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Ottawa Senators right winger Daniel Alfredsson, left, argues a call with referee Brad Meier during an NHL hockey game. (Evan Vucci)
Ottawa Senators right winger Daniel Alfredsson, left, argues a call with referee Brad Meier during an NHL hockey game. (Evan Vucci)

Alfredsson now the elder statesman Add to ...

Pity Adam Foote.

Even though the veteran defenceman has accomplished just about everything imaginable during his NHL career, a small cloth letter has given him some seriously big skates to fill this season.

Foote is now the captain of the Colorado Avalanche, replacing the retired Joe Sakic - the only other man ever to wear the 'C' in Denver. In fact, Sakic had filled the role since 1992, when the franchise still called Quebec's Le Colisee home.

Burnaby Joe twice accepted the Stanley Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on behalf of the Avalanche and even captained Team Canada at the 2006 Olympics.

No pressure following him, right?

"I've been with this franchise for the majority of my career and I know what the standards are here," Foote said after stepping into the role. "I look forward to the challenge of leading this team."

Sakic's retirement leaves Daniel Alfredsson as the NHL's longest-serving leader. The Swede took over the Ottawa Senators captaincy from Alexei Yashin back in 1999 and has been the cornerstone of the franchise ever since.

Calgary's Jarome Iginla has been the captain since 2003, Ethan Moreau enters his third season as the leader in Edmonton and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo is set to embark on year two with the 'C' painted on his mask - league rules prevent a goalie from wearing it on his jersey.

Toronto and Montreal both remain without a designated leader.

The Maple Leafs haven't had one since Mats Sundin departed over a year ago and coach Ron Wilson has repeatedly indicated that he's in no rush to simply hand the honour out to someone else for the sake of it.

Saku Koivu's move to Anaheim over the summer created the vacancy in Montreal. Coach Jacques Martin hinted recently that he might name a successor before the season opens on Thursday night.

"We want to make sure we have an individual who represents the organization and what we stand for and represents the players - all the attributes you like in a captain," said Martin. "There are a couple of individuals I'm looking at, but I'll reserve that until (this) week when we make the call."

Minnesota, San Jose and the New York Islanders were also without a captain as of Tuesday night.

The Sharks situation is interesting because the letter was taken away from Patrick Marleau after another disappointing playoffs. Coach Todd McLellan revealed the decision just before training camp started and has yet to outline his new leadership plan.

For his part, Marleau publicly accepted the move.

"We're looking to getting to the next step and this might be one of the ways of getting there," he said during the Canadian Olympic camp in August. "If they think this is what we need to do to win, then I'm all for it.

"We've had really good teams there in the past and we haven't won it and maybe this will be the thing that takes us over the hump."

The only new captain other than Foote is also a veteran defenceman - Bryan McCabe of the Florida Panthers. He was once the captain of the New York Islanders as a 22-year-old and has since served as an alternate in both Toronto and Florida.

The 34-year-old feels more ready than ever to step into a leadership role.

"I feel honestly that I've matured a lot over the years and I've had a chance to play with some of the best leaders of all time - Mats Sundin, Doug Gilmour, Mark Messier," said McCabe. "I've learned a lot from those guys and hopefully I can carry it into this locker-room."

It's considered one of the most important jobs in hockey and there isn't only one type of player to fill it. Among the 25 current captains, there are 17 Canadians, four Americans, two Swedes, a Russian and a Slovak.

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