Mike Pelino recognized Jack Walchessen's leadership abilities the first time he met him.
The Peterborough Petes' head coach appointed Walchessen as team captain in advance of Thursday's 2010-11 season opener against the Oshawa Generals at the Memorial Centre. In addition, Adrian Robertson, Ryan Spooner and Austin Watson were named assistant captains. Matt Puempel wore an A on his jersey Thursday filling in for Spooner who is still at Boston Bruins training camp.
Walchessen stood out at the spring orientation camp when he met the players for the first time, Pelino said. "It was his presence with the guys," Pelino said. "His professionalism and his real passion to be a Peterborough Pete." Three days into training camp, Pelino told Walchessen he was going to make him captain. The jersey was officially presented to him after practice on Wednesday. "I told Jack, 'You're never going to be a first-rounder in the NHL and you're never going to play on the United States national junior team, but you do have the opportunity to be one of the best, if not the best, captains in the history of the Peterborough Petes.' You could see him swell up. I think he's really going to take this to heart and try to do the right things for his teammates, the team and the city."
Walchessen said he considers it a great honour. "To be named captain of the Peterborough Petes is something special and something I'll take with me the rest of my life," he said. "I'm going to do my best to be extremely good at it." He considers a captain a leader by example on and off the ice and a go-to-guy for teammates. He wants to create an environment where respect is given and received by all players on the team.
He'll be playing for a former Petes' captain in GM Dave Reid. "I look on the walls at the Memorial Centre and see his name there. It's special to be named captain with all the great guys who have gone through this organization," said Walchessen, who is entering his fifth season with the Petes. Pelino is happy with his entire leadership group. Even though they won't wear letters, Pelino says Puempel and Justin Larson are included in his leadership group and will be given responsibilities. "Adrian Robertson has been extremely impressive in his leadership and work ethic and in the subtle ways he treats his teammates with respect," Pelino said. "Just the air about him has been very impressive. With Austin and Ryan, they've achieved some pretty lofty accomplishments in the last year. Austin stepped in last February and from all accounts has been a tremendous teammate.
"Even the stories of how he sacrificed the opportunity to win a Memorial Cup with Windsor to come to Peterborough and how he really dove in feet first. His willingness to pay the price and, from talking to players, what a great teammate he is bodes well for what he'll be able to provide.
"Ryan had an outstanding season last year and was most sportsmanlike player in the league," Pelino said. "To be named an assistant captain I think is going to raise the level of his game and his accountability and bring out his leadership qualities."
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