By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – Just prior to the Carolina Hurricanes stepping onto the ice to begin training camp at PNC Arena on Thursday, the team officially announced that forward Justin Williams was named the team’s captain.
It was not really breaking or shocking news to many as the 17-year veteran has exuded the qualities of leadership throughout his career and proven his worth winning three Stanley Cups while so far amassing 733 points (289g, 444a) in 1,162 career NHL games played with Philadelphia, Carolina, Los Angeles and Washington.
“I’m very humbled and it’s something I’m very proud of, and I don’t take likely,” Williams said following his training camp group’s on-ice session.
“He’s a great leader,” forward Sebastian Aho added when asked of his stall-mate who sits to his immediate right in the dressing room.
“I’m going to watch and learn how he does things. He earned it.”
Indicating that he had decided back in May that Williams would be ‘the guy’, first-year head coach and former teammate when the two won the Cup back in ’06 in Carolina, Rod Brind’Amour waited to make the announcement official until his selected alternate captains Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk and the rest of the team were told personally of Williams’ captaincy.
Staal and Faulk served as co-captains during the 2017-2018 season.
“Big surprise, right?”, Brind’Amour said jokingly when asked of the decision-making process he followed.
“Why is he the right guy? We talked about it. Leadership is a big part of any success of a team, I think. I don’t think there’s anybody in here that can disagree that he hasn’t earned the right to be the leader of this hockey club. Back in May, this was the easiest decision I had to make. For me, he checked off the things on the list that would make a good leader. He comes to the rink every day, plays the same way every day. A great person, and at the end of the day, he knows how to win.”
“There’s no more deserving player,” Staal said.
“Obviously, he’s been a great leader for a long time in all his different roles throughout his career, and I think he fits a great role here in being a leader for a young group that can do a lot of good things. I know my role doesn’t change – the letter on my shoulder does, but that doesn’t really bother me. What I’m worried about is winning games and however best I can do that is what I’m going to do.”
Of course, winning games during the regular season, making the playoffs and contending for a Stanley Cup championship are the boxes to check off for Williams.
Now it will be up to him to help lead a team that hasn’t made the postseason in nine consecutive years.
He knows he can’t and won’t do it alone, but with everyone having the same focus and purpose towards achieving success he does – to fight for it and to earn it.
“Everybody knows what each other’s capable of; everybody is pulling in the same direction,” he said.
“Everybody wants the most out of everybody, and the only way you can get that is through internal competition.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport