Editor's note: The CeeBees welcome the Caribous in for a two-game set this weekend at the stadium in Harbour Grace. On Friday (Dec. 7), things get underway at 8:30 p.m., while on Saturday (Dec. 08) game time is 7:30 p.m.
The Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars will have a familiar face behind the bench for this weekend's two-game set with the Clarenville Caribous.
High-profile head coach Corey Crocker will return to his coaching duties with the club after taking a two-week leave of absence.
The return is a surprise to some after it was originally thought that Crocker would be back on the CeeBees' bench sometime in the New Year.
But, with the Christmas break scheduled to set in for the CeeBees after Saturday's (Dec. 8) game at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace, it made sense for Crocker to make his return.
"The break was good. The time off has been energizing," he said.
The Harbour Grace native, who works with the Town of Amherst in Nova Scotia, and his wife welcomed a new addition some two weeks ago.
In light of the newborn, Crocker made the decision to take a break from the club.
"I had been thinking about it with my family for the last little while," he said. "I thought it would be healthy for me and my family to take a leave of absence."
In his two-week disappearing act from the club, Crocker was still involved in the hockey decisions and trade talks for the club.
"Nothing has changed," he said. "Peter, Ian and I have been working together to try and improve our hockey team. I'm still heavily involved in what's going on.
"There are no days off."
In some cases, Crocker has not been receiving a smooth ride from some pockets of CeeBees' nation.
These fans have chided the club for flying in a coach that has guided the team to a four-win season thus far.
"The hockey club feels good about flying me in," he told The Compass.
However, Crocker said his travel costs to do not come out of the team's coffers.
In a post to Newfoundland Hockey Talk last week, a website message board that panders to the fans of senior hockey in this province, Crocker wrote that his "flights are booked on aeroplan from an outside supporter" and "compensation each week is also provided by an outside supporter."
Being away from family can be difficult, especially if it involves being a province away from your family.
It makes it more difficult to get on that plane for the weekend.
"It's never easy," said Crocker. "People may think you're just coaching, but its time away from your family. You have to prepare to coach and its tiresome on the body. "
Due to the travel, the coach said he has been absent from some of this family's activities.
"With a young family, I missed a lot of my young daughter's things this year. She's in dance and music," said Crocker. "Now, with a newborn, it's very difficult and selfish on my part to leave my wife immediately after the baby was born."
When Crocker did get on that plane every weekend, there was a support system for his family. His wife's parents are from the Nova Scotia and could help out when needed.
"We have some family here, obviously my family isn't here, but we have friends in Amherst who knew that I was gone and could help out," said Crocker.
Crocker travels with Clarenville Caribous goaltender Jason Churchill when both teams have games on the island.
He said he finds it hard enough to go to work in the morning after a weekend on the road.
"We talk about how big a commitment it is to fly in and do it every weekend," he said. "I don't know how players do it and get up and go to work. They're playing and they're tired. It's remarkable that they can get up and do it."
Crocker said his wife is "very supportive" of his desire to coach and to coach his hometown.
"She wants to continue and work through it because she knows it means a lot to me," he said.
As the year inches closer to the New Year, the coach said he will not be available all weekends after Christmas.
"We're not going to play it weekend by weekend, but we're going to plan it out given my schedule and the family schedule," said Crocker.