Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who's really behind the mask?

Is Stalock really Stalock?

For the better part of the last three seasons, Alex Stalock has backstopped the Duluth Bulldogs. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, this was to less than stellar results: 9th and 8th place finishes in the WCHA standings. His WCHA stats tell the tale (overall stats were not used due to the copious amount of non-conference cupcakes on Duluth’s schedule).

2006/07: 3-12-2, 3.16 GAA, 0.889 Save % - 13th & 14th in the WCHA respectively (NHL starter Brian Elliott was 1st in both GAA and Save %)

2007/08: 9-14-5, 2.49 GAA, 0.912 Save % - both 9th in the WCHA

Fast forward to this season, Duluth is currently in 6th place in the WCHA after a sweep of Mankato and is knocking on CC’s backdoor looking to jump into the top 5. Through all of this, somehow, someway, Alex Stalock is leading the WCHA is both GAA (2.34) and Save % (0.920).

Something here doesn’t add up so the 60 Minutes, No Alibis, No Regrets Blog sent our crack team of researchers and investigators to Duluth to get to the real scoop on the transformation of Alex Stalock, from a great big sieve to a sieve w/ better stats. I think you’ll be surprised by what we found: the person behind the mask (literally) is no longer Alex Stalock.

While the # and name remain the same, the person underneath this jersey is a different person entirely. Who is this person? A former Russian pro hockey goalie, who to protect his identity will be referred to as “Vladimir”. The picture to the left shows a Russian goalie, could this be “Vladimir”?

Realizing that his team was going no where w/ Alex Stalock in net, Duluth Men’s Coach Scott Sandelin had to do something, to not only make a run for the MacNaughton Cup, but to save his own job. Coach Sandelin reached out to Russia in his time of need, not unlike others in his athletic department.

The model for this decision began w/ the Duluth’s Women’s team, properly called the Duluth Foreign Legion (DFL). The DFL has the highest concentration of European players of any team in the WCHA. For the record, we don’t consider Canadians foreign players. Instead of giving scholarships to worthy North American women, the DFL reaches across the ocean. Last season, DFL coach Shannon Miller brought in a formerly compensated Russian hockey player named Iya Gavrilova. The NCAA slapped the DFL’s hand for the obvious infraction, but since its not football or basketball, didn’t really do anything about it. A light went on in Scott Sandelin’s head and he accessed the following equation:

Shannon Miller + previously paid Russian player = Cheating

Cheating + NCAA’s blind eye = National Championship

“Vladimir’s” background in Russia was a prefect fit to step in and pretend to be someone else. Before becoming a professional hockey player, “Vladimir” was a child actor. His most famous role was that of a child w/ an extra limb who grew up near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in a show roughly translated into English as Communism is Great! The show was a hit throughout Russia (for the hundreds of people who had TVs to watch it) and “Vladimir” became a star.

A school administrator who supports his coaches breaking NCAA rules had the following to say, “’Vlad’s’ acting ability is paramount to him playing the role of Alex Stalock. What other goalie does such asinine things as wandering way out of his net, or swinging his stick at opponents and taking roughing penalties after the whistle. ‘Vladimir’ captures all of this perfectly, otherwise how would we be able to pull this off?”

The entire situation had been kept a secret to anyone not associated w/ the team until this point. Why expose the story now? Plain and simple, the NCAA did nothing to the DFL who should have forfeiting any games that Iya Gavrilova played in and been barred from post season play. Why wouldn’t the same happen to the Men’s team. A tainted season w/ a tainted championship isn’t so bad is it?

Most parents and fans took the news of “Vladimir” in stride, its nothing new on the North Shore. There were a few who weren’t so happy about the news though. One of those people was a fan of Brady Hjelle, a freshman goalie at Duluth and current backup to “Vladimir”. “When I found out it all finally made sense. Brady is a pretty good goalie and the Alex Stalock I’ve watched the previous two seasons is a complete disaster. I figured Brady would get some PT this season mabye even start, but what are you going to do against a Russian? I knew the Cold War ending was going to screw someone over.”

Coach Sandelin’s offer wasn’t immediately accepted by “Vladimir”, but as winter set in (in August) he was glad that he made the trip. W/ a heavy accent he told us, “Duluth is much like Siberia. Very cold, dumpy buildings. I feel at home.”

The San Jose Sharks who previously drafted Alex Stalock would not comment on the record, but off the record were relieved by Duluth’s decision so they wouldn’t have to break the bad news to the kid in the future.

In the end Coach Sandelin was left to create his own equation for success this season. Ufortunately for him, some parts didn’t fall in place like they did for the DFL.

Scott Sandelin + illegal Russian goalie = cheating

Cheating + utter lack of talent = road trip for the 1st round of the WCHA playoffs

For all the hard work and planning, it appears another sad ending is coming Duluth’s way to end this season.

The story does not end there though; what happened to the real Alex Stalock?

No one in the athletic department was willing to tell us what happened to him. All they would say is that he is still involved w/ the team, but in a non-competitive manner. One official went as far to say, “…he’s not even good enough to be a walk-on goalie…”

This wasn’t a good enough answer so our staff dug deeper and eventually found the answer. Alex Stalock is now the man behind the bulldog mascot at hockey games. The picture to the left shows the real Alex Stalock in the guise of the mascot Chump the bulldog. He is holding a child who is obviously frightened.

His fall from the ranks of a WCHA starter to the man behind a mascot has been tough, and he was not willing to provide comment. The pangs of sadness hit their peak during games when the student section chants “Stalock, Stalock!” not knowing he is no longer the man behind the mask. If one looks really close, they can see a big fuzzy mascot tear roll down Chump’s cheek.