The Royals have always found success acquiring players from the general area to fill needs. This includes everything from Chase Watson of Media to AHL Hall of Fame goalie Freddie Cassivi from the Hershey area.
Even men from out of town have met their wives here and put down roots. Last year both Todd Perry and Olivier Labelle played here while their wives and in-laws looked on. I view that as a real plus for Reading. Former Royal and current Lehigh Valley Phantom Steve Swavely was here last year as well.
The current Royals roster includes three “hometown” on-the-ice heroes. Chris McCarthy of Collegeville, Nick Luukko of West Chester and Adam Schmidt of Warrington are the current roster occupants who are able to commute to the job.
As a matter of fact, McCarthy was instrumental in convincing both Adam Schmidt and Coach KMac to have Adam leave Sweden and play for the Royals. Apparently, McCarthy and Schmidt have been practicing together during the off season for some time. They also played together while growing up.
Coach Kmac said, “I kind of got Schmidtty because Chris referred him. Usually I think when guys refer me a player I’m thinking ‘Probably some guy that plays in some terrible league’ and then I look him up on HockeyDB… and I’m like, alright, I better make a phone call. But obviously they have chemistry; they’ve known each other since they were kids.”
Having the storied Hershey franchise close by hasn’t hurt either. We all know that’s where former coach Courville calls home now. We are fortunate to have Pat Wellar and Doug Yingst as part of the management team for the Royals. These men have both been tremendously influential in bringing championships, both Calder Cup and Kelly Cup to the franchises they were part of. This, incidentally, includes the 2012-2013 Reading Royals’ Kelly Cup march to victory. Both of these men bring a competence and intensity to Reading’s hockey effort.
Coach KMac has some comment about the effect of having local players. When asked about it, he responded. “I’m a big believer in that… In pro hockey, I’ve seen it in the American League, I’ve seen it her in the ECHL, where you get to playoff time, some guys didn’t really want to play. They really wanted to go home and see their girlfriends or play golf. If the guys already home, he doesn’t want to go home. Like he’s here and he’s committed. People can say what they want, that guys are competitive, but I’ve seen where they just check out at playoff time. It’s a nice thing to have here (local players).”
It’s a small sample size, but the first two games find some real chemistry between McCarthy and Schmidt. The first Royal goal on Saturday afternoon was slick to watch. Schmidt around the net, out to McCarthy, put the biscuit in the basket. Also sweet to watch the McCarthy, Schmidt to Comrie combination just after the penalty kill in the second period.
So will these guys playing “Commuter Hockey” do it for the purple and black this year. We have a long season coming and we will see. But we’ve got a good start.