By Don Stewart
READING, Pa. – A Canadian university football standout whose career was shortened by injuries, Kelvin Collymore cared too much for his sons to risk having them suffer a similar fate.
So instead of football helmets, Kelvin bought his boys … skates?
“I mean, hockey’s no better, so I don’t see the point in that,” Shawn Collymore, the younger of the two boys, remembered with laugh. “But I’m glad I play hockey. Coming from Canada, everyone plays hockey around you. I just love the game and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Good thing for the Reading Royals. Collymore is a promising 23-year-old forward who has made a strong impression in his first 10 games here.
The LaSalle, Quebec, native has 11 points and a team-best nine assists for the Royals (3-4-3), who host Toledo Friday and Saturday at the Sovereign Center.
“I think I’ve been playing pretty well,” said Collymore, who always seems to carry a smile off the ice. “I’m always looking to step up my game and play even better, even when things are going pretty well.
“Right now, I’m pleased but I’m not completely satisfied. I’m still looking to do even better.”
In terms of quickness, they don’t get much faster at the ECHL level than Collymore. His speed makes him a breakaway threat on the penalty kill, where he’s usually with the first unit. Collymore also sees plenty of time on the power play.
The past five games, he centered a line with Chris Bala and Greg Hogeboom that had to be among the fastest in the league. Bala is considered quick even by AHL standards, and Hogeboom was leading the ECHL with three short-handed goals before getting called up to Manchester Tuesday.
“They’re pretty quick guys,” Royals coach Karl Taylor said of Collymore and Bala. “Our league is a lot quicker this year than last year top to bottom, that’s for sure. But those two guys, I’d put them against anyone.”
“There aren’t many D-corps you can put out that have one guy who can skate with them, let alone two,” power forward Doug Christiansen said. “That’s a tough matchup for teams. Especially once we get going in general, they’re going to be flying and lighting it up.”
Collymore was a key acquisition in a Royals offseason filled with big signings.A fifth-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2001, Collymore logged five seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He debuted at age 16 on a Quebec Remparts team with four future NHL first-round picks.
In camp with the Rangers in 2001, Collymore got to skate with Pavel Bure, his favorite player as a kid. After turning pro in 2004, Collymore participated in Detroit’s rookie camp, spent his first season in the ECHL with Toledo before going to the United Hockey League’s Danbury Trashers last year.
“He’s a great guy,” Taylor said. “He’s very relaxed. He’s very mature. He’s professional about how he does his business. He’s very serious. He’s not a guy who you have to worry about. He’s gonna be ready to play. He’s very low maintenance.”
Collymore is hoping to find more consistency. He had two startling streaks with the Trashers last season, when he scored 23 points in 14 games from Feb. 14 to March 19, then capped things off with 22 points in 18 playoff games.
“From outside looking in, it seems like I was a streaky player,” Collymore said. “But depending on different things with ice time, the UHL was a lot older league and the older players got to play on the power play first before the youngsters. Maybe that was part of it.
“But here I have my chance and I hope to put that together for a longer period of time here.”