What makes a Captain?

It was announced today that the NY Islanders have selected Bill Guerin as their new captain. It's difficult to say if this announcement was at the behest of the certifiably insane owner Charles Wang or coach Ted Nolan, who I have a lot of respect for. Whoever's decision it was, I think it's safe to say that it wasn't done after careful observations of team chemistry or any other factor that had to do with his future teammates. The 37 year old Guerin is on a two year contract and has played for seven different teams in the last ten years. Prior to the free agency acquisition of the Islanders, Guerin was traded to San Jose from St. Louis at the cost of a first round draft pick in 2007, Ville Nieminen, and prospect forward Jay Barriball. In return San Jose received two assists in nine playoff games.

Thankfully, Avalanche fans we are spoiled. Since his second year in the NHL the captain of the Avalanche franchise has been Joe Sakic. Over the years there have been various leaders on this team. We've seen Roy, Foote and Bourque play important roles in the lockeroom and on the ice. In fact, various arguments have been made by pundits that the Avalanche needed a more vocal leader over the years. However, this has never been uttered by Avalanche players themselves and likely never will. As Avalanche fans know, Sakic is modest, relatively stoic on the ice and soft spoken. However, from time to time Sakic can and will speak with conviction. When he does, everyone listens. Sakic gained his footing as a young captain for the Quebec Nordics when he told the press;

"We only want players here who have the passion to play the game. I'm tired of hearing that name. He's not here and there are a lot of others in this locker room who really care about the game."

That rare public comment was regarding the soap opera that was Eric Lindros. He's never lead the team wrong since. One day Sakic will no longer play in the NHL and the Avalanche will name a new captain. We can only hope to find someone with half the class as Captain Joe.

For a real treat this September, I encourage fans to lurk at the Family Fun Center before, during and after rookie camp. Prior to official training camp you may be lucky enough to witness what I have on a few occasions, Joe Sakic leading his team on the East rink. I remember the off season prior to the lockout in '03 when Sakic was on the ice with Foote, Selanne, Kariya, Blake and other veterans. With no coaching staff in sight Sakic was running the ice and he didn't have these guys doing shooting drills or 2 v 2 on half the ice. Sakic had them all doing what we called as kids "donkey drills". They would skate in a large figure 8 pattern around the face off circles in single file. The man at the back of the line would have to sprint to the front of the line to the outside of the turns. It was an amazing thing to watch professional athletes sucking air and pushing themselves when they essentially didn't have to. Sakic transitioned everyone from drill to drill with a few words and he always lead the way doing the first sprint, breakout pass rout etc... . It would have been so easy to just shoot the breeze, toss some pucks in the net and make fun of rookies (Keep in mind, this was prior to the start of training camp. Players weren’t even required to report yet). Instead, they were all business and no one complained nor dogged it. No one should ever question Sakic's commitment to win. Enjoy him, he's one for the ages.

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