When the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars hit the ice next season, it will be doing so without team captain and fan favourite Matthew Thomey.
Thomey spent the last four years wearing the blue and white. He had become synonymous with the CeeBees name. Mention the team, and one would think of Thomey and his penchant for timely goals and community involvement.
He spent the last three years as captain after previous captain, Keith Delaney, left for one season to play with the Cataracts in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Thomey, who is finishing up his education degree at Memorial University in St. John's, has taken a teaching position in northern Alberta in the fall. He leaves right after he leads the host boys' ball hockey team in the 2012 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games.
The decision to leave his home province was "not an easy" one, stated Thomey, but one he felt "had to be made."
"It's an opportunity I couldn't really pass up," he said. "It's experience for me to get back to where I want to be."
Where he wants to be is teaching close to home, but that opportunity has not come his way.
"The goal is to settle down at home, and I'll always be looking for teaching opportunities in Harbour Grace and Newfoundland in general," he said. "We're just going to have to see how this year plays out."
Right now, the contract is only for one year and there is the opportunity, albeit a slim one, that Thomey could return to the club for the 2013-2014 season.
Thomey said he informed the organization as soon as he was offered the position in Alberta.
"They said they appreciated my time with the CeeBees and wished me the best of luck," he said.
A captain is born
Thomey returned to the club for the 2008-09 season after a successful four-year career at Yale University and an attempt at playing professional hockey with the Alaska Aces of the East Coast Hockey League.
Keith Delaney wore the captaincy in Thomey's first year.
In his second year, Thomey was given the 'C' adding his name to a long list of former captains and respected hockey players. Players like Chris Bartlett, Chris Crosbie, Wes Swain, Eddie Russell and Randy Reardon.
In a 2010 edition of The Compass, Thomey said then-coach Ian Moores waited until a couple of minutes before the team stepped on the ice for its opener to inform him he would be wearing the 'C.'
"It was a tremendous honour to be the captain," he said.
A different feeling
Over the past four years, Thomey has strapped on his gear every September in order to help the CeeBees push for another Herder trophy.
"It's going to be different not suiting up, that's for sure," he said.
Thomey said some of his favourite moments in a CeeBees' jersey came during the team's numerous title runs to the Herder final and Avalon East Senior Hockey League finals.
"I particularly enjoyed getting the opportunity to play in the provincial league last season," he said.
CeeBees' head coach Corey Crocker had high praise for his former captain.
"He was the perfect captain," he said. "His work ethic was second to none and he'll be sorely missed in the dressing room."
Crocker said Thomey was a huge part of the CeeBees team.
En route to the team's appearance in the Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League semifinals, Thomey could always be counted on to show up when his team needed him the most.
Thomey said there's still plenty of leadership in the lineup, and it won't be hard to find a captain who can do the job.
Not only was Thomey a vital part of the CeeBees team on the ice, there was a lot of work done by the captain off the ice.
In the fall of 2011, Thomey worked with CeeBees minor hockey president Wendy Penney organizing a hockey school at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium.
"We're going to miss him," said Penney.
She said Thomey moving away will leave a big hole to fill in the community.
Crocker expressed a similar feeling.
"You're not going to replace him," said Crocker.
Right now, the contract with the school in Alberta is just for a year.
Thomey has not ruled out the possibility of donning the CeeBees jersey again.
"I hope that when I do come home there is a team and I can play again," he said.