Maple Leafs introduce Phaneuf as team's captain
The Toronto Maple Leafs have officially introduced Dion Phaneuf as the team's 18th captain, the first since Mats Sundin had the role.
"The Leafs have had many great players fulfill this role in the long history of the franchise, and we wouldn't be taking this direction if we didn't think it was absolutely the right step," Brian Burke, the club's president and general manager, said Monday in a statement.
"We liked the impact Dion made with players, coaches and fans alike since his arrival and we consider him a building block toward future team success.”
To illustrate the tradition, former Leafs captains such as George Armstrong, Wendel Clark and Darryl Sittler attended the announcement, shaking hands before the TV cameras with the latest to wear the 'C.'
"With this new responsibility, my plan is to be myself," said Phaneuf, 25. "I want to lead on and off the ice. Above all else, the team and winning hockey (games) will be front and centre."
Afterwards, he told reporters that he grew up watching Clark and other NHL stars such as New Jersey Devils defenceman Scott Stevens, trying to learn how they played and led.
Burke said a captain has to deliver a message in both the dressing room and on the ice. "You can't be a good captain unless you're a superior player to start with," he said.
Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said one reason they have hesitated so long in naming a captain is because they wanted someone who could measure up with the great players who have had the title in the past. In Phaneuf, they believe they have that player, he said.
"Dion represents everything we want a Toronto Maple Leaf player to be," Wilson said.
The Leafs obtained Phaneuf from the Calgary Flames in a multi-player deal on Jan. 31.
In the 26 games he played with the Leafs, Phaneuf scored two goals and eight assists while recording 34 minutes in penalties. He was plus-one.
When Burke took over operation of the franchise, which hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967, he said, "We require as a team proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence."
Phaneuf delivered crunching hits on the ice and immediately became a presence in the rebuilding club's locker room.
Defenceman Luke Schenn, who attended the announcement, said Phaneuf was a definite presence in the locker room. "I think sometimes you need that. You need a guy that stands out and can maybe give you a kick in the butt when you need it, but also realizes when things are going well and has positive energy," he said.
The Leafs finished second-last in the 32-team NHL this season and have missed the playoffs for the last five straight seasons. With Chicago winning the Stanley Cup this season, Toronto now has the dubious distinction of owning the longest cup drought in the NHL.
Burke has said he thinks the club, which has undergone significant retooling, will compete for a playoff spot in the 2010-11 season when it starts in October.
Along with the new captain, the Leafs introduced their new jerseys.
- two stripes on the arm
- 11-point Leafs front crest
- string lace collar replaces v-shaped collar
- lettering and numbers will be single-layered as the outside trim gets dropped
- the return of the 1992-2000 shoulder patch
"Our fans were pretty adamant that they missed the waist stripes, they missed the shoulder patch and so we worked with the league to bring it back," said Tom Anselmi, the chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
These are the first changes to the uniform in three seasons. The fans will first see them in action on Sept. 21, when the Leafs play their pre-season opener against the Ottawa Senators.
The new jersey had a price of $189 at a sports apparel shop at Maple Leaf Square.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Tom Hayes and files from The Canadian Press