By Kenn Oliver—The Telegram
and Terry Roberts—Compass Editor
After six seasons and four Herder Memorial Trophy titles as a member of the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars, Keith Delaney figured he would finish his Newfoundland senior hockey career with the CeeBees.
So it came as somewhat of a shock when the 34-year-old Delaney learned he and his 31-year-old brother Ryan, had been traded by C.B.N. to the Clarenville Caribous.
He acknowledged having heard trade rumours recently, but nevertheless was surprised when those rumours became reality.
“I never asked to be traded. I still would have liked to remain a CeeBee,” Keith Delaney told The Telegram Wednesday night.
“I know no one is untouchable, but (considering the CeeBees’) success from last season and over the years, when I first I got the call I wasn’t mad, by no means, but it was an unexpected feeling that came over me.
“I thought, ‘OK, my CeeBees days are done.’ I guess it’s time to start a new chapter in my hockey career.”
The trade sees the Delaneys, both forwards, shipped to the ‘Bous, along with the team’s second-round draft pick (eighth overall), for another set of brothers, Matthew and Mitchell Bragg, as well as Brandon Street and Andrew Hill.
The Braggs and Street are forwards from Bonavista. Hill is a defenceman from Torbay.
The CeeBees also get Clarenville’s first-round pick in the upcoming season’s selection draft.
“If I’m going to be traded, Clarenville seems to be a great destination,” said Keith, adding that feeling was confirmed by his brother, who travelled to the Allan Cup national senior hockey championships with Caribous on two occasions, helping them to a title in 2011.
The CeeBees haven’t yet said whether they will enter the 2014 Allan Cup tournament, which will be played in Dundas, Ont., next spring, but Delaney says if he is asked to join the team he’ll answer the call.
He definitely will have the chance to play for a national crown in 2015 if he remains part of the Caribous organization past this season as Clarenville will host the Allan Cup two years from now.
“I’ve definitely got my sights set on playing in 2015,” he said. “I want to get another couple of years out of it because I know once I retire, I’m going to miss it.”
Peter George, the CeeBee Stars co-general manager, emphasized the trade is not a sign the team can no longer afford elite level players, but is rather part of an effort to assemble a younger team that will continue to compete for the Herder Memorial Trophy in provincial senior hockey in the short- and long-term.
CeeBees co-GM defends the deal
“We are looking at changing the core of our team. ... trying to get younger,” George told The Compass.
The Delaney brothers hail from North River and have been with the CeeBees for the better part of their senior careers, save for one season spent with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.
Keith was the team’s captain last season, and led the team in regular-season points, while Ryan was named most valuable player in the playoffs as the underdog CeeBees swept the Caribous in the final.
Some might say the departure of these two elite players will make for a long season in Harbour Grace, but George doesn’t see it that way.
“It was a hockey trade purely to better our team,” George explained.
Team officials have stated publicly they intend to trim payroll costs this season, and George acknowledged the Delaneys were at the top of the league’s salary cap. But he stressed money was not a determining factor in the deal.
“Some might say we’re selling the team or we don’t have money to pay high-end players. That’s not the case,” George added.
The expected return of Mathew Thomey this season likely made the Delaney trade more palatable to team officials. Thomey is a hometown favourite in Harbour Grace, and served as the team’s captain and offensive leader before heading to western Canada to pursue a teaching career prior to the 2012-13 season.
He’s now back in Newfoundland.
“He will fill a major hole up front … and we will do our best to ensure he is in our lineup.”
So will there be more trades in the coming days?
George said it’s likely, since the team’s “goal this year is to win (the Herder) again.”
Matthew Bragg played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and another three with the St. Francis University Xavier X-Men. Mitchell Bragg, the older brother, has senior hockey experience with the Southern Shore Breakers and the Caribous. Both have won Herder titles, and reside in St. John’s.
As for Brandon Street, he played several seasons in the Quebec junior league, and concluded his junior career with the Maritime league’s Amherst Ramblers playing under former CeeBees’ coach Corey Crocker.
George described Andrew Hill as a steady defencman with experience in the Maritime junior league before joining the Caribous for the team’s inaugural season.