The New York Islanders turned the page on a new chapter in team history Monday, naming John Tavares the 14th captain in the team’s 42-year history. Islanders General Manager Garth Snow made the announcement at Bethpage State Park, the site of the annual Islanders Children’s Foundation Golf Outing.
Taking the stage before a room filled with teammates, management, media and ICF supporters, Tavares put on the jersey with the captain’s “C” for the first time and acknowledged the two former captains he played with on Long Island, Doug Weight and Mark Streit.
“It’s obviously one heck of an honor to be named captain of the New York Islanders, to have the respect of your teammates, the organization, our great fans and everyone involved with the club,” Tavares said. “There have been so many great past captains and obviously the last two have meant a lot to me. Hopefully I can carry the team in a way they did and learn from the great friendships that I have with them.”
The 22-year-old Tavares has paced the club in points during each of his four seasons with the Islanders. He was named a finalist for the Hart Trophy (league MVP) in 2012-13 after ranking third in the league with 28 goals and leading the Islanders to their first postseason appearance in six years.
But captaining an NHL team is about more than goals and assists, and the 2009 draft pick has stepped up to the plate consistently in his career, handling the pressure and responsibility that comes with being selected No. 1 overall.
Snow believes the example Tavares sets for his teammates on and off the ice made him the natural choice for the captaincy.
“He’s a top player in the league, but he has a grinder’s mentality when it comes to work ethic and practicing the right way,” Snow said. “He’s a great leader and deserves to be the 14th captain in Islanders history.”
The Mississauga, Ont. native is under contract with the Islanders through the 2017-18 season. He’s made it clear that he wants to stay with the Islanders for the long haul, a mentality that has rubbed off on his teammates. Since Tavares signed his deal in September 2011, Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Matt Martin, Travis Hamonic and Josh Bailey have followed suit in signing long-term deals to stay with the club.
Bailey, who was the Islanders first-round pick the year before Tavares, applauded the team’s choice.
“I think a huge quality in someone you want as a captain is someone with the determination and drive to be successful and win,” Bailey said. “I think those qualities can make you a great leader. When you throw into the mix him being a great guy and a good friend – I think he’ll do a great job as captain.”
Tavares says he doesn’t feel any extra weight on his shoulders after Monday’s announcement, and that he’ll go about his duties the way he always has. True to form, Tavares was eager to talk about what’s ahead for the group as a whole.
“I don’t think being named captain is going to change a whole lot, but it’s a great honor,” Tavares said. “We certainly have the opportunity to build on last season’s strong performance. It’s up to us to prove ourselves and it’s not going to get any easier for us this year. What we’ve accomplished so far doesn’t mean anything unless we can take advantage of what’s ahead of us.”
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