In the early to mid aughts, Cyril Walsh energized fans of the Corner Brook Royals and aggravated just about everyone else with a kamikaze style of play that augmented his five-foot-seven frame.
Toward the end of the decade, concussions spelled the end of his competitive senior hockey stint, but he still takes a regular shift on Tuesday and Thursday nights with AJC Law of the Corner Brook Molson Recreational Hockey League.
For a guy whose play was defined by passion, curbing that enthusiasm wasn’t as easy as flicking a switch.
“You might hear different from fellas who play against me, but I try hard to reel it in,” he said with a laugh.
“Whether you’re playing rec hockey or senior hockey, in the back of your mind you want to win, but I try to be on my best behaviour.”
That love for the game was fostered when Walsh was just five years old. Growing up in a neighbourhood of Pasadena packed with kids shooting a ball around the street outside his house, it didn’t take long for the younger Walsh to infiltrate the group.
“It was just what we did,” he said of the regular road games.
From there, he was registered for minor hockey with the Deer Lake association and — though he missed most of that inaugural season with a broken arm from a tree-climbing expedition gone wrong — those winters at the rink soon became the new way of life.
Though playing competitively would prove to be his calling card later on, it was in minor hockey, under the tutelage of coaches like the late Ray Rowe, where Walsh first experienced what hockey could be all about.
It was being a part of a team, having access to a social network of similarly minded people who you could grow up in the game with.
“My vision for my kids in hockey is that they’ll end up doing what I’m doing,” Walsh said. “Going to the rink when they’re 40 years old and still having fun playing the game.”
That statement may make any eyes that witnessed his senior hockey days roll. At that time, every shift was life or death — or at least, it seemed that way — especially during the Royals’ 2002 Herder championship run.
“I wanted to win,” said Walsh. “I loved winning and hated losing.
“When we played for the Royals, the Herder was so important to us.”
The current incarnation of the Royals doesn’t compete for the Herder — their top prize is the Cliff Gorman Memorial Cup as West Coast Senior Hockey League champions. Gone are the days of imports and salaries, it’s just local guys playing for the love of the game and the thrill of competition.
Sounds right up Walsh’s alley.
There’s no doubt the rumour mill started spinning when he was spotted at several of the team’s open tryout skates before this season began.
Pump the brakes on that idea, however, as Walsh was merely lending a body, so the team would have enough for scrimmage games. He figured it was also a good way for him to get in shape for his rec season.
But that’s not to say the thought of a senior hockey return didn’t cross his mind.
“You’re looking around and you’re thinking, I could probably go out and do this again, and there’s a brief moment of, maybe I will,” he admitted. “But then you remember getting beat around, the hard road trips and all that sort of stuff.
“It was more of a fleeting thought than anything.”