CORNER BROOK It’s usually a big concern when your captain goes down with an injury that will keep him out of the lineup, but Steve North believes the Western Royals will be just fine until he returns.
North, a veteran of senior hockey wars for over a decade who wears the C for the Royals, will be missing in action for an indefinite period of time after suffering a dislocated shoulder against the Eastlink CeeBee Stars a week ago. It was the second time in his senior hockey career that he was sidelined with a dislocated shoulder, but North, who battled through injuries all his life including a broken collarbone, is only experiencing moderate discomfort and expects he won’t be out of the lineup for an extended period of time.
With the team on a roll with four straight wins after dropping the first two games on opening weekend, North can’t help but be disappointed with the timing of his latest injury.
“Yeah, it sucks,” North said earlier this week.
He’s not sure how long it will before he gets back, but he’s taking it all in stride and trying to remain patient.
“Once you pop it back in your stiff and sore for a few days and whatnot,” he said of the recurring theme in his career.
North was once the face of the franchise, being a leader both on and off the ice, bringing fans to their feet with his end-to-end rushes from the wing or from the backend when the team was short on rearguards. He won a Herder during his tenure with the Royals, but he’s also seen the worst of life as a Royal with a number of losing seasons still lingering in his mind.
This season it appears there is a lot of optimism and North believes the management team have put together an impressive squad for the 2012-13 season. The depth of the roster, as compared to the past few seasons, is so much greater, according to North, and that makes it a lot easier to compete in a league boasting a number of quality players on all franchises.
The Royals have a dozen or so new faces in the lineup this year, and North believes the team is much deeper than previous years so he’s not worried about how the team will do with him on the shelf.
A lot of loyal followers of the team have been impressed with the play of the team’s gritty fourth line that is comprised of Michael Hynes, Jake Easton and Andrew Smith. North is in total agreement with those who like the energy and work ethic the trio brings to the rink. He considers the trio the best fourth line in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League among the teams he’s played against so far this season.
“They keep it simple. They get the puck deep, and they crash and bang like they’re supposed to,” he said, noting Hynes and Easton also see time on the penalty kill for coach Ben Fitzgerald. “They’re a physical presence on the ice and they’re creating opportunities for themselves too. You can see they’re putting up a few points as well and playing really well.”
The trio has amassed nine points between them with Smith collecting two goals and a helper, while his linemates have collected a goal and two assists each. Fourth-liners usually find themselves among the most penalized players on a team with their crashing and banging, but the trio has been able to be effective in their role while only picking up 16 penalty minutes between them.
“They are playing good hockey for us, no doubt,” he said.
The trio will be expected to make life miserable for the visiting Gander Flyers this weekend at the Hodder Memorial Stadium in Deer Lake. The two teams clash Saturday 7:30 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m. at the Hodder.
The weekend series will mark the return of former Deer Lake Red Wings general manager Garry White to the Hodder. White is the general manager of the expansion Flyers who will play their first senior hockey league game at the Hodder.
Fans in Corner Brook can pick up game tickets at Meineke on Maple Valley Road anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. today.