Craig Duininck doesn't flaunt his Memorial Cup championship ring very often.
It's not that he isn't proud of the title he won with the Windsor Spitfires in 2010. But with no Ontario Hockey League team winning the Memorial Cup since, Duininck is the only active player in the league who has experienced winning the CHL championship.
It's not something the 20-year-old defenceman likes to gloat about to other players.
"I don't show off my ring much, although I do tend to wear it when we play in Windsor because that's where everything happened," the captain of the Sarnia Sting said. "I don't chirp on the ice about being the only guy in the league with a ring because there are a lot of skilled players around the league who have never been fortunate enough to win a Memorial Cup."
While Duininck reached major junior hockey's pinnacle with the Spitfires, it wasn't until he was traded to the Sting two seasons ago that he came into his own as a player and a team leader.
"I'm a defensive defenceman and I like to play the shutdown role," he said. "This season I'm playing with Anthony DeAngelo and he's the offensive guy in the pairing.
"I'll chip in with the odd goal or assist, but my job is defence first."
The six-foot-one, 190-pound native of St. Cloud, Minn., has two goals and an assist, along with five minutes in penalties in five games with the Sting (1-4-0) this season. The team named him captain during training camp.
"It's a big honour," he said. "I've played with some great team captains during my time in the OHL and I've learned from them all. In Windsor, I played with Harry Young and Ryan Ellis and in Sarnia I was fortunate to play with Nathan Chiarlitti."
Duininck's leadership skills have not gone unnoticed in Sarnia.
"Craig has all the attributes of a leader and shares the same values that we are trying to instill in our players," said Sarnia head coach Trevor Letowski. "He was an obvious choice by our coaching staff for team captain."
Part of Duininck's responsibilities as captain include representing the Sting away from the arena.
"Craig is a well-rounded young man and is a fine example of a student athlete in the OHL," said Sting assistant general manager Mark Glavin. "He'll never say no to a player appearance request from the community. He loves to help out wherever he can."
Duininck said he has styled himself after Young, now a New Jersey Devils prospect.
"Harry wasn't the most skilled guy out there, but he always gave an honest effort and was well-respected by his teammates and opposition players," he said. "He had a great reputation for his community efforts in Windsor and I try to do that here now.
"I've learned that helping the people who come to watch us in the stands is what being a team captain and leader is all about."
The Sting, who have sent young stars like Edmonton's Nail Yakupov and Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk to the NHL in recent years, are in rebuild mode this season. It's a different situation than his start in Windsor, as he helped a powerful Spitfires team win its second straight Memorial Cup.
"We were stacked and skilled at every position and the guys from that team will be friends forever because we shared something so special," Duininck said.
"I worked my way up to playing about 20 minutes a game in Brandon (at the Memorial Cup)," he said with a laugh. "That's because we were usually up by five or six goals after two periods and the more-skilled guys were rested and I played a lot in the third period."
With his OHL career drawing to a close, Duininck has mixed emotions about being a possible trade target for teams looking to compete at the 2014 Memorial Cup in London.
"We may have a young team in Sarnia this season, but we are a talented young team and I really enjoy helping the younger guys grow and adjust to the league," he said. "I'm the captain of the Sarnia Sting and that's going to be my focus for as long as I am here.
"If a contending team trades for me as part of their efforts to win the Memorial Cup that would be great as long as the deal also helped Sarnia. But finishing my OHL career as captain with the Sting is also great and will continue to be an honour."
Duininck, who is undrafted by an NHL team, has plans to make a career out of professional hockey, even if it is not as a player.
He is currently taking online courses at the University of Guelph with an eye to a degree in kinesiology.
"If I don't end up playing pro hockey, I definitely want to stay around the game, and at the highest level," Duininck said. "I may end up being a personal trainer, physiotherapist or chiropractor.
"I definitely want to stay around the game if I'm not playing."
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