By: Carlos Verde
For four-plus years, the Tam family has been a constant at the Nepean Sportsplex.
Between son Corey patrolling the blue line and eventually captaining the Raiders, mother Kristina serving as the team’s social events coordinator, sister Brooke a very vocal supporter in the stands, and father Steve running the canteen, the family played an integral role with the organization.
Nepean fell 5-2 on Sunday afternoon in Corey’s 253rd and final contest in Raider colours, ending a junior career which leaves Tam as the franchise’s second longest-serving player.
“There were a lot of emotions, it’s been an up-and-down day,” laughed Tam following his final CCHL contest. “Every so often, it hit me that it’s my last whatever (and) my career’s over — but I’m happy that I’m moving onto the next chapter of my career and getting school started.”
Tam the player will be off to SUNY Brockport in the fall to play college hockey with the Golden Eagles; the Tams will likely split their time between cheering on their son south of the border and continuing to volunteer with Nepean.
“We’ve had our ups and down, but I’m happy with how it went,” summarized Tam. “Obviously we didn’t make playoffs, which is unfortunate, but I wouldn’t change anything for the world.”
Over the last five seasons, the Tams made the Sportsplex a welcoming arena.
“You walk in through those doors (and) they have a smile on their face — they’re happy to welcome you into the rink and make you feel at home,” explained CCHL communications manager Dante De Caria. “When you’re a volunteer or broadcaster or player, those are the kind of people you want at the rink, and the kind of people we need around the league.”
Raiders defenceman Scott Mueller, a Nashville native billeted by the Tams this season, echoed the sentiment.
“They’re a great family, an open house and definitely love the boys, which is nice,” said Mueller. “They treat the players (well), and I’ll definitely stay in touch.”
Kristina Tam could not hide her emotion following her son’s final CCHL game.
“As soon as he left the house today, I cried,” admitted the quintessential hockey mom. “Ceremony (pre-game) today, I was crying — it’s hard, but he’s finishing one chapter and moving onto a new one.
“We’re very lucky that Corey was able to play with his hometown team,” she continued. “All the coaches throughout his four years have been very supportive, (and) Steve, Brooke and I try to help out volunteer-wise — we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Sunday’s final buzzer brought a cascade of warm teammate hugs for Tam and fellow Raiders 20-year-old Kyle Alaverdy.
In a sign of respect, Cornwall goaltender Liam Lascelle — himself a 20 year-old, but with a playoff drive still ahead of him — was the last visiting player off the ice, saluting his fellow 20 year-olds with stick taps of respect.
Godspeed, Corey Tam.
You and your family made Nepean, and by extension the Central, a better place the last number of years.