For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.
Komets at Kalamazoo
Face-off: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
The man wearing the C on his chest as team captain never sees it. Being the captain of the Komets is not about how a player perceives himself but how others view him.
Sometimes the players vote and sometimes the coach just picks, but almost always a captain ends up naming himself by his conduct on and off the ice.
After they traded Nick Tuzzolino on Nov. 26, the Komets are waiting for a new leader to emerge. Coach Gary Graham has named three alternate captains in Kaleigh Schrock, Brandon Marino and Mickey Lang, but it's possible the next captain could be another player such as Chris Auger, Simon Danis-Pepin or Scott Fleming. It's also possible the Komets may go the rest of the season with the three alternates.
It depends on the player. As Graham said, he wants to see who leads in practice, in workouts, in games and, maybe most importantly, in tight situations. Who is going to seize the moment and the letter?
Perhaps no other sport puts as much emphasis on the captaincy than hockey. He's a leader, usually but not always the best player, the spokesman and great at finding the intangibles which help teams win. Sometimes a captain's qualities are almost mythological when actually his main duty is to be the one player on the ice allowed to talk to the referee.
Here are some things a captain must do:
1. They must lead by example as well as by what they say. They have to be able to back up their words with action, and sometimes making plays is more important than a good speech.
2. They must be comfortable in all areas of the game. Though it can be done, it's pretty hard to be the team leader if you aren't on the ice in all key moments, from power play to penalty kill to crucial face-offs in the defensive zone with 10 seconds remaining. You can't lead from the bench.
3. They have to be able to communicate with teammates and the media, especially after losses. As Colin Chin always preached, you can't get too high with the highs or too low with the lows, and you always have to remember there's another game the next night. That said, you have to be honest in assessing what just happened while setting the tone for the next game. Captains can't have excuses.
4. Leadership has to come naturally and can't be forced. You can't bluff your way through being a captain or everyone will see through it immediately.
5. They have to know when to talk. Having the sense of timing of when to say something is just as important as being willing to say it. The best captains sometimes wait until everyone has had their say before ending the conversation with their own words. Other times, they need to start the conversation and end it by being the only one who speaks. It's a tricky balance.
6. They must be able to say anything to both the coach and team management while maintaining composure enough to listen to the other side as well. If there's a problem in the locker room, the captain has to address it internally, and if that doesn't work have the confidence to take it up the management ladder.
7. He can't allow being captain to negatively affect his play. He has to be a productive player first and can't worry about leadership so much that his play suffers. That's not always easy.
8. They must be able to read the pulse of the locker room. When everyone is tight before a big game, it helps to tell a joke. When everyone is too loose, it's time to say it's time to regain focus.
9. Calling out teammates is sometimes necessary, either face-to-face or in a group. It may be the hardest part of the job, but it's also one of the most important. If a captain doesn't do it, many times the improper actions don't get corrected and they just evolve into bigger problems.
10. Maybe the least important duty of a captain from the perspective of everyone else is the most obvious one on the ice: they must have decent relationships with officials. They are the face of the team on the ice when talking to the men in stripes. That doesn't mean they are going to win an argument with the referee, but a solid relationship might lead to a consideration of a captain's point.
And then there's the difference of being the captain in Fort Wayne. It helps to understand the situation that the management and fans here demand to win. The fans don't care who is hurt, how bad the schedule has been or how hot the opposing goalie is.
They simply expect the captain to lead the Komets to wins.