There are a number of reasons why, not the least of which are his 120 career NHL playoff games, and that Stanley Cup ring on his finger. But usually, you know a Captain as soon as you meet him. They have that certain something.
The time I’ve spent with Oilers captains over the years varies greatly. I won’t pretend to be a personal friend with any of them. I played (briefly) with one, have interviewed four, and have met two more as a fan.
Troy Edwards was Captain of the Moose Jaw Warriors in 1986, but we all looked up to Kelly Buchberger. He arrived in terrific shape, played every shift hard, and treated rookies (like me) just like the veterans. His love of the game then is still evident. That he became an NHL Captain never surprised me.
I interviewed Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish as a member of the Calgary Flames Broadcast crew. All Stanley Cup Champions by this time, each agreed to interviews after difficult losses, at the height of the Battle of Alberta, conducting them with patience, pride and class.
I’ve since been involved with Kevin Lowe through a mutual commitment to the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton. The time he and his family have invested into Edmonton’s oldest charity is admirable. That’s why I found the “Lowe Must
Go” campaign particularly distasteful.
I met Shawn Horcoff at a function with my wife and my young son. It was how Horcoff was with our (at the time) 8-year old that left a deep impression. He took Brandon by the shoulder, chatted with him at length, and shook his hand like you expect a Captain would.
Horcoff then reached into his pocket, brought out a team puck, and pressed into the palm of my son’s hand. That puck is still on his wall today. Yes, I was one of the people who stuck by Shawn Horcoff, right to the bitter end. I didn’t regret it then. I still don’t today.
I’ve met Andrew Ference twice, including this past Saturday. It’s interesting to meet someone more than once. Do they treat you the same, despite different circumstances? Ference does. He looks you in the eye, as if you are the only person in the room, and shakes your hand like he really means it.
What’s that? Don’t necessarily believe in the causes Andrew Ference represents? I’m sure not everyone does. But can we all agree that having a Captain who raises his family right in the city he represents, and makes it a priority to be a part of its social fabric 12 months out of the year, is a gift? Surely.