When something has been a big part of your life for so long it’s easy to miss it when it’s no longer a part of your routine.
That’s the case for senior hockey veteran Ryan Penney.
Penney, a 30-year native of Salmon Cove who now lives in Pasadena, is back on the ice this year as a member of the Deer Lake Red Wings in the West Coast Senior Hockey League.
Penney is a gritty power forward who played with a number of teams during his senior hockey career. He played with the Corner Brook Royals for a number of seasons before the team pulled out of the Central West Senior Hockey League because the organization couldn’t keep up with the escalating costs associated with paying players who come into town for a weekend and then return home after the hockey is completed.
He was drafted by the Clarenville Caribous last winter, but with a wife and two young boys and work commitments with Newfoundland Power, he opted to hang up the skates.
“It was just too much of a commitment for me to travel,” Penney said of his decision to sit out last season.
He saw the new league find success last winter with local players suiting up for community teams and he didn’t get the itch to play. However, this winter he figured he could play the game he loves because it wouldn’t take him away from his family because all teams are located in close proximity.
“I was happy to go back at it because it was something I missed,” he said. “I feel really good about it. I’m enjoying it. I’m glad to be back. I missed it last year.”
It’s a different environment than the recreational hockey he played for fun last winter and the pressure-pack tempo of the Central West setup that featured imports, but he’s having fun sharing the ice with a bunch of young guys who are eager to show what they got.
“It’s just a bunch of adults really going out and having fun,” he said.
He likes the direction the league has taken with no imports allowed because it enables local players a chance to play for their hometown and also play competitive hockey with family and friends in the stands.
He’s no longer interested in the long bus rides and late nights.
He’s close to home with his two sons nearby so he’s glad to be back on the ice and eager to help give the Red Wings fans something to cheer about.
He believes the players are eager to entertain and that’s why he believes the league will be a hit with everybody who checks it out.
“We’re gelling really well because everyone just got the passion for hockey,” he said. “Nobody is coming in to get a cheque on the weekends. They just want to get out for a skate and have some fun.”
Penney will be looking to get the Red Wings in the win column when they clash with the Corner Brook Royals Friday 8 p.m. at the Corner Brook Civic Centre.