By Eddie Graveline, Glovedropper.com
Just when you thought the hockey season was over and you wouldn't be hearing from the Fresno Monsters until August or September, a shocking story has emerged and the Central Valley's hockey team finds itself knee deep in some dirty stuff.
According to a report by AmericanJuniorHockey.com's Stephen Heisler, several Fresno Monster players, as well as members of the coaching staff, are facing criminal charges after some very unorthodox training. The following is the report, as posted on Heisler's website.
Twenty-seven members of the Fresno Monsters hockey team face criminal charges following complaints that players beefed up by chasing cows during their off-ice training.
The coach and squad were arrested for trespassing and obstruction of justice as a result of a bizarre team practice on Thursday.
Sheriff's deputies were called to Organic Pastures Dairy after the owner reported a large group of young men were running through their pasture disturbing the livestock.
"I went outside and asked them to leave and they totally ignored me," Mark McAfee, the owner of the farm, said yesterday. "We were concerned about one of the players getting kicked or the dairy cows running through the fence."
Mr. McAfee said the cows do not appear to have suffered any long-term trauma from the incident, but were definitely spooked by the burly players running in circles around their favorite feeding grounds.
Eric Ballard, coach and general manager of the team, said the reports of misconduct have been blown out of proportion. The players, aged between 16 and 20, were taking part in a 90-minute run as part of a special strength and conditioning program, he said.
"The idea is to run through the cow crap, run through the barriers, break down the walls and just focus your mind on the cardio work," Mr. Ballard said. "It's something out of the ordinary, something that is not harmful to anyone. We don't have any interaction with the dairy cows."
Mr. Ballard said the club, which has been in existence since last year, used the same fenced-in field for its "hell run" last season and no one complained.
The Monsters are scheduled to appear in district court to answer to the charges later this month. Mr. Ballard said the team has advised players to hire a lawyer.
News of the Monsters' unorthodox training methods has rival teams scratching their heads.
"I guess every coach has different ideas on how to get his guys into shape," said Josh Hauge, coach of the Fairbanks Icedogs. Hauge said he will use the incident to psych up his players when the two teams meet next season.
"We're going to have a good chuckle at the rink," he said. "I don't think the other teams are going to let them forget this."
I haven't personally been able to confirm this report with members of the Monsters organization or the Sheriff's department yet, but keep your eye on this site, as well as American Junior Hockey for continuing developments.