A day after being relieved of his duties as the head coach of the Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars, Cory Crocker says he was “done dirty” by the organization.
“We were always taught growing up that there’s a lot of loyalty in hockey, but loyalty wasn’t served yesterday,” Crocker said from Amherst, N.S., where he is the town’s physical activity coordinator.
Crocker says he was contacted Monday morning by executive members Ralph Earle and Marty Gregory, who informed him his services would no longer be required. He says he was told by Earl and Gregory the reason for his dismissal was the team’s 7-15-1 record this season, a record that included losing streaks of a five and 10 games.
“At the time, I asked who made the decision and they basically told me not all the executive members were contacted because (some) are close to me or my friend.”
Crocker, who calls that “a lame excuse,” would not specify which members of the executive Earle and Gregory were referring to.
Neither Earle or Gregory could be reached for comment Tuesday night.
The Telegram was able to learn the team’s executive also includes, but is not limited to, Paul Kennedy, Doug Moores, Joey George, Bob Craig, Derrick Edwards, Tracey Shute and assistant coaches, Peter George and Ian Moores, the latter a life-long friend of Crocker’s having come up through the CeeBees minor hockey system together.
There has been no formal announcement on whether Peter George and/or Ian Moores will be coaching the team in the upcoming playoffs.
Crocker’s firing comes on the heels of the team clinching fourth place and just days before a Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NLSHL) semifinal series with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.
“No one likes losing, and someone has to take the fall for it, but the timing is very, very bad,” Crocker says.
CeeBees captain Keith Delaney, who found out about the decision to axe Crocker via email Monday morning, says losing a coach feels the same as losing a teammate.
“You want everyone who is committed at the start of the year to see it through and for the team to have success, and when everybody’s not there in the end, it’s disappointing,” he said.
“There’s so much going on right now and so many mixed emotions with being on a high, having such a good last couple of games heading into the playoffs. Then all of a sudden your coach is told he’s longer in wanted because the executive made a decision on the future of the hockey team.”
But Delaney says with all the distractions and adversity the team has faced this season and recent sacrifices on the part of the players — including an unpaid road trip to Deer Lake for a two-game set with the Western Royals — that Crocker’s firing can’t get in the way of what has to happen on the ice.
“It’s unfortunate Cory’s not going to be part of it, and that this (is a ) side of sport. But as a team that has loyal fans who want us to succeed and with everyone making sacrifices, we can’t lose sight of what we set out to do,” Delaney explains.
‘Proper executive’ needed, says Crocker
Crocker, a native of Harbour Grace, says he’ll never turn his back on the CeeBees or his hometown. Still, being fired by the team he grew up hearing stories about, and a team he helped to find its way back to the Herder Memorial Trophy finals for the first time in over 30 years in 2005 as a play-making centreman, has left a sour taste in his mouth.
“I’m bitter about the whole situation because of my pride for the CeeBees organization.”
And organization, he says, which needs to undergo some significant changes at the executive level if it has any hope of a future in the high-priced and ultra-competitive NLSHL.
“If people from the C.B.N. region do not come together and form a proper executive where you have a president, take minutes at a meeting, pass motions, have proper fundraising and sponsorship and everything is transparent, there will not be a team in C.B.N. ... bottom line.
“To build a winning team, and a winning atmosphere, you don’t push good people away.”