Crunch owner rubs Blast wrong way SOCCER

January 25, 1991|By Bill Free

Cleveland Crunch owner George Hoffman seems harmless enough.

He loves the recognition that comes with owning a sports franchise, and lives to gloat over a Crunch victory.

It's just that Hoffman sometimes lacks tact with opposing players and owners.

Such as the night last season when he walked into the Baltimore Blast locker room at Richfield Coliseum and said loudly to a friend: "I wish we could play Baltimore all the time because we usually win."

The Crunch just had beaten the Blast for the fourth straight time, and Hoffman's words were the last thing the Baltimore players wanted to hear.

Now, Blast owner Ed Hale is feuding with Hoffman, and is flying to Cleveland tonight (8:05 game at Richfield Coliseum) "to fire my team up to beat Cleveland. I don't like George Hoffman. I respect his team, but not him."

Hoffman has retaliated by saying:"I'll hold a 'I Hate Ed Hale' night if you come."

Why all the vitriol?

Hale said it began in the preseason, when Cleveland didn't uphold an agreement to take its players to Greensboro, N.C., a couple of days early to promote indoor soccer before a Blast-Crunch exhibition game.

In the past two weeks, the feud has escalated with some unkind words Hoffman had to say about the Blast in a Cleveland-area newspaper Sunday and a telephone call from Hoffman to Hale Saturday after the Crunch rallied from 5-1 down to beat the Kansas City Comets, 6-5, in overtime.

"He [Hoffman] called me up to brag about beating Kansas City," Hale said.

Hoffman says it is all in good fun.

"Why not have some fun?" asked Hoffman, who also might be hoping the controversy helps increase his attendance, which is averaging about 4,000.

Blast tonight

Opponent: Cleveland Crunch

Site: Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio, 8:05 p.m.

Radio: WCAO (600 AM)

Outlook: The Crunch can look like the best team in the MSL one night and, the next night, look like the last-place team it has been for two seasons. "Cleveland is devastating when they put it together," Blast coach Kenny Cooper said. Baltimore will be without G Scott Manning (sprained medial collateral ligament in right knee) and D Angelo Panzetta (out for season with torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn lateral meniscus).

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