After starting the 2012-13 season with three straight road trips, the Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars (3-3) get their chance to play in front of a hometown crowd when they host the Western Royals at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace this weekend.
“We know there are people who are very excited with the way we started our season, so there are some very high expectations coming in,” says CeeBees’ captain Keith Delaney.
“We want to make sure we produce for the people in the community. They’re the ones supporting us and if they’re not happy with us, that’s not good for our hockey club.”
An uncharacteristically sluggish start to the team’s 2011-12 Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NLSHL) season led to a dip in attendance and overall fan support from the traditionally steadfast CeeBee fan base. The team dropped seven of its first eight games, most by one goal, and had only three wins at the Christmas break. While things improved in the new year and the CeeBees did make the playoffs, the accustomed level of fan support never really was achieved.
But with the squad already playing .500 hockey — following a sweep of the Gander Flyers, a split with the Caribous and back-to-back losses to the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts this past weekend — and a stable of new players in the mix, Delaney says there’s a different buzz around town.
“There’s been some big names brought in this year, and big names always attract a lot of attention,” says Delaney referring to new imports Mike Thomas and goalie Charles Lavigne, defenceman Doug O’Brien, acquired in a trade with the Royals, and Upper Island Cove native Robert Slaney.
“I could be wrong, but I’m thinking the last time (Slaney) played down at the rink was midget AAA, so he’s played a lot of hockey in between and a lot of people are looking forward to seeing him play.”
With Matthew Thomey living and working in western Canada, Delaney is once again the CeeBees captain, a role he hasn’t taken on since 2008-09.
“I’m thrilled to be part of the tradition again,” says Delaney. “I don’t consider myself the most vocal guy all the time, but I do try to lead by example and be committed on and off the ice to make our team the best it can be.”
With the Royals coming to town on the heels of two wins over the defending champion Caribous, the CeeBees will need to be at their best in what Delaney figures will be an “emotional weekend.”
“Not only for them, but for us too. We’re going to see some guys who were on our team last year, guys we battled with and for, and now we’re battling against them,” Delaney says, referring to Mark Tobin and goalie Doug Jewer.
Moreover, there’s a lot of history between CeeBees like Delaney and his brother Ryan, Mike Dyke and Daniel Sparkes and many of the Royals, including Mark Robinson, Darren Langdon, and Jake Easton. All played in the four straight Herder finals between C.B.N. and Deer Lake from 2005 to 2008.
As well, current CeeBee Ray Dalton was a member of the Red Wings for those four seasons.
“Hopefully, we can ride the wave of emotion and not get too high or too low and stick to our style of hockey.”
Delaney figures the Royals will play an “in-your-face style of hockey” in an effort to spoil the CeeBees’ home opener.
“We’re expecting a very tough, physical weekend of hockey from a well-rounded team, so we’ve got to use the energy from our home opener and our fans to match that because it’s going to be an extremely tough battle.”
The teams square off Saturday night at 7:30 with the rematch to follow Sunday afternoon at 1:30.