© Geraldine Brophy
Corner Brook Royals Darren Colbourne, right, and teammate Tyler Hawes, left, give chase to Mount Pearl Blades Tyler Gale in play Sunday Jan. 15, 2012.
CORNER BROOK Anthony Locke would rather watch the Royals play in Deer Lake than spend a cold winter without any senior hockey.
The 22-year-old Corner Brook native has had a holding seat at the Pepsi Centre ever since he became a big fan of the franchise about eight years ago.
"You got to take the positive with it," Locke said. "Unfortunately, for an area with this population, you still couldn't get the fans out and make your money. It's still a business, and losing money ... you're not going to be able to stay here."
Locke has followed the team faithfully the past few years while the team struggled to put bums in the seats. He said the City of Corner Brook doesn't recognize the value of having a senior hockey team in the community, despite its annual subsidy of $800,000.
"City hall certainly didn't do anything to help them out, which is a big hindrance, when all the smaller locations their teams are supported by their town," he said.
Having senior hockey in Deer Lake is something Locke feels will work because he believes there is a solid fan base that enjoys the brand of hockey fans have witnessed in the provincial league since its rebirth.
"You'll get your 400 or 500 fans coming up from Corner Brook plus the fans from Deer Lake that were coming out and a few more," he said. "It will be a good team. It's still the Royals when it comes down to it, but Deer Lake is a hockey town. They will embrace it and I think it will go well."
Deer Lake hasn't had senior hockey for a couple of years, so some of the diehard followers of the former Deer Lake Red Wings are anxious to have a team playing out of the Hodder again.
Ted Cross, an avid senior hockey supporter in Deer Lake who sold a 50-50 ticket or two for the Red Wings back in the day, believes the news is great for the Deer Lake area.
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"We're a hockey town and we've shown it over the years, and I'm really expecting to see a big turnout this year for this hockey," Cross, who is 64, said Thursday. "I think the Royals needed it, according to what I read in the newspaper. It's too expensive to operate in Corner Brook, which is sad."
Cross plans on being a big supporter of the team and will probably find his way back to selling a few 50-50 tickets if it means keeping the team alive and well.
"I always help out. I love hockey," he said.
Fred Rice is a former president of the Deer Lake Red Wings and among those who are happy to have a team playing out of the Hodder again.
Rice is familiar with the void left in the town when the Red Wings folded so he hopes the latest chapter means senior hockey is back for good.
"It's a good thing and I think they will get the support of the town," he said.
Rice is hoping the team makes all the right moves to make the team stable. One of the ways he feels that can be accomplished is through building a strong relationship with the corporate sponsors who come on board for this year.
"To get the support of the businesses around they're going to have to cater to them in some way because they've been used to being catered to when it comes to tickets and stuff, so hopefully they'll see and do that because we always looked after our corporate sponsors," he said.
He is confident the team will be well received in the community, but it may take a few games or so for fans to embrace it all.
"It's going to take some getting used to with it being the Royals because of the rivalry that was, but where we have several (local) players playing with them it makes a whole lot of difference."