New Royals coach Kearsey calls out players for not caring enough
DEER LAKE New Western Royals head coach Ed Kearsey isn’t content with the current state of the hockey club.
“Obviously there’s a lot of frustration going around the room right now,” said Kearsey, before adding he’s up for the challenge of righting the Royals ship after the team dropped five of its last six Newfoundland Senior Hockey League games. They have a record of 5-7 for a share of third place in the five-team setup.
Kearsey, who has previously helped power the Royals franchise to championships as both a player and a coach, doesn’t believe a whole lot of former bench boss Ben Fitzgerald’s overall game plan actually needs to be altered, but he isn’t at all satisfied with those charged with executing it.
“What I really noticed last week in games against (the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts) is that we’re not in the best of shape,” Kearsey said.
The words seem to echo the points Fitzgerald made about the club upon his exit earlier this week, in an article featured in Tuesday’s edition of The Western Star, which birthed the current “culture change” buzzwords.
“I’m not going to get into a lot of detail about what Ben’s complaints were, but ... I saw (Sunday’s) game as one we could have taken late, I think our guys got tired,” Kearsey said, noting that a few poorly-timed penalties eventually decimated any chance the Royals had of pulling out a win anyway. “(The Cataracts) were missing a few bodies, especially on defence, and we couldn’t capitalize on it.
“I think we really had them behind the eight-ball and just never did it because I think we ran out of legs.”
The Royals don’t practice together as a full squad a lot, if it all, which Kearsey said puts the onus squarely on the individual players to make sure they’re showing up at the rink on game day in the best possible condition.
“They’ve got to take the bull by the horns and take responsibility for getting in shape,” he said. “I’m not going to say everybody’s not in shape, but a lot of guys ... I guess what I’m saying is, Grand Falls were in better shape than what we are.
“Some guys have to go take a good look at themselves in the mirror and ask, ‘Am I giving 100 per cent effort, game in and game out?’,” he added. “They need to care about coming in here.”
Kearsey said it all boils down to an underlying issue of the Royals simply not playing for each other.
“When I played, we played as a team, we hung around a little bit ... there’s got to be a little bit of camaraderie in the room,” he said. “When you put on that uniform, you’re not only playing for yourself, trying to get a few points for yourself. You’ve got to want the two points for everybody.”
Above all else, Kearsey believes the team has the talent necessary to succeed. He wouldn’t have accepted the coaching assignment if he didn’t.
“We have a lot of good hockey players in that room,” he said. “They’re just going in different directions right now.”
Recent additions on the blue-line, and especially in goal with import Bryan Gillis, have strengthened the club in their own end, which is exactly where Kearsey believes they need to improve the most in order to genuinely compete.
“We can score goals,” he said. “When — there’s no if, it’s when — they start playing together as a team, I think if we can take care of our own zone first, everything else should fall into place.”
The Royals will attempt to climb back to .500 hockey this weekend when they visit the Gander Flyers.