MANNHEIM, Germany – The search for Captain Canada’s replacement wasn’t very difficult.
Ray Whitney was handed the C prior to Canada’s game against Switzerland on Wednesday, taking over from the injured Ryan Smyth. The 38-year-old is the oldest player on a young team and has appeared in 1,072 NHL games?650 more than Steve Ott, the next most experienced player.
Whitney is honoured to take over from Smyth.
“He’s still with us, we still think about him,” said Whitney. “As for the captaincy, I think they could have went to any of the four (alternate captains). You could have picked a lot of guys.
“Maybe it’s because I am the oldest that it fell my way.”
That’s not too far from the truth.
Coach Craig MacTavish noted that Whitney is a former Stanley Cup winner who has more experience than any of his teammates. It felt like a natural choice.
“He’s clearly a guy from our observation that the guys have gravitated to,” said MacTavish. “Like I said the other day, (it’s important to) have the perspective. He can frame things the right way at crucial times because of those experiences that he’s had.
“We felt like he was the guy.”
It’s the first time Whitney has worn the C since 2002-03 when he was captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He also captained the 1989-90 Spokane Chiefs in the WHL and was an alternate captain with the Carolina Hurricanes this year.
Prior to the start of the event, Smyth was named captain of the Canadian world championship team for the sixth time. He played in the tournament opener before fracturing his left ankle in practice over the weekend and heading home.
Smyth left one final message for his teammates, scrawling “BRING BACK THE GOLD” on a whiteboard in the dressing room at SAP Arena.
There’s nothing Whitney would like to do more. His primary motivation for joining the team came from the fact he didn’t win a medal in three previous trips to the world championship. If that changes here, he’ll likely be a major contributor to the cause.
“That would be fitting,” said Whitney. “It’s exciting for me to try to win a gold medal. If I got the C on my jersey that would be even better.”
He plans to try and help the team stay loose because of all the young players in the dressing room. However, he insists he won’t have to babysit.
“At some point all these players have been the leaders of their team,” said Whitney. “They know when they play good or when they play bad. I think they’re smart enough or they know the game enough to make adjustments when they’re told to.
“That’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed?they’re young but they’re not dumb.”