Crocker looks back
Former coach of the Ceebee Stars offers advice
Corey Crocker remembers when he was first offered the job as head coach of the CeeBee Stars senior hockey team.
The Harbour Grace native was in a car with NHLer Dan Cleary and friends Ian Moores and Mark Reynolds in Detroit, Michigan when his cellphone rang. On the other end was CeeBees’ executive member Peter George. It was December 2011.
The club had just dismissed Steve Power after a disappointing start to the inaugural season of the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League, and were looking for a replacement to come in get the team back on track.
“The first initial thought was, ‘Wow, this would be neat,’” Crocker recalled.
Crocker was, and still is, living in Amherst, Nova Scotia where he is the physical activities co-ordinator with the town. With a young family in Nova Scotia, Crocker had to clear everything with the boss.
“Everything goes through my wife,” he said.
However, with the support of his friends and family in Nova Scotia, Crocker accepted the coaching job, and helped guide the CeeBees to the playoffs.
“It meant a lot,” Crocker said of coming back to the organization.
He was previously involved in bringing the CeeBees back into senior hockey.
Crocker carries a great sense of pride for the organization he grew up playing with.
“You get goose bumps when you look up and see the Herders and the championships you won with friends,” he said. “Anyone who has been involved in sports, or had the opportunity to coach or play, it’s always nice to play in your hometown or coach in your hometown.
“It’s something that very seldom happens, but it was so nice to do.”
In a shocking move, Crocker was let go as head coach of the CeeBees on Feb. 11, just a day after the club had clinched the fourth and final playoff spot in the provincewide league.
Crocker said there were challenges with travelling to Newfoundland for games every weekend.
“It’s very hard working all week and then leaving your family,” he said. “Especially, as my daughter got older and she realized I was gone on weekends … and then coming back here late Monday morning and going to work. That was hard physically on the body. “That part, I coped with and I got through it.” At the same time, Crocker said his time was “a lot of fun” and “was a really good fit.”
“I got to coach with my best friend, Ian Moores, and a very near, close friend in Peter Georges,” he said. “My time was fantastic.”
Every time he stepped on the ice at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium, Crocker “gleamed with pride” as he was representing the long and storied history of the CeeBee franchise.
“I was a part of it as a young kid, I was a part of it as a player, as someone bringing it back to the area and was a part of it as a coach,” he said.
The main challenge facing Crocker was having to play games on the weekends, without practice time with his players.
That meant drawing up game plans, line combinations and the like on the fly and trying to implement his systems during games.
“Being in Nova Scotia and to fly home and coach this hockey team without practicing is very difficult. It’s a very unique situation,” said Crocker. “Maybe last year, it was something that worked for a short period of time. But, during a long season, maybe it had its toll. I don’t know.”
Crocker had some advice for the club moving forward. He said the organization needed to be rebuilt from the ground up.
“You can’t build a house without a strong foundation,” said Crocker. “As I put in, the executive needs to happen and our minor hockey kids need a good, solid organization of players they can look up to. So, they can thrive to play senior hockey for their hometown.
“We need to build an organization that role models, sponsors and people want to be a part of.”
Crocker said the need is there for a properly set up organization, one that has a president, vice-president, secretary and a treasurer.
“You need to have a booster club, and sponsorship packages,” said Crocker. “Have transparency. If people want to see what’s going on, they can come to a meeting and voice their opinion. The legitimacy of the organization will then attract players.”
The CeeBees are gearing up to welcome the Grand FallsWindsor Cataracts to Harbour Grace for Games 3 and 4 of the Herder Memorial Trophy semifinal series, and Crocker said the team needs the fans support.
“The fans need to come out and cheer on the team,” he said.
Corey Crocker is seen on the CeeBee Stars bench during a recent senior hockey game at the S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.