Before the Canucks announced their new captain at their home opener on Wednesday, a very good source informed me that it would be Elias Pettersson. This flew in the face of all other available information, insinuations from the team, and logic, all of which suggested it would be Bo Horvat.
I chose not to write an article based on the information from this source, even though it was credible. I just couldn’t reconcile the information I was given with everything else I was hearing. That turned out to be a very good idea when, as expected, the Canucks named Horvat captain in a pre-game ceremony prior to facing the Los Angeles Kings.
The announcement was preceded by the Canucks’ new pre-game show for the 50th Anniversary season, which was suitably epic, jumping from era to era throughout their history. That includes a team-specific video and on-ice display for the Kings; the highlights from the 70’s and 80’s are a particularly enjoyable touch.
That was followed by an amazingly over-the-top Canucks versus zombies video that is one of the best things the Canucks media team has ever done. Absolutely incredible.
After introducing the current roster, interspersed with legends from each decade of the Canucks’ history, the team brought Orland Kurtenbach and Henrik Sedin out onto the ice to present the Horvat with the captain’s C.
Horvat becomes the 14th captain in Canucks history after the team went without a captain last season. There has been speculation that someone other than Horvat would be named captain, but it never made much sense.
Would Pettersson have been a terrible choice as captain? No, though it certainly would have been unexpected. Despite being in just his second year in the league, Pettersson is clearly a leader on the Canucks, setting an example with his play on the ice and hard work off the ice.
Pettersson is also great with the media, whatever you may have heard about his supposed “prickly” personality. He gives thoughtful, considered answers to questions and doesn’t back away from speaking to the media after a loss. Since speaking with the media after every game is inevitably part of a captain’s job, that has to be taken into consideration.
There are two big issues that made it exceedingly unlikely that the Canucks would pick Pettersson as their new captain. One is that he’s only in his second season and the Canucks don’t want to heap additional pressure onto a player that already has such high expectations from the fanbase, the team, and himself. Pettersson just needs to focus on his game and avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump.
As a second-year player, Pettersson hasn’t even been tasked with wearing an “A” as an alternate captain. It was unlikely the Canucks would name a captain that had yet to wear a letter for the team.
The other big issue is that Horvat has been groomed to be an NHL captain since before the Canucks even drafted him.
Horvat is a hard-working competitor that backs up his hard work with skill. He sets the tone for his teammates with his work ethic on and off the ice and is mature beyond his years. In many ways, he provides a bridge between the older generation on the team and the youth.
In addition, he learned from two of the best leaders in Canucks history, the Sedin twins. He saw how hard they worked, he saw how they talked to the media, and he saw how they contributed to the community.
“I think the Sedins have really helped him and brought him along in the two years he’s been there,” said Horvat’s dad, Tim Horvat, three years ago. “He looks up to them and I think he’s learned a lot and I really believe, honestly, one day, as long as Bo stays healthy and continues to work hard, I could see him as a future captain, for sure.”
“Obviously you want to follow in the footsteps of those guys,” said Bo at the time, “You want to be a leader on the team, you want to be the guy that score big goals for your team, and a guy that’ll do whatever it takes to win and hopefully bring a Stanley Cup to Vancouver.”
He echoed those thoughts on the impact of the Sedins on Wednesday morning after the game day skate. He talked about the most difficult aspect of being a captain and how he saw Henrik and Daniel deal with it.
“I think probably dealing with talking to the media every single day and having that spotlight on you all the time,” said Horvat. “It’s a Canadian market, it’s a Canadian team, and the media’s hard on guys and the team, and I think for you to be that voice is definitely tough, and they stuck with it, night-in and night-out. They were just complete pros on and off the ice, I learned a lot from them for sure.”
Horvat also talked about the most important aspects of leadership that he learned from the Sedins.
“Having a voice and having an opinion,” he said. “I think having that comfort level that guys can come to you with anything and you can be comforting and easy to talk to, and obviously lead by example on the ice as well.”
All of those aspects fit Horvat to a T, or rather, to a C. With a new letter on his chest, Horvat doesn’t need to change anything about his leadership style or play on the ice. It’s more a recognition of who Horvat already is rather than elevating him into a new role.