The Carolina Hurricanes have often talked about having collective player leadership and will have that again this season, but with a different twist.
The Canes announced Thursday that Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk would serve as co-captains this season. Canes coach Bill Peters said Staal often would wear the “C” at home games and Faulk in the Canes’ road games, then reverse that halfway through the season.
Jeff Skinner will serve as an alternate captain, Peters said.
“We have an unbelievable group in the room with unlimited leadership,” Peters said Thursday. “These guys lead on and off the ice.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
The team has been without a captain since Eric Staal was traded to the New York Rangers in February 2016. A year ago, Jordan Staal, Faulk, Skinner and Victor Rask were alternate captains — four A’s, no C.
In an ironic twist, Eric Staal will be on the ice Saturday at PNC Arena with the Minnesota Wild as the Canes play their season opener. Jordan Staal, 29, likely will be wearing the “C” for the Canes.
“Being on the ice with the ‘C,’ playing against Eric, will be really cool,” Jordan Staal said. “I know he’s excited for me. It just will make that night, opening night, even more special.”
Faulk, 25, has represented the Canes in NHL All-Star games and the U.S. in the Olympics. The defenseman was drafted by the Canes in 2010 and developed into a player who’s both solid on the defensive end and an offensive weapon.
“It’s a huge honor for both of us,” Faulk said. “You don’t ever expect to come in and say, ‘I’m going to be a captain on an NHL team.’ Yes, that’s a goal and you think about it a little bit, but you just come in and play hockey and try to do your best every day, on and off the ice.”
An hour before the announcement, Staal was asked what he believes makes for a strong team captain.
“It’s getting a team to play above maybe their own expectations and play better than they really are,” he said. “And, really, to make sure you push them every night to be ready.
“And then obviously lead by example after that. You can only push guys so far, and then you back that up with yourself and with your work ethic.”
A good captain is not always a rah-rah type, Staal said, always addressing the team, being loud, being in people’s faces when things go awry.
“It seems like in this sport it’s about setting a good example,” he said. “Usually your captain is one of your high-minute guys and a guy on the ice a lot. Everyone knows who’s playing well on the ice. It doesn’t have to be that you’re playing well to lead, but at the same time you better be prepared and ready to go.”
Staal is the Canes’ biggest, strongest player and its best checking forward. He won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 – beating the Canes in the Eastern Conference final – and agreed to a trade to Carolina in June 2012 to play with his brother and hopefully get the Canes back in the playoffs.
That didn’t happen, and Eric was traded. That didn’t sit well with Jordan Staal, who had signed a 10-year extension in 2012, but it didn’t affect his play or attitude last season – his sixth with Carolina and 12th in the league.
The announcement Thursday was made in a press conference at PNC Arena, with Gov. Roy Cooper in attendance. When Staal was named captain, on Jan. 20, 2010, it came in a closed, somber team meeting at Raleigh Center Ice as Rod Brind’Amour, the captain of the 2006 champions, gave up the “C” to the younger player.
In the 20 years the Hurricanes have been in Raleigh, the team has had five captains: Kevin Dineen, Keith Primeau, Ron Francis, Brind’Amour and Eric Staal. Now Jordan Staal and Faulk.
Francis, the Canes’ general manager, said in the players’ exit meetings in April, several mentioned the need for a captain. That, he said, started the process that ended Thursday.
“We’re comfortable with the decisions we made,” Peters said.