Future Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett is on a bike recuperating from an injury in 1993.
Thirty years ago this year, FrontRowSoccer.com Michael Lewis decided to spend a weekend with the Harrisburg Heat to discover what a team does on and off the pitch. This story is a sequel to Lewis’ 1992 story of the Heat becoming the first indoor team to win three road matches in as many nights (actually within 48 hours). Jim Pollihan was the Heat head coach (Pollihan’s family will hold a celebration of life for the former Rochester Lancers captain in Harrisburg, Pa. on Saturday). This story was originally published in the Jan. 30, 1992 edition of Soccer Week, a publication that covered the sport in the New York/New Jersey area, and is used with permission. There are several names you certainly will recognize from indoor and outdoor soccer, including Dan Kelly, Doug Miller and Mark Pulisic, among others. All photos with the piece were taken by Lewis.
By Michael Lewis
HARRISBURG, Pa. – After the Harrisburg Heat defeated the American leading Baltimore Spirit on Friday, Jan. 22, the players got a day off to catch their breath and prepare for their next challenge in the National Premier Soccer League – the National Division leaders Wichita Wings at home.
There still was plenty to do, whether it was a light practice, promoting the team at local businesses, rehabbing or teammates enjoying a night off together.
Saturday Jan. 23
No off day today
Farm Show Arena 11 a.m.
Several Heat players have a kick around on Saturday morning, a day between home games.
Harrisburg Heat head coach Jim Pollihan gave the team a day off, but it certainly was not a day off concerning the Heat.
Three players who hadn’t played much recently, defender Scott Henderson, Mark Pulisic and Joe Mallia had their own private practice session that lasted about 1 1/2 hours.
“We don’t see a lot of time and we have to stay fit,” Henderson said.
Anthony’s Soccer Connection,
Colonial Commons Shopping Plaza
5110 Jonestown Road
Kelly and Franklin McIntosh, heroes of Friday night’s victory, did not attend that little practice session. Instead, they were at Anthony’s Soccer Connection to meet and sign autographs with the fans.
Because soccer, including indoor soccer, is still in its growing stages, players need to make personal appearances to promote the team.
It was relatively quiet as the two players waited for fans. In the meantime, they walked around the store checking out uniforms, equipment and souvenirs.
Tony Ascani put on a video of the 12-9 victory over the Buffalo Blizzard from Jan. 17 on his VCR as talk in the store concerned soccer in general and Italian soccer in particular.
Finally, a family of four came in with a son and daughter. They approached the pair who were sitting at a table and talked about Friday night’s game.
Tschantret mentioned the skirmish that led to penalties. “That’s my evil twin brother,” he said.
1812-30 Paxton St.
Franklin McIntosh gives some pointers to children during a clinic.
In direct contrast. on the other side of town, the show room at Brennan Motors Dodge was a beehive of activity with soccer balls and children bouncing around.
Bill Becher and McIntosh put on a clinic for seven- to 12-year-olds. About a dozen or so kids participated.
“Get the ball rolling,” McIntosh said to a player.
“He has done it before,” he added, noticing some skill.
“Nice,” Macintosh said, complimenting a child.
A number of dribbling and skill drills were demonstrated by the players and attempted by the kids. In one game three children were pitted against either Becher or McIntosh. The essence of the game was to knock the ball between the opponent’s legs. If it happened, the participant was eliminated. As it turned out, the smallest player of the bunch, seven-year-old Jill Brenner managed to beat Becher.
“It was just luck,” she said later. “It was fun.”
It was difficult to figure out who had more fun – the players or the children.
“These are fun to do,” said Becher, who had teamed with Mcintosh to work clinics at local schools.
“It’s something you have to do,” McIntosh said. The community gets to know you. They see the human side. They see you as a person like everyone else.”
A good time seemingly was had by all.
“It’s just fun for the kids,” said Cheryl Brenner, Jill’s mother. “They learned something in the process.”
Brenner, which is an official Heat sponsor, did not sell any cars but perhaps a seed or two was planted for the future.
“Our objective is to meet new people and stimulate community interest to sell cars,” sales manager Tom Hower said.
Farm Show Arena
If you’re in sports management don’t expect to get weekends off during the season.
Jim Carabin, the Heat’s director of group sales and promotions, was at the arena, making sure an amateur tournament was going on as planned and making last minute plans and preparations for Sunday’s game against the Wichita Wings.
Carabin and the rest of the management were extremely happy about Friday night’s season high attendance of 5,218, which was due in part to a family night promotion. That was done four times a year – November January, February and March. The promotion included for $10 seats for popcorn, soda and a team pennant that turned out to be a $51 deal for $29.95.
“It’s a very popular promotion,” Carabin said. “It’s a family-oriented sport that we’re trying to target. We’re trying to get everyone in here before they make a decision about the Heat.”
The Jan. 30 match against the Canton Invaders was expected to surpass 5,200-plus attendance because of the unique promotion that Carabin worked out with local youth teams.
To compete in that indoor tournament, each team needed to sell 70 tickets for the game. The tourney had grown from 16 to 48 teams so nearly 3,000 tickets were expected from that.
But Carabin realized that not everything goes as planned in sports. He remembered a game from last season that pulled 6,200 against the Chicago Power. There was one hitch – there was no opponent. The Power was stranded in a snowstorm at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.
“We were told they were in the air,” Carabin said. “The mayor of Harrisburg was in touch with the airport. We had a police escort waiting. It was 66 degrees here and a blizzard in Chicago. It was a Saturday night and a great situation for us. It was just a nightmare.”
Needless to say, there was no game team honored the power tickets for future games.
Denis Hamlett works out on a bicycle.
Karkuff, Linnington and Hilbolt Therapy Center
Trainer Craig Sherrick and rookie defender Denis Hamlett arrived at Karkuff, Linnington and Hilbolt Therapy Center.
“This is one thing they don’t want to do,” Sherrick said.
Maybe, maybe not.
Pulisic and Tschantret were scheduled to come in but they opted to go earlier in the day. Talk about dedication.
Hamlett had a patella femoral. In other words, he had a floating kneecap that was being cared for. He also was undergoing therapy for a hip injury. His therapy lasted 60-90 minutes. The breakdown: 15 minutes in the whirlpool, 15 minutes on a stationary bike, several minutes of stretching a bit, 10 minutes on a pulling machine and then work on leg presses.
Hamlett’s injuries hadn’t caused him to miss any matches, but he wanted to be in tip-top shape.
“If I wasn’t doing this kind of stuff, I’d be going to the game at 70 percent,” he said. “I enjoy coming in today after a game. You’re stiff. When I leave here, I’ll feel so much better.”
While Hamlet rode the bicycle Sherrick talked about his work.
“Players probably spend more time here than at practice,” he said. “Modern medicine is catching up to us. If somebody’s hurt today, don’t treat them tomorrow, treat them today. That’s why we’re able to get a guy back in three weeks from an injury that takes six-eight weeks of recovery.”
For example, defender Todd Smith had a turf burn. He didn’t do anything about it immediately and wound up with an infection. Sherrick said that every player knew his home phone number, his page number and his 24-hour answering service number.
Even though he’s behind the bench for every game, Sherrick admitted that he misses a lot of the action. “I rarely see a play,” he said. “An injury doesn’t happen near the play. I want to know what happened to a player when I get out there.”
And when he does?
“You have 30 to 60 seconds to make a decision,” Sherrick said. “You have to think fast. I take my time on the field. I’ll call a doctor on the field. If you don’t do it on the field, you’re doing it on the bench. The clock’s ticking. It’s a Catch-22.”
Mark Pulisic makes some dinner with a teammate on a night off.
Town and Country Apartment Complex
Pulisic and his girlfriend Kelly went to the Hendersons. Scott and Melissa, for dinner and a quiet evening. The men helped prepare the meal – chicken cutlets, rice and corn – in the kitchen. After dinner, the two couples watched a movie, Cape Fear, played Pictionary and talked about soccer.
“It was a relaxing evening before the game,” Pulisic said.
Soccer players have a lot of free time,” he added. Pulisic had done some refereeing at night to make some extra money. During the day, he also did volunteer work twice a week at children’s wards for cancer and AIDS victims at local hospitals.
“It’s something that I wanted to do,” Pulisic said.
Henderson remembered his days with the Dayton Dynamo when he ran a concession stand at an indoor soccer facility in Dayton and was involved in a number of community-oriented projects through the team. For example, on Thanksgiving, the team served dinner to the homeless.
Next: Part III: Finishing off a memorable weekend in style