By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
Tuesday, September 8, 2015 6:50:45 EDT PM
TIMMINS – Saturday night’s home opener against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena will be extra special for Timmins Rock defenceman Kealey Cummings.
When the 20-year-old blue-liner skates out onto the ice for the warm-ups he will be wearing a bright gold “C” on his maroon home jersey.
Cummings has been named captain of the Rock for the franchise’s first year back in Timmins.
He was naturally all smiles when informed of the decision by coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“I am pretty excited,” Cummings said.
“To be named captain of the team in its first year as the Timmins Rock, I think is a great honour. I really feel privileged.
“Words can’t describe how I am going to feel when I skate out there for the first time with that C on my jersey.”
From Gagne’s perspective, Cumming was a natural choice for the honour.
“Kealey is a good person and he comes to play every night,” he said.
“He is really good off the ice in the dressing room. He says and does all the right things.”
As an assistant the past couple of years, Cummings had the opportunity to learn from Abitibi Eskimos captain Kevin Walker.
“Being with the team for the past four years and being under the wing of Kevin Walker, I am pretty happy to have been selected as the captain,” he said.
Cummings had served as an assistant captain on the team for the past couple of years.
“Kevin was a fantastic leader,” he said.
“He was good off the ice and he was good at pushing you to do better. He always wanted you to try to maximize your potential.
“On the ice, he led by example. He was always working hard and I learned a lot from him over the last couple of years.”
The most visible role for a captain involves talking to referees or linesmen when calls either are made or aren’t made — depending on which end of the equation their team finds itself — but that is only part of the job.
“You have to be able to motivate your teammates,” Cummings said.
“You have to be their friend, but you also have to be their leader and you have to make sure you go out and give it 110% on the ice at all costs.”
Cummings does not envision that his new responsibilities will get in the way of him being an effective defender.
“I don’t think I will change too much as a captain,” he said.
“Over the years I have spoken up in the room, so I will still be doing that and helping the team, explaining stuff.
“If my teammates don’t understand stuff, I understand the system pretty good and I can try to help explain things to them.”
Cummings will have a pair of capable assistants working with him this season in fellow blue-liner Ryan Kerr and second-year forward Tristan Salesse.
“I have been playing with Ryan Kerr my entire life,” he said.
“We have been playing together since we were really young. I know him pretty good. Off the ice, when it comes to hockey, he is very smart. He knows our system and he can also help out with the younger players.
“He is also a pretty good motivator in the room. He is very passionate and he really hates to lose.
“Ryan really works hard out on the ice, too.
“I haven’t played with Tristan my entire life, but after playing with him last year, I know he is pretty vocal in the room. He is also pretty vocal on the bench, as well. He loves talking to everybody and he is kind of a social guy.
“He is also able to help out the young guys with our system.
“I am really happy to have Ryan and Tristan at my side.”
The Rock have a third “A,” but the team will wait to award it until later in the season.
Cummings likes the makeup of the Rock roster and feels the team has bonded quickly.
“The atmosphere in our room right now is awesome,” he said.
“Everybody is close. Everybody is happy. We have a fun time and then when we get on the ice we are all business.”
How does this Rock squad compare to some of the recent editions of the Abitibi Eskimos?
“Every year things are always different,” Cummings said.
“Unless you have the exact same team coming back, and the last couple of years we have had a lot of the same players and the same leaders coming back, so it always felt like you were going home. You through a few new guys in the mix, obviously, and the group is always welcoming.
“The feeling this year is a little bit different, with the move from Iroquois Falls to Timmins.”
This year’s Rock lineup features seven players — goalie Logan Ferrington, defencemen Cummings, Kerr, Michael Rancourt and Nick Hautanen, as well as forwards Tristan Salesse and Kyle Levis — who were with the Eskimos during the 2014-15 NOJHL campaign.