Corey Crocker admitted today (Feb. 12) he was blindsided by a decision to terminate him as head coach of the CeeBee Stars.
When reached at his office in Amherst, Nova Scotia this morning, Crocker said he “did not see it coming.”
In what can only be described as a late season bombshell, the Stars parted ways Monday with Crocker, the team’s high-profile head coach and Harbour Grace native.
Crocker was told of his termination during a teleconference with two members of the team’s executive on Monday morning.
The shakeup caught the provincial sporting community off guard, and came just days before the club kicks off its Herder Memorial Trophy semifinal series with the No. 1 ranked Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.
The Compass learned of Crocker’s release when contacted by a member of the executive, who does not normally speak publicly for the team, and asked not to be named.
When asked to explain the decision, he replied: “The scoreboard is the scoreboard. There’s no more to it than that.”
The CeeBees completed the season with a record of 7-15-1, and narrowly clinched the fourth and final playoff berth on the final weekend of the regular season.
The team was also hampered by some serious financial issues that resulted in some belt-tightening measures.
Despite the team’s less-than-stellar record, many felt it was not representative of the team’s potential, having lost many close battles throughout the season.
Others would argue the move did not come soon enough, as the team struggled through a five-game and a 10-game losing streak at separate times of the season.
“When you lose 10 games in a row, that’s half our season,” the team official stated.
Perhaps the biggest question surrounds the timing of the firing.
The CeeBees are winners of two straight, including a victory over the Cataracts on Feb. 3. Crocker was unavailable for both those games, and some in the organization felt the team responded better.
“We have to make a change and we have to move ahead,” the official added.
The move is not without precedent in hockey circles.
In the pro ranks, the New Jersey Devils fired coach Robbie Ftorek in 2000 with nine games remaining in the regular season. The Devils went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.
The CeeBees are no doubt hoping for a similar scenario.
Despite being cast off by the team, Crocker believes the CeeBees can make some noise in the playoffs, noting the team is “built to win.”
And Crocker said he will always be a CeeBee.
“I grew up wearing the red, white and blue as a kid and I was a big part of the team coming back there,” he said.
Crocker came on board in December 2011 after then-coach Steve Power was let go after the team posted just three wins in its first 12 games of the first season of the provincewide league.
Under Crocker’s guidance, the team went six and six down the stretch and gained a berth in the playoffs, only to lose to Clarenville in Round 1.
It is assumed that assistants Peter George and Ian Moores will handle coaching duties the rest of the way.
George, the team’s spokesman for most of the season, was not available for comment.
Moores confirmed when contacted Tuesday that he would continue his coaching duties, if his services were required.