This is the third in a four-part series as Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers explores what it means to wear the 'C' in the NHL. Take a look behind the scenes with unique perspective from players, coaches, historians and much more.
There are some great captains in the NHL, from those who assumed the role when they were young (Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby) to those who were more seasoned when they started brandishing the “C” (Shane Doan, Joe Thornton).
But what characteristics make a good NHL captain? What does that guy need to possess to not just be named to that role, but to exemplify it? We talked to various general managers and coaches to get their thoughts on what qualities the great captains have.
Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman: “There’s a number of qualities. There has to be that lead-by-example (quality). As a captain, by definition, you’re a leader. How can you do that? You can be a vocal leader or you can be a quiet leader, but you still have to be the guy on the ice setting the tone with your work ethic, with your consistency and your determination. From our perspective, that’s what Jonathan brings to the table. He’s also being a productive player but even if he wasn’t, he’s got that determined focus every night. He speaks up when he has to but he lets his play do the talking for him. That’s what players ultimately respect the most, as opposed to the guy who makes a lot of great speeches. He has to go out and back it up, too, with his play.”
Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville: “Coming to play hard every day; representing the staff, that message, you’re kind of an extension of that. There’s an awareness of where teammates are at, individually and collectively. You have to say the right things and do the right things, and I would say captains throughout the league do that in the right way.”
San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan: “I really believe that the good ones aren’t cheerleaders. You can have a room full of rah-rah guys. But your captain’s voice, it has substance to it. One of the best examples in my career is I’d see (former Detroit Red Wings captain) Steve Yzerman stand up in the room and it would get quiet. When he spoke, everyone listened. We still had energy guys. We have people here who are energy guys that you need; you have to have that support. But the substance, I know Thornton has it and I’m sure Toews has it, knowing his character. When he stands up, and it’s time to speak, people listen and he has something productive to say. To me, that and leading by example makes a captain.”
Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff: “You can talk all you want, motivate guys by yelling and screaming. But in this industry it’s all about results. When you can go out there and lay it on the line on the ice and bring your game, that pulls other people with you. To me, that exemplifies the great captains over the course of time. To have that ability is something very unique.”
Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett: “Unselfish. They take the responsibility of what they have to do but they take the responsibility for everyone else, also. We have a great one in Shane (Doan) because, he knows he has to be a great player for us and has to lead by example. But he would do anything for anyone on this team, in or out of a game, night and day. Just well respected, unselfish in everything he does.”
Coming Wednesday: The best captains in Chicago Blackhawks history, including perspective by Hawks historian Bob Verdi.