By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. — Tim Verbeek knew Stockton was his type of town the moment he arrived last year, and he’s thrilled he’s sticking around for another season.
Thunder coach Chris Cichocki wanted to re-sign Verbeek because of the veteran forward’s skills and leadership ability. Verbeek, 27, wanted to return because of the quality of the organization and because he has developed ties to Stockton. He also met his girlfriend, Bonnie Holmes of Stockton, last season.
“It’s just a great place, and I do have some personal connections here,” Verbeek said. “When I first got here and saw the fields and the crops, it felt like home.”
Verbeek grew up on a 17,000-acre farm in Sarnia, Ontario, where his family raises corn, soy beans, wheat and “about 10,000 pigs.”
“I’m comfortable here, and that’s definitely part of it. But another reason I wanted to come back is that the organization is topnotch,” Verbeek said. “They really take care of you and the facilities are excellent.”
Verbeek has spent much of the summer in Stockton. He held a hockey clinic for youngsters last week, and even sang with a local band at an Independence Day party at the Brookside Country Club.
Verbeek joined Thunder season-ticket holder Dan Spediacci and his band, Summit, to sing “Drift Away,” a hit for Dobie Gray in 1972 and Uncle Kracker in 2002.
“We handed out earplugs before I went up there,” Verbeek joked.
Cichocki was in the audience, and said he was impressed.
“Hey, I thought he sounded good,” Cichocki said. “On top of being a very good player, Tim is a good ambassador for the Thunder.”
Verbeek, the younger brother of former NHL star Pat Verbeek, had 33 points – 19 goals, 14 assists – in 68 games and is the only Thunder player in its two-year history to earn a hat trick at home.
“Tim oozes character and leadership, and he always gives a great effort,” Cichocki said. “He’s always out there playing hard, and he inspires the other guys. He was always one of the players we really wanted to get back here.”
Cichocki will now concentrate on building a team around Verbeek, Geisler and Adamek. He is still perusing the free-agent market, and the Edmonton Oilers, Stockton’s NHL affiliate, will send some help before training camp begins in early October.
“I’m confident we’re going to have a very good team here,” Verbeek said. “I’m looking forward to it.”