Thorold Blackhawks coach Scott Barnes was considering Jack Sykes to be the new captain of the team when the veteran defenceman made a play that sealed the deal.
During the waning seconds of the Blackhawks final exhibition game, Sykes dove head first attempting to block an empty-goal goal and ended up crashing head-first into the boards.
“He was just going hard right to the final buzzer of an exhibition game,” Barnes said. “That embodies a captain and what you want your team to be all about.
“He’s a different breed. He’s old school. He goes hard all the time. He’ll block shots in practice and make guys pay the price. Everything to help the team get better, he’s all about it.”
Barnes announced to the team Sykes would wear the captain’s C earlier this week following practice.
“I was pretty happy,” the 20-year-old Burlington native said. “I had a big smile and I was happy for my assistants. We have a good leadership group which is something I’m excited for.”
Grayson Gare and Dylan Pergentile will be the assistant captains.
Sykes, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound no-nonsense defenceman, had an inkling he might be in line for a leadership role.
“With the lack of 20-year-olds on the team this year I thought it would be a possibility, especially getting an A later in the season,” he said. “It doesn’t take away from being honoured.
“It’s a good opportunity to lead the boys.”
Barnes feels having a strong captain is essential.
“They (captain) are the lines of communication between the staff and the room,” Barnes said. “Just let us know how things are going in there and if anything needs to be taken care of. If things are going really good and they think we need to push harder or pull back a little bit.
“It’s having a captain that is going to lead by example.”
Sykes joined the Hawks last season after missing a season due to COVID. He quickly established himself as useful, dependable defender and by the end of the year was wearing an assistant captain’s A.
He is looking forward to mentoring some of the Hawks younger players.
“I think it’s crucial, especially compared to minor hockey where there isn’t the age gap,” Sykes said. “There are all these young guys who are at different stages of their life. It’s good for the older group to mentor those young kids, not only hockey, but for life.”
Sykes, an economics major at Brock, is eager to play the season at the Vale Centre in Port Colborne.
“Really excited. I think we have a great group and a great new facility and take advantage of it. We’re looking forward to a great season.”
The Hawks opened their season Friday with a 5-2 loss to the Caledonia Corvairs in Port Colborne.
Calvin Crombie, Brody LeBlanc, Tristian Huinink, Brayden Russell and Noah Baltzer scored for Caledonia.
Pergentile and Nathan Kelly replied for the Hawks.
In one other game Friday, Jayden Baldinelli scored the winner as the Fort Erie Meteors edged the Niagara Falls Canucks 4-3 at the Gale Centre.
Brad Ditillio, Joseph Macchione and Josh DiFrancesco also scored.
Benjamin Kay, Diego De Silva and Tighe Frazee replied for Niagara Falls.
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