Umpteen years ago the prolific shinny scribe, Stan Fischler, headlined a feature column in the Hockey News Magazine: â€œâ€™Câ€™ IS THE HEAVIEST LETTER IN THE ALPHABETâ€�. He was referring, of course, to the consonant which indicates the player designated to be captain of his team. He illustrated his point by quoting a current general manager: â€œWhen a club is losing a lot, the captain takes the brunt of it. There is added pressure because the coach usually relies on him. If the coach has something to say, he cannot go to 20 guys, so he goes to the captain. A good one will either wither his mates verbally, or orchestrate a crescendo on the ice with superior play.â€�
Dion Phaneuf with the Ottawa SenatorsDion Phaneuf shortly after being traded to Ottawa (Photo: http://www.sensnation.ca)
In 1968 Pierre Pilote was airlifted to Toronto. Again there were â€œextenuating circumstancesâ€� in this deal. He was nearing the end of his career, and actually retired after one campaign in the Queen City.
But gradually the floodgates began to open, with the â€œCâ€� becoming, as Sean McIndoe put itâ€”the â€œscarlet letterâ€�. In 1971, right winger Bob Nevin, considered by many at the time to be the heart of the Rangers, was whisked off to Minnesota. Newest update stats about generic levitra online. Ted Harris of the North Stars was moved to the Motor City in 1973. Two years later, in what is still considered a â€œblockbusterâ€� swap, defenseman Brad Parkâ€™s position as captain was overlooked, as he made his way to Beantown along with Jean Ratelle.
There have been several before (like Pat LaFontaine) and after (like Joe Thornton), but the epitome of deals involving a wearer of the big â€œCâ€� took place in 1988. Not only was he the team skipper, but the best player of his era. Yet Wayne (the Great One) Gretzky was peddled to Los Angeles. After that miscue the position of any teamâ€™s on-ice leader virtually amounted to very little. As one writer put it: â€œNothing is sacred anymore!â€�
With the exception of Steve Yzerman, who capably led the Red Wings for 19 seasons before hanging up his blades, gone are days when a player would wear the â€œCâ€� until the day he retiredâ€”ala Syl Apps, Milt Schmidt, and â€œRocketâ€� Richard.
Back in the 1960â€™s both Boston and Chicago went a season or two with no captains. But apparently they decided rather than designating a replacement quickly, an extra skater wore an â€œAâ€�, enabling management to thoroughly observe who should be given the honour next.
Sam Blazer once opined: â€œNHL captains are meaninglessâ€� (as far as the fortunes of the team is concerned).
That is obviously an extremism. Probably neither players nor management are anxious for captaincy to mean very little anymore. But times change. Thirty teams rather than six; salary caps keeping clubs scampering to meet the unrealistic salary demands; free agency and no-trade contractsâ€”all force a â€œgrand-change-allâ€� syndrome for survival. All mitigate against the ideal. There are still talented skaters; but few who manifest the qualities captains are made of. Untried choices in the search for on-ice leaders prompts what seems to be knee-jerk appointments. And in a manner almost as casual as changing shirts, he is gone to another sextet.
Sad as it is, that is reality. More than ever fans need a programme to keep track of who is wearing their clubâ€™s coloursâ€”and who is displaying the heaviest letter of the alphabet on his chest.