Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, August 3, 1999

I P F L _ F O O T B A L L

co-owner will meet,
discuss playoffs

George Hetherington will meet
with players and coaches tonight
to resolve whether they
decide to play or not

By Pat Bigold


Hawaii Hammerheads players said yesterday that many of them have lost substantial time from their regular jobs to make league road trips and some have even quit their jobs to continue playing.

Most are living frugally, week to week, their lives revolving around the struggling pro franchise.

Eddie Klaneski, Hawaii's all-purpose yardage leader, said he and his teammates have done it for pride, $200 a game, and a slim chance of being invited to play in a bigger, higher-paying league like the Canadian Football League, Arena Football or even the National Football League.

The two-time IPFL defensive player of the week said that's why co-owner George Hetherington's cold, hard financial logic about the Hammerheads is hard to swallow.

The second-place Hammerheads are drowning in a sea of red, and Hetherington said the ownership simply cannot afford to host the first game of the Indoor Professional Football League playoffs on Aug. 14.

Hawaii (10-5) earned the home field advantage with Sunday's 24-20 win over the Louisiana Bayou Beast (5-10).

But paid attendance at the Blaisdell Arena has been over 1,000 only twice this season. Hetherington said that makes going to the arena of third-place Mississippi look a lot more attractive. The Firedogs had more than 4,000 paying fans the last time Hawaii played in Biloxi.

It will all come to a head tonight as players, Hawaii head coach Guy Benjamin and Hetherington, who has remained on the front line during the controversy, meet to decide the team's immediate future.

"It's kind of bad the owners put us in this position," said Klaneski.

If Hawaii, the hottest team in the IPFL with eight wins in its last 10 games, is forced to yield the right to host a playoff game, Klaneski and his teammates have said they might refuse to go to Mississippi.

They say they have spent too much time on the road this year - a whole month of games at one stretch - and don't want to leave the state again.

Klaneski said if the team does decide to go but has to leave behind more than one or two key starters on either side of the ball who have irreversible family or job commitments, there would be no purpose to the trip.

If the players decide not to travel again, Hetherington said he will pull Hawaii out of the playoffs.

If that happens, Klaneski said there's no point in the Hammerheads even playing their final regular-season home game against the Louisiana Bayou Beast tomorrow night at the Blaisdell Arena.

"It's up to the players," said Hetherington.

Hetherington said that his owners are already between a rock and a hard place because they must try to reserve about $22,000 worth of nonrefundable plane tickets to Austin, Texas, in case Hawaii beats Mississippi.

The Texas Terminators (11-4) will host the championship on Aug. 21.

Klaneski said that when Hawaii lost in Mississippi on July 17, the team was missing key players like productive running back Niko Vitale, three-time IPFL defensive player of the week Chris Paogofie and two critical offensive linemen.

Vitale has already quit his job to keep playing.

"A lot of the guys are really making a sacrifice," said Hammerheads quarterback Tim Carey, who is not working at a regular job.

"Just about everybody wants a ticket to the next level. There's no better way to get noticed than to win a championship. Giving up our home field for a playoff game is just unbelievable."

One original Hammerhead, quarterback Brian Ah Yat, signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL several weeks ago.

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