The Manchester Monarchs’ return to home ice this weekend won’t be pretty.
The Monarchs (26-12-6) host Worcester tonight at 7 at Verizon Wireless Arena. On Saturday, Portland comes to visit for a 7 p.m. game on “Los Angeles Kings Night.” Manchester will wear a jersey formerly worn by its NHL affiliate.
And what a jersey it is.
Considered by many fans to be one of the worst NHL sweaters ever and dubbed the “Burger King” jersey for the king’s head on the front bearing a striking resemblance to the fast food king himself, the Monarchs will don the Kings’ third jersey from 1995-96.
Over the summer, the Monarchs asked fans to vote on which former L.A. jersey the team should wear for Kings Night. The choices were the classic gold and purple sweaters with the jewel-adorned crown from the 1970s, the purple-based redesign from the early 2000s ... and “the King.”
Popular hockey blog Puck Daddy on Yahoo.com urged fans to “force” the Monarchs to wear that last option and vote for the king...and people listened. Coming in with 75 percent of the votes, the garish jersey won out easily.“We were overwhelmed with the response the jersey vote received and we owe a lot of thanks to Puck Daddy for helping spread the word about our Kings Night contest, as well as Monarchs hockey across the country,” said Monarchs vice president of public affairs Kim Mueller. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the winning jersey may not be attractive to everyone, but it was worn in so few games in Los Angeles that it has become a collector’s item. The Monarchs players are excited to wear them and we’re glad we can provide what has turned into an iconic jersey for fans to add to their collections.”The jerseys will be auctioned off after the game with proceeds going to the Monarchs Care Foundation.Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said he doesn’t care so much about the jersey as he does about the player wearing it.“What is it? Have it your way at Burger King?” Morris joked. “I’m not sure about that selection, but it’s just material. It’s the heart inside the jersey, that’s my only concern.”
The Monarchs are once again dealing with roster shakeups. Veteran defenseman Jeff Schultz and scoring prodigy Tyler Toffoli were called up to L.A. Wednesday while forwards Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey were sent back to Manchester.
Additionally, Cameron Burt and Maxim Kitsyn were assigned to Ontario of the ECHL. And then there was second-leading scorer Brandon Kozun, who was traded to Toronto for Andrew Crescenzi, a 6-foot-5 checking specialist.
“I’m not privy to all the information that came out of that trade but I was of the impression that he was looking for a fresh opportunity after being here four seasons,” Morris said. “He thought a change of scenery would reinvigorate his opportunities to possibly get a look at the NHL level.”
Crescenzi was expected in town today but it was not known if he would be ready to play this weekend or need some practice time to acclimate. It’s not an offense-for-offense swap as Kozun had 10 goals and 19 assists and Crescenzi had one of each.
Coming off a tough road trip to Newfoundland where the Monarchs dropped two of three games against the IceCaps, Manchester had another challenging week with shortened practice time and another crash course in chemistry with new line combinations coming out of all the transactions.
“It’s par for the course,” Morris said. “There’s a lot of moving parts there and we’ll do our best to try and solidify our lineup and get everybody up to speed.”
Following Saturday’s Kings Night festivities, the Monarchs will close the weekend on the road at Worcester Sunday at 3 p.m.