Beau Erickson thought his job was more safe than it actually was. That’s the ultimate reason for the candid war of words waged Wednesday by the former Reign goalie against coach Jason Christie.
From the coach’s standpoint, the story goes like this:
Christie plans on playing J-F Berube a lot. The Kings’ 2009 fourth-round draft pick is fully healthy after off-season hip surgery and is eager to begin his first pro season. When picking a backup goalie, a player who might not appear in half the games over the course of a season, saving money is a priority. This has become a universal truth in the NHL and in this regard the ECHL is sometimes no different.
Even by the standards of the ECHL, where no player earned more than $26,000 last season, Erickson didn’t make much during his 29-game stint with the Reign. But it’s safe to say he got a raise over the summer and was set to make more than either Jase Weslosky or Dustin Carlson, who have 29 games of pro experience between them. Erickson and Weslosky were both re-signed by Karl Taylor, while Carlson was brought in on a tryout by Christie.
So when I asked Christie what went into the decision to cut Erickson, here’s what he had to say:
“I thought everybody competed hard. Beau’s a good
goaltender, we just feel comfortable with the way Weslosky and Dusty can
play. Getting Berube was a plus for us. That’s what we’re moving
I followed up by asking if it was a simple matter of Carlson and Weslosky outplaying Erickson in the preseason. Christie’s response:
“A lot of it is salary too. That plays into a lot
of it. You’re only allowed so much in the (salary) cap. At the end of
the day, that weighs into it quite a bit, too.”
Apart from his emotions, Erickson believes there’s more to it than that. As you’re about to find out, however, setting aside those emotions wasn’t easy. Here are Erickson’s responses to the pertinent questions (language warning in the fourth paragraph):
How did you find out you were getting cut?
This morning at about 9:30, (Christie) called me into his office and said, ‘we’re going to release you today,’ which was a shock to me considering I was head over heels the best goalie in camp. It was a complete shock and blindside. Pretty much my understanding was that it had nothing to do with my play. He felt disrespected by my agent in the big picture, to the contract that I had done with Karl to the things I was trying to get done with him. He felt the contract I did with Karl through my agent, we disrespected him. He tried to walk around the topic by saying ‘I don’t think I can give you what you need. It’s a big year for you and J-F is going to be our number one guy.’
He kind of bird-walked the whole topic in general. I’m pretty shocked at the whole situation. If that’s how he felt, he should’ve talked to me about it rather than pre-make the decision that you’re going to gas me, since I had other teams talking to me until Friday. He kept saying ‘you’re my guy, you’re my guy,’ then he decided to gas me.
I think the guy is full of shit. I think a lot of guys would be on the wire here, especially Karl’s previous signings. Two guys I’m worried about in particular, who were big guys last year. This guy is a different bird. He made a lot of promises to me and my agent.
Was he trying to work out a trade?
He didn’t try to trade me, he just outright released me.
What’s your next move?
I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve already had a couple phone calls. I might just decide to hang it up and be done with it. I thought Ontario was a place I was going to come this year and win a championship. You can’t have a better training camp than what I had. In testing I blew up every goalie and 95 percent of the players out of the water. They decide to keep two rookies and a rent-a-player? It’s a weird situation to wrap your head around. I wish my teammates the best of luck, but I can’t say anything positive on behalf of Christie. He couldn’t speak positively about anything. Numerous guys said, ‘what are you doing? Beau’s your number one guy, clear-cut.’
How do you think Christie was disrespected by the contract you signed?
There were things like verbal agreements that Karl and I had with my agent to me. Once Karl left, my agent spoke with Christie. Christie never called him back and my agent went to Justin (Kemp). The Blues spoke to Justin — the team that contacted me at the end of last year — and asked if I was going to be here. Christie felt intimidated, disrespected by that. I’m sorry, but this is a business as well.
I’ve been nothing but a great teammate since Day 1, even though I never played the first 15 games here (last season). It’s weird how I lose my job to a rookie, a rent-a-player and a player signed by L.A., although I understand that Berube’s assigned by the Kings.
If I’m any guy on that team, I’m worried about being in the hands of a rent-a-player and a player going straight from major juniors (to the ECHL).
Who on the Blues reached out to Justin directly?
I know for a fact Corey Hirsch, the goalie coach in St. Louis, talked to Justin. Justin told Corey Hirsch, the goalie coach in St. Louis, that I was going to be here. I lost a lot of respect for the organization and the way things were handled. The fans are great. I’ve received a million text messages.
I thought I was the best goaltender for this team, and I know there were plenty of guys in that locker room who felt the way I did. Coach (Mark) Hardy was a great guy as well.
It’s sad this is the way it’s ending. I felt this is a place my hockey career could’ve played out. This city deserves nothing but the best. It’s sad to see a situation like this, they’re going to go that way. I love playing in Ontario. I’m very lucky, very blessed for getting a chance to play here. If anyone were to ask about playing for Ontario or playing for Karl Taylor, I have nothing but the best things to say.
Kemp confirmed the conversation took place between he and Hirsch, but he made no guarantees about Erickson’s future at the time. “All I said was he was under contract with the Reign,” Kemp said. “I don’t make player personnel decisions. At the time, that was true.”
The team president had no hard feelings toward Erickson. “He’s very well respected among the organization and among fans,” Kemp said. “He’s a good leader. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet.”
Kemp is clearly trying to take the high road, but Erickson’s harsh comments make it hard not to choose sides. Calling Weslosky a “rent-a-player,” and not referring to him or Carlson by name, won’t win any points in that corner of the dressing room. Taylor’s plans for the goalie position didn’t matter once he took the job in Chicago, and if Erickson or his agent did try to go around Christie to get a guaranteed roster spot, that certainly didn’t win him any points with the new coach, either.
One still has to wonder why a trade couldn’t be worked out. Maybe Erickson’s salary was too much for another team to take on, or maybe it was a simple case where no ECHL team had the need. The latter seems hard to believe, given that Erickson had a strong camp, finished last season well and parlayed his ECHL credentials into an AHL gig in the Calder Cup playoffs (albeit a small one).
But why the vitriol?
Erickson took his release personally because he was personally invested in Ontario. His Reign-themed goalie mask looked great and said a lot about how much he wanted to be here. Maybe it was unreasonable for him to expect to play here long-term, given the astronomical turnover rate among ECHL goalies. Maybe it wasn’t. Like much of what Erickson said, saying “the fans are great; I’ve received a million text messages” came more from his heart than the part of our brain used to count text messages.
Hell hath no fury like a goalie scorned.