Ben Jones will be wearing the captain’s C for the Niagara IceDogs this season. Photo by: OHL IMAGES.
The Niagara IceDogs didn’t have to look very hard or long to find their captain this season.
Less than a week into training camp, the club has already anointed veteran forward Ben Jones with the captain’s C.
Jones is the 11th captain in franchise history and takes over for Johnny Corneil, who has graduated.
“It’s a huge honour,” Jones said. “You see the pictures on the wall (of former captains) as we head out to the rink with some awesome guys.
“Since I’ve been here with Anthony DiFruscia, Ryan Mantha and Johnny Corneil, I’m hoping I can be one of those guys further down the road who they can look at.”
IceDogs head coach Billy Burke saw no reason to wait to name the classy veteran captain.
“It was pretty obvious to everyone who was qualified and would be great in the role and that would be Akil (Thomas) and Jones,” Burke said. “Jones is a year older and he carries himself like a pro. He comes to our rookie days even when I don’t ask him to.
“Whenever something needs to be done, he’s the first guy to do it and then he backs it up by turning into a premier player in the league.”
Thomas will wear one assistant’s A while the third will be chosen before the season starts.
“There are four or five deserving candidates,” Burke said.
Jones plans to take a little something from each of the captains he has played with.
“Some guys were more community guys and some guys were more around the rink, but all of them were awesome guys,” he said. “Off or on the ice, you couldn’t complain at all. They were just huge leaders for the guys. They just treated everything like a pro. That’s something I have learned to bring into the room.”
Jones said it is vital the captain set the tone, particularly for the younger players.
“The biggest thing for me was thinking back to my 16-year-old year and having my eyes wide open and not knowing what to expect,” he said. “Now I’m one of those older guys who can go in there and show them it’s just a hockey team, you don’t need to be scared of the older guys. You bring them in and show them the ropes.”
Burke expects Jones, Thomas and the other leaders to police the room themselves, but also keep an open line of communication going between the players and the staff.
“The captain needs to be an extension of the coaches into the dressing room,” Burke said. “We don’t want a jailhouse snitch and Jonesy has been around long enough to understand situations that can be handled with the team and situations that arise where the coaches need to be involved.
“That’s a great asset for him. He has an excellent feel for the team and that’s one thing we want here, transparency between coaches and players and having the ability to communicate.”
Burke said it’s vital the players feel the room is their sanctuary.
“We’re not in there. We don’t want to hang out. We need leaders we can trust and be on the same page,” he said. “We need to give them their space and show the players the respect that we’re not babysitting them.
“We want to treat them like pros and the message is we’re all in this together. We have success together and we lose together.”
Jones said he has no problem being a conduit between the staff and the players.
“We have such a great group I don’t foresee any problems but if something does arise, the letters and good character guys in the room have to figure out what’s going on and have a talk with the coaches if we need to,” he said. “There’s going to be up times, down times and times when guys are good and times when guys are mad. We’re focused on the same goal — to be playing hockey as long as we can and make it to the Memorial Cup.”
In 192 regular season games, Jones has collected 138 points (48 goals and 90 assists) and has 13 points in 20 playoff games. He was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, and signed an entry-level contract with the team in June.
The IceDogs visit Barrie in exhibition acton on Thursday, Sept. 13. before hosting the Kitchener Rangers in Beamsville on Sept.15. at 7 p.m.
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