Wednesday’s captaincy vote was a prime example of new Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward’s unique approach.
In crafting the AHL club’s leadership group, Ward sought input from every member of the Heat’s hockey personnel. Players, coaches, trainers and equipment managers each had a vote, though the final decision rested with the coaching staff.
Ultimately, veteran forward Quintin Laing was the consensus choice as captain, reprising a role he assumed midway through last season. Defenceman Joe Piskula and forward Guillaume Desbiens will serve as assistant captains.
Laing, embarking on his 12th season as a pro, said he’d never come across such an in-depth process to choose a captain.
“It definitely means a little bit more being picked by the whole team,” the 32-year-old native of Harris, Sask. said after practice Thursday. “It’s kind of indicative of what Troy’s been preaching – we’re one big family, from the trainers to the players to the assistant coaches to the head coach.”
Ward, for his part, saw value in engaging as many unique perspectives as possible.
“I feel that I have a certain set of eyes on players, but then at the same time, I’ve got trainers and equipment guys who see the players in a different light than I do,” he said. “I wanted to get their thoughts on leadership in a holistic point of view – meaning in life and in hockey, from the buses to the airports to the hotels, everything that we do.”
Ward said Laing’s personal maturity distinguishes him as a leader.
“He’s married, he’s got kids, and I think he’s been through a lot of things other people haven’t been through in life yet or are just starting to go through,” he said. “It adds a lot to the value of our team.
“The things he does on a daily basis leads you to be successful.”
Laing pointed out the Heat’s formal leadership group will have plenty of help this season, with veterans like Clay Wilson, Jordan Henry, Ben Walter and Stefan Meyer in the room.
As for the assistant captains, Laing said Desbiens’s decision to drop the gloves in defence of teammate Paul Byron last Friday against the Lake Erie Monsters endeared him to his new teammates.
“He plays the way a player should play – he’s tough, he works hard, and he’s got skill,” Laing said.
Piskula, in his second season with Abbotsford, is a vocal leader in the locker room.
“Off the ice, he’s the best guy to talk to and have around,” Laing said. “He takes charge that way.”
• The Heat host their home opener on Friday, when the Rockford IceHogs come to town for a 7 p.m. puck-drop at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. According to Ward, Leland Irving is slated to get his third straight start between the pipes for the Heat.