Radio pranks enrage Flyers
Saturday, May 1, 2004
By CHUCK GORMLEY
A Toronto radio station muddied the line between humor and gamesmanship on Wednesday when it had someone knock on the hotel room door of Flyers goaltender Robert Esche at 5 a.m., saying he ordered room service.
Flyers Chairman Ed Snider, in Toronto for the Flyers' heated playoff series with the Maple Leafs, found no humor in the prank.
"I think it's a disgrace," Snider said. "And I don't think it's at all funny."
According to Snider, radio host Todd Shapiro of Toronto's 102.1 FM, The Edge , sent someone to the third floor of the Fairmount Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto and had him bang on the door, waking the Flyers' 26-year-old goaltender on the same day he played Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre.
"I knew what was going on, so I didn't even bother answering it," said Esche, who said he also received phone calls before daybreak. "I put the `Do Not Disturb' on the phone and they still patched it through. Childish, but it's actually funny when you look at it."
Flyers General Manager Bob Clarke didn't think so.
"What kind of person walks up to a hotel room door and starts banging on it at 5 in the morning," Clarke said. "What's wrong with them? What crosses the line between doing your job and harassment?"
Flyers center Jeremy Roenick had a similar incident happen to him during last year's playoffs, but the savvy 16-year veteran looked through his door's eye hole to see someone holding a plant. He quickly filled a bucket of water from his hotel room sink and threw it on the unsuspecting prankster.
Shapiro's antics did not end at the Flyers' hotel. He also followed Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock and his assistants, Craig Hartsburg and Wayne Fleming, into a Tim Horton's doughnut shop, where he proceeded to ridicule him over a bullhorn live on radio.
"He just burst in and started yelling at them and tried to sit at their table," Clarke said.
Shapiro did not return a message left on his voice mail.
Clarke said Hitchcock was also verbally abused by a rabid Maple Leafs fan on his way from the Air Canada Center to the Flyers' hotel a block away after a practice this week.
"A car pulled over to him and this idiot sticks his head out and screams, `You're lucky you weren't walking in the road, you (bleep), or you would have been run over.'
"People up here are crazy. It wasn't like this when I played. It's gotten nasty. What gives people the right to do these things, just because we work for a hockey team?"
The Flyers are expected to return to the Royal York on Monday if a Game 6 is necessary on Tuesday night. If that is the case, the players are expected to book their rooms under aliases to avoid similar disturbances.