Captain's duties in hockey are plentiful

RoughRiders captain Jayson Megna. (Source Media Group photo)
RoughRiders captain Jayson Megna. (Source Media Group photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS - You're a buddy, a coach, a therapist, a sounding board and a relationship counselor. You're a liasion, a representative, a public relations expert.

You can be a  talker, but listening is a more important trait. First and foremost, of course, you've got to be a player, a worker.

When they sew the 'C' on the crest of your hockey jersey, you've got one of the most prestigious titles in sports. You're your team's captain, and you've got responsibilities.

Lots of them.

"Being a captain, especially for a team and organization such as the RoughRiders, is something I'm extremely proud of and something I also take very seriously," said Jayson Megna. "It's truly an honor to be recognized by your teammates and to represent a (franchise) with great alumni and a winning tradition."

Megna is this year's 'C' for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. His assistants (the guys who have 'A' on their jerseys) are Tommy Fallen, Michael Parks and Stu Wilson.

The team votes prior to each season on the honors, with head coach Mark Carlson getting final say. He admits he's never changed what his team has voted.

"The captain is not the guy with the prettiest girlfriend," Carlson said. "He might have the prettiest girlfriend, but he's not necessarily the most popular guy. He's got to be the guy who represents your organization on and off the ice the way you want."

Carlson said there is a "book" he goes over with his leadership quartet before the season and virtually every week that explains his expectations for them. They have regular meetings to discuss the team, how it is playing and if there are any concerns.

He even has asked them for their opinions before making a trade. On the ice, of course, they are the only players allowed to speak to referees.

"As far as what I've tried to be good at, I try to lead by example on and off the ice," Megna said. "Be there for my teammates, listen to their problems and try and keep the team's chemistry and relationships in balance, as well as be an extension of the coaching staff. "

That first thing is what Carlson said he expects most.

"Leading by example is the most important thing, by far," he said. "It's the things you do, how hard you work. It's following the plan, it's taking care of things in the (locker) room.

"It's a full-time job, and it's not an easy job. Megs has done a really good job this year."

Megna is an outgoing sort, but Carlson said that's not necessarily a prerequisite to being a good captain. He pointed to Rob Ricci, who was captain of the RoughRiders' 2004-05 Clark Cup championship team.

Ricci was a quiet guy.

"He's one of the best captains we've ever had, and he didn't say much at all," Carlson said. "He played in all the situations, did all the tough things. He competed, loved to win more than anything in the world, hated to lose more than anything in the world.

"On a real talented team with a lot of superstars, four NHL guys, he quietly led that team. He had his finger on the pulse of that team for 60 games and every game in the playoffs."

Megna said he learned a lot about being a captain from watching Jeff Costello last season. Costello is a freshman at Notre Dame.

Other RoughRiders captains over the years have included Jordan Pietrus and Ian Slater. One season, the captaincy rotated by month among several players.

"(It's about) playing within the system and setting the energy level on the ice," Megna said. "Setting an example off the ice pertains to things like showing up on time to team meetings, being polite, being a class act in public. Just setting the right example."I'm obviously not perfect, and there are skills and qualities I need to work on and improve at. I think that's why you need great assistants like Tommy, Stu and Michael and the rest of the team around you. So that when you make a mistake or have issues, they are there for you, as I would be for them."

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