Yesterday the Washington Capitals named Alex Ovechkin the 14th captain in team history. The honor makes Ovechkin, at 24 years of age, the third-youngest captain in the NHL, older only than Jonathan Toews (21) and Sidney Crosby (22). He inaugurated his reign with a rather poetic quote that seems to capture how Ovechkin plays the game…
“I have a 'C' on my heart, but I'm going to do the same thing."
It’s one thing to play the same way with or without a “C” on your heart, but wearing that “C” confers a certain measure of responsibility. He will not lack for role models, though. History is littered with captains. You can’t swing a deck chair or a yardarm (would that be “metre-arm” in Canada?) without hitting some captain who might serve as an example to the young Ovechkin. We’ve taken a few moments to scour the history books to see which style of captaincy might best suit Ovechkin…
Capt. Merrill Stubing
Posting: Master of the Pacific Princess, a cruise ship notorious for weekly romantic escapades in exotic locales.
Style: Good natured, father-figure to crew; skilled seaman (amazing that the Princess never sailed rough seas or sailed through stormy weather) but occasionally bumbling in dealing with his daughter, maybe because she didn’t show up until the second season.
And this applies to hockey…how? A locker room is like a cruise ship… lots of different personalities, lots of guys sent up, sent down, sent out, brought in. A captain needs to be affable and approachable to all sorts of personalities. And Stubing wears shorts… like hockey players.
Capt. Francis Xavier (Frank) Furillo
Posting: Captain, Hill Street Precinct
Style: Often reserved, with occasional flashes of moral indignation and temper, other times passionate (usually when canoodling with the public defender, Joyce Davenport). Subplot involves his long-suffering relationship with ex-wife, who is a whack job, not unlike some high-strung athletes.
And this applies to hockey… how? Police captains have to deal with a lot of nasties. Think of a city full of Sean Avery’s and Daniel Carcillo’s. Oh, and they have to deal with slow-witted police chiefs… sort of like referees, without the orange arm-bands.
Capt. Georg Ludwig von Trapp
Posting: A really big house in Salzburg, Austria…certainly a bigger house than you’d think a Captain could afford on his salary.
Style: At times rigid and overbearing, but with a heart (and voice, even if it was dubbed) of gold. Lacks management skills in some respects, requires assistance of a governess to oversee his seven children. Plays a mean whistle.
And this applies to hockey… how? Every kid wants to do his or her own thing, and it takes a stern hand with a gentle touch to keep all of them in line. You can let Mike Green wear a Mohawk, but you can’t let him wear curlers and bunny slippers.
Posting: Master of the Pequod, a whaling ship
Style: Maniacal obsessive. Had this thing for a big fish (ok, “marine mammal”). Big quote: “To the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.” Sounds sort of like what one might say about Sidney Crosby in a Game 7 of a playoff series.
And this applies to hockey… how? What, you aren’t getting the Sidney Crosby analogy? What are you, dense?
Capt. Barney Miller
Posting: Captain of the 12th Precinct, NYPD
Style: Flexible, able to juggle many balls in the air at once. Manages a squad that can only be described as, “eclectic” (a habitually late subordinate whose name no one can pronounce, to a detective who writes books and produces adult films on the side, to a veteran nearing retirement who has lost a step (or six), to a wisecracking squad member who gambles a bit too much and makes bad coffee, to a uniformed apple-polisher who will leave no behind unkissed in his pursuit of a detective’s badge). Requires quick-thinking, tolerance, and an ability to look good in a 1970’s era moustache.
And this applies to hockey… how? You’ve seen Barney Miller having to deal with Inspector Lugar? Well, it’s kind of like dealing with Bill McCreary.
Capt. Wallace B. (“Old Leadbottom”) Binghamton
Posting: Commander of a patrol boat fleet in the Pacific theater of World War II
Style: Relentless, temperamental, perpetually frustrated, and… oh, yeah… loud. Seems to have spent entire tour of duty in a single-minded pursuit to catch a subordinate PT boat commander red-handed in one of his weekly opportunistic schemes.
And this applies to hockey… how? Well, it probably has something to do with being loud. We’re working on that.
Capt. Horatio Magellan Crunch
Posting: On the front of cereal boxes for almost half a century
Style: Well, stylish (it’s an epaulets thing). As a problem-solver, uses a method best described as “crunch-a-tizing.” We have yet to find this method in the management literature.
And this applies to hockey… how? C’mon, any Captain named “Crunch” is born for hockey. He couldn’t be any more “hockey” if his first name was “Brendan.” Besides, have you seen Ovechkin actually play?
Capt. James Tiberius Kirk
Posting: Captain of the Starship Enterprise (NCC-1701)
Style: Scene-chewing, but oh, how the ladies love him. A port in every star cluster, as it were. No one faced higher odds against him in battle; no one faced grimmer situations in going where no man has gone before (or in trying to settle one of the interminable arguments between Dr. McCoy and Commander Spock). He could be flip with a phrase one moment, deadly with a phaser the next. No Starfleet regulation was stiff enough he couldn’t bend it, no Romulan tough enough he couldn’t vanquish him.
And this applies to hockey… how? OK, OK, Ovechkin likes the ladies, too. But on the other hand, he can be flip in a commercial one moment, deadly with a laser wrist shot the next. Besides, couldn’t you imagine Ovechkin in the locker room before a big game saying, “we may go up in the biggest ball of fire since the last sun in these parts exploded, but we've GOT to take that one-in-ten-thousand chance!"
So… what sort of Captain is Alex Ovechkin going to be? Ahab-like with an obsessive desire to vanquish Sidney Crosby? The “crunch-a-tizer” that reflects a certain “Captain Crunch” mentality? The flexible and accommodating leader of an ensemble cast like Barney Miller? The hard-charging, rules-be-damned Captain Kirk? Or like the quick-with-a-whistle von Trapp? Only time will tell, but there is no shortage of role models to look to for advice.
He just might want to think twice about taking it.