Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
Cullen Pollock enjoyed cheering on his hometown Campbellford Rebels in his younger years.
His father Marcus had played for the Rebels many years prior and his uncle Justin was a coach when Cullen was a young fan attending any game he could.
Of course, the 2011-12 season was a highlight for junior C club and its fans. The Rebels upset the Picton Pirates in the local league final that season and advanced to the provincial Schmalz Cup semifinals.
Cullen Pollock’s first junior season with Campbellford in 2019-20 was a challenging one, though, as the Rebels won just once in 44 games.
“I grew up watching them win,” Pollock said. “I know the past few years we haven’t had the greatest record and I want to be part of bringing it back to how it used to be and get fans in the stands.”
After last year’s Provincial Junior Hockey League season was wiped out, the Rebels management revamped the roster and the changes are proving to be a step in the right direction. Prior to the latest provincial shutdown, the Rebels registered a 7-14-0-0 record, which they will look to keep building upon.
“We come in as a team and go out as a team. Win as a team, lose as a team,” Pollock said. “Before it was almost like we were going to pickup hockey. You just went to the game and played and (many players) didn’t show up to practice. I feel we’re definitely more connected to each other and more bonding and more of a team and a family.”
Campbellford returns to action Friday night in Napanee against the Raiders. Pollock acknowledged February is shaping up to be a challenging month for the Rebels with two games against both the PJHL Tod Division-leading Amherstview Jets and second-place Raiders as well as two against the Pirates and expansion Frankford Huskies, who earned their first franchise victory and only so far this season in Campbellford back in November.
While there still have been some lopsided results this season, Pollock is encouraged by way his club is battling opponents to more competitive games than in recent seasons.
“It’s not a free game for them anymore,” Pollock said. “They still have to play their game to beat us.”
Pollock, who played minor hockey with the Campbellford Colts and one season with the Quinte West Hawks, joined the Rebels when he was 16, though played just 27 games in his rookie season due to a LCL (lateral collateral ligament) tear in his knee early in the campaign. When he did play, Pollock reaped the benefits of logging big minutes against older, skilled players.
“I honestly think it was my best season of hockey I’ve had so far,” Pollock said, adding he’s not one to back down from a challenge. “I’m more of a stay-at-home defenceman. I’ll stand up for my teammates, especially younger ones. I’m not afraid to mix it up. I’m a team player and try to be the best leader I can on and off the ice for the other guys.”
When he was younger, Pollock also played football for the Trent Hills Titans in Belleville Minor Football, even earning rookie of the year and MVP honours in different years during his tenure. He eventually gave up the sport due to knee troubles.
It was certainly different than hockey as he went from a stay-at-home defenceman during the winter months to a key offensive position in running back during the summer.
“I enjoyed switching it up and keeping myself busy during the summer,” Pollock said.
Now, his focus is on the Rebels as he has still has three seasons of eligibility remaining beyond this one.
“I just hope to get the team back to how it used to be, get in the playoffs and have the old Campbellford barn packed again,” Pollock said.