Friday, May 12, 2006



Someone approached me in reference to last week’s column and shared the following: “As I read the column about the “stuck up” people from Academy of the Sacred Heart, I couldn’t help feel there was a punch line coming, none did. I thought for sure you would lampoon Brian Green or Eric Schaefer or somebody from the Academy, but you were serious.” The fact is my son Joe has two lovely young classmates named Kalei Riggs and Courtney Hughes, both of which have dads who probably are not volunteer subscribers to this fine weekly, but they are Sacred Heart Dads, which to me means something. No, believe me, I am not above lampooning anyone – as a matter of fact, from my perspective nothing is sacred, except maybe music, Romeo and Juliet and Sacred Heart Parents.

You see the education received at ASH is really all encompassing – it really is a way of life. For example, I know a gentleman who was in the first graduating class that allowed boys. This gentleman helped me coach the Titan baseball team for a year or two, and at first I didn’t know how to read him – he was always so darn upbeat and positive and saying nice things about everyone – even the umpires. I just couldn’t take it. No one can be that darn upbeat all the time, or so I thought. No, Tom Clark, a graduate of ASH might just be the most sincere, kind and giving person I have ever met. He impressed me so that during games I would bounce my every thought off of him to insure I was not making an ass out of myself. His son, Andrew Clark no longer plays with the Titans, but has been known to show up and cheer his fellow teammates on to victory (we have a team saying, “once a Titan, always a Titan.”). Tom is such a caring person that I sometimes call him and ask his advice on life in general. O.K., so I am modifying the last sentence in the first paragraph to read “…except maybe music, Romeo and Juliet, Sacred Heart Parents, especially Tom Clark.”

On to sports, or rather sport’s management. Has anyone been paying attention, or is it just me, that the Family Arena either (a) doesn’t care that they cannot hold a minor league team, or (b) doesn’t know what it takes to keep a minor league team. Let’s count the teams they have lost in the past 6 years or so: St. Louis Swarm (basketball), St. Louis Steamers (soccer), RiverCity Rage (football) and now the Missouri River Otters (hockey). Frankly, the building looks terrible. I’ve contacted my County Council person, Joe McColloch, no less than five times, pointing out that there are so many bulbs burned out on the marquee, that when approaching from the south, one cannot read the message. It just keeps getting worse.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting the staff is not doing their job. Every employee I have ever come in contact with goes out of their way to make guests feel welcome. I’m suggesting that maybe someone much higher up might not be doing their job. I cannot but help think the County misses the $300,000 withheld by Saint Charles City.

And for St. Charles City residents, will not the failure to make the $300,000 debt service payment to the County result in additional interest payments – payments made with tax dollars. Sounds to me like a story for Louis to look into – he likes that investigative type of stuff.

We welcome back the “FCN High School Athlete of the Week.” Remember, if you would like to nominate a St. Charles City resident contact me at 314.280.9189 or

First Capitol News High School Athlete of the Week
Duchesne senior Matt Pohlman ready to finish baseball career with a bang.

By: Mike McMurran
Sports Editor

Duchesne senior outfielder/pitcher Matt Pohlman has been playing varsity baseball now for head coach Patrick Steagall for four years, so it is safe to say Steagall probably knows Pohlman rather well. “It would sound so cliché to say Matt ‘leads by example,’ or the other popular phrase is ‘he is a rah-rah type of leader.’ With Matt you never know what he is going to do, but you know it will be for the benefit of the entire team. Is he a team leader? Yeah, but he is so much more, he provides, I don’t know, intangible leadership.”

Pitching, Matt has a perfect 5-0 mark going into the final week of regulation play. But its his bat that the opposition had better pay the closest attention. Matt leads the team in runs scored (24), hits (31), singles (24), doubles (6) and RBI’s (20). Last Friday he went 5 for 9, scored 3 runs while driving in 6 as the Pioneers swept cross-town rival St. Charles 12-4 and 11-5 in a twi-night doubleheader.

An interview with Duchesne baseball player Matt Pohlman:

Age: 18; throws R/bats R
With whom do you live: Parents, Alan and Joyce Pohlman, St. Charles City
Where did you attend grade school: St. Cletus
When did you first start playing baseball: I’ve been playing baseball for as long as I can remember. I guess I started playing tee-ball when I was 4 years old or so
Do you play any other sports: Football and basketball
Favorite sport: Football, I love football and that is what I am going to play in college (Editor’s note: my kind of guy!)
Fondest baseball moment: Hitting a home run in the district title game my freshman year. We lost 4-3 to St. Charles West.
Fondest moment in sports: Making it to the state semifinals in football this year. We were beat by Affton.
Have you set any personal goals this season: Drive in at least 25 runs and lead the GAC (Gateway Athletic Conference) in runs scored
Team goals: Getting out of districts is our first goal. Once out of districts anything can happen.
Have you anyone special in baseball you look up to: My brother Scott has taught me pretty much everything I know about baseball, basketball and football. He is so much more than a big brother to me, I really can’t explain it
What about your role model in life: No doubt about it, my dad. What can I say, he did a pretty good job of teaching me right from wrong – I will carry that with me wherever I go in life.
Favorite subject in school: English (Editor’s note: I really do like this kid!)
Favorite teacher: My religion teacher, Dr. Guido Stucco
Advice for underclassmen: Give 100% at practice, if you practice hard you will naturally play hard
Any final thoughts: My grandpa has made every game I have ever played in since the 7th grade, and that is a lot of games. In 7th grade I made a traveling team and we would play 100 games a year. Right before I made that team my grandma, Mary Pohlman died. When I look into the stands and see my grandpa I get a strange, yet special feeling that my grandma is sitting right next to him. I know it sounds corny, but it helps me play better.
The restaurant question: Ah man, I don’t know. I would probably go to Bristol’s (Bristol Bar and Seafood Grill) and order 5 or six crappie plates. I can eat some crappie.

United Hockey League
Finger-Pointing Time
Fans Express Concerns With Their Teams League-Wide

By Louis J. Launer

The United Hockey League season has only been over here in Missouri for almost a month, yet fans and a few movers and shakers have become quite vocal over the situation concerning the Missouri River Otters.

To some of the “experts,” the collapse of the River Otters as an organization was not a surprise. Yet it still leaves fans scratching their heads as to why Mike Shanahan, Jr. decided to “pull the plug” on the team.

The fan reaction to a comment that Shanahan said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch left bad tastes in some mouths. Shanahan referred to the operation of the River Otters organization as a “hobby.” The mutual reaction of the fans was “I can’t believe he said that.” Most fans, including season ticket holders who paid $2,000 to $3,000 for season tickets for River Otter games, felt that Shanahan had really no interest in the team, except last season, when the NHL lockout made the River Otters and the UHL the only game in the area.

But not all UHL teams are hobbies. Michael Franke, who is part owner of the Fort Wayne Komets, is a very serious businessman and his family has operated the Komets franchise for decades, the last ten of those years in the United Hockey League.

“It’s really a good league and great hockey,” Franke said while in St. Charles for the UHL All-Star Classic in January. “If a front office puts enough effort and builds a team and promotes it, it can be fairly successful. But it takes time to build a team.”
The Rockford IceHogs eliminated Franke’s Fort Wayne Komets in the first round of this year’s Colonial Cup playoffs. Rockford was a team who spent years at the bottom of the UHL standings after being a transplanted team from Thunder Bay, Ontario. But after some changes in the front office and improvements to their 7,000-seat facility the MetroCentre, the IceHogs wound up in first place in the UHL’s Western Division and the number 3 seed in the Colonial Cup playoffs. They are currently facing the number-one seed Kalamazoo Wings.

Like the Komets, the Wings also have had a long minor league history, but have only been in the UHL for six seasons. Kalamazoo has one of the smaller and older hockey arenas, known as Wings Stadium. It only seats 4,000—plus there is free parking at the facility. In the last three seasons, the Wings have built themselves up to become a winning franchise, both in the front office and on the ice. They were the UHL’s Franchise of the Year in 2003-04. This season, the Wings won the Tarry Cup, being the team posting the best regular season record. The Wings’ coach, Mark Reeds was the UHL’s Coach of the Year in 2003-04 and 2004-05. This year, the Wings could win the Colonial Cup championship if they continue their winning ways in their current semi-final series. What is ironic about the Wings was that several of their players, front office personnel and Coach Mark Reeds were with the River Otters only a few seasons ago.

For some fans, a little of the blame of the River Otters’ second demise points directly to the United Hockey League and their offices in Lake Saint Louis. There are a few fans who feel that since the league office is in St. Charles County, that there would be more effort to keep a franchise just 25 miles away. Some fans who feel they are hockey experts claim the UHL referees and off-ice officials are worse than amateur and high school hockey. Yet, even a further minority of fans feels that the officiating problems are deliberate. The UHL itself claims that it is fan loyalty that is overextended.

“This is the time of the year where fans feel that their team should have been better and place the problems on the officials and us,” said UHL media relations representative Brian Werger. “A team has to win and a team has to lose.”

Werger denies that the UHL does anything deliberate to favor a game. But many fans are honestly demanding a better hockey product from the United Hockey League—better players, better operational personnel and stable franchises. Fans would like to see more fan participation in some of the teams; something more than just a booster club that most minor league franchises have and the league endorses. The lack of opportunities for fan participation was one of the claims Missouri fans did not go to as many hockey games in the last four seasons. Some fans say they aren’t asking much as far as improvements. But some loyal fans would expect the UHL to award them something for being at the games, yet feel that their team and also the league dejected them, especially at the end of the season.

The UHL has been recognized for awarding franchises to certain markets, expecting them to succeed outstandingly. By the end of the season, there is a good chance that the franchise fails, folds or gets relocated. There is a claim by most fans that it happens much more in the UHL compared to other leagues in their same AA caliber. The fans have a point. The UHL has had at least four franchise moves, failures and additions in the last five seasons. Its ratio of failures is more than what the ECHL and CHL have encountered in the same time span. However the ECHL is much bigger and lost franchises this season due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, since a number of their franchises are along the Gulf coast.

Even the UHL’s cornerstone franchises, such as the Quad City Mallards, Flint Generals and Fort Wayne Komets have fans that feel that their teams should step up to a better level of hockey, more to the style of the American Hockey League, the AAA level of the minor leagues. Just recently, there was a fan movement to try to get the Quad City Mallards to move to the AHL. But it was quashed when the new owners of the franchise announced that it was remaining in the UHL.

Missouri River Otter fans have wanted a further explanation from the team and the league as to why the team has crashed and burned for a second time in three years. Some fans feel they haven’t been told everything. Some fans are fed up with the UHL for remaining quiet.

This past week, St. Charles County, under mounting pressure now that Family Arena could be completely tenant-less in the second half of 2006, has begun their search for a buyer of the Missouri River Otters franchise and also looking at other hockey minor leagues for a team to occupy the Family Arena.

We have repeatedly asked UHL Commissioner Richard Brosal for an interview and further explanation into some of the fans’ concerns. But he continues to be unavailable for comment.