cabin-fever frame of mind — winter still having a month to run and all — and sometimes, well, folks go a little nutty.

If not certifiably insane.

I refer to those two comrades in craziness, suspended hockey coach Steve Shannon of the Motor City Mechanics and Hall of Fame basketball coach John Chaney of Temple. Maybe someone should test these guys for steroids — for the protection of themselves and others.

Shannon has been “convicted” of offering a bounty to his players to injure an opponent — a charge he unconvincingly denies. Chaney, on the other hand, readily admits he sent his Designated Elbow Thrower into a game the other night to punish Saint Joseph’s for setting moving screens — and insists he would do it again if an officiating crew ignored such illegality.

“I’m sending a message,” Chaney said afterward.

Yes, John, and the message is: It’s time to change your dosage.

We’ll deal with Shannon’s malfeasance first, because it’s just so off-the-charts. About the only thing missing is the Hanson brothers from “Slap Shot.” (Though there is a Hansen in the Michigan City front office — controller Michelle Hansen. She even wears glasses, just like Jeff, Steve and Jack in the movie, but not those hideous black-framed jobs.)

For those who haven’t heard of him, Shannon is a former Detroit cop and juniors coach who got his big break earlier this month when he was handed the reins of the struggling Mechanics of the United Hockey League. He was hired, insiders suspect, not because of his similarities to Scotty Bowman but because of his connections; he was able to get out-of-work Red Wings Derian Hatcher (a good friend), Chris Chelios and Kris Draper to play for the team while the NHL lockout dragged on.

That was the whole genesis of the Bounty Affair. You see, some people don’t think NHLers should be slumming in a league that’s only a cut above the double-runner level. One such person is Flint Generals forward Kevin Kerr, who recently scored his 664th goal to set a minor league record.

So when Motor City faced Flint on Feb.2, Shannon’s first game behind the bench, the coach and his assistant, ex-NHL (and Caps) ruffian John Blum, gave their underpaid minions a chance to make some extra cash, a league investigation found. Initially, Blum offered a $50 bonus for the first hit of the game but then doubled it for a hit on Kerr, and Shannon doubled it again to $200 for a hit that KO’d Kerr.

(They’d be greatly amused by this, no doubt, in Iraq, where they just held their first democratic elections. Here we are in the land of the free and the home of the First Amendment, and a hockey coach is trying to take out a rival player for having the audacity to speak his mind.)

When the UHL found out about the stunt, it came down hard on the two coaches, banning Shannon for the rest of the season and Blum for 10 games. Commissioner Richard Brosal called Shannon “a disgrace” and “an embarrassment to coaching” and told the Flint Journal it was “a sad day for any professional sport at whatever level. If anyone is condoning trying to hurt somebody, they need to get out of the business.”

The only reason he didn’t bar Shannon for life, he explained, is that it seemed superfluous. Who would touch the guy now?

You wouldn’t have wanted to touch Chaney on Tuesday night either … for fear of singeing your fingers. Boy, did he get hot when his defenders kept getting picked off — illicitly, he contends — by Phil Martelli’s Soulless Screeners. And we all know what happens when John loses his temper; he’s liable to do almost anything, even threaten to turn John Calipari into the late John Calipari.

That particular explosion came at a time when Temple was being rousted from the Atlantic 10 roost by UMass. This one comes after the Owls’ sixth straight loss to Saint Joe’s, which has now won five consecutive division titles. Clearly, Old Man Chaney doesn’t like the neighborhood kids playing in his yard. (He probably has a closet full of basketballs that bounced onto his property.)

Early in the second half against the Hawks, Chaney inserted seldom-seen Nehemiah Ingram, a 6-foot-8, 250-pound bruiser who has been whistled for 21 fouls in 54 minutes this season. Ingram gleefully played the heavy, scattering bodies from Camden to Conshohocken. He fouled out, with the help of a technical, in a mere four minutes (whereupon he returned to the bench and sat, Luca Brasi-like, for the rest of the evening).

“I’m sending a message,” Chaney said. “And I’m going to send in what we used to do years ago — send in the goons. … I’ve got two of them on my bench, and I’m going to use them. We try to play the game right. But when you’ve got two screens set up, and they’re moving …”

Fortunately, he came to his senses yesterday, imposing a one-game suspension on himself and terming his display “reprehensible.” Shannon remains unapologetic, though. Why, he’s not even sure he had $200 in his wallet that night — or so he claimed to the Detroit Free Press.

“I have to put some humor in this,” he said. “I can’t take it that seriously.”

Understandably so. I mean, his behavior certainly is a joke.

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