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Refocused Ribeiro lauded for leadership, maturity

Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 11:25 AM / Player Profiles

By Ben Raby - NHL.com Correspondent

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Refocused Ribeiro lauded for leadership, maturity
The new Mike Ribeiro is a more mature, veteran leader on the ice in his first season with the Washington Capitals.

ARLINGTON, Va. -- As the Washington Capitals prepared for a two-game road trip to Carolina and Boston this week, Mike Ribeiro shook his head in disbelief.

Ribeiro leads the Capitals with nine goals, 19 assists and 28 points and entered play Wednesday tied for the NHL lead with 15 power-play points.

"He's been our MVP so far," teammate Troy Brouwer said. "A good surprise, if you can call it a surprise, given the production that he's had over the course of his career. He's been phenomenal."

Ribeiro's current pace would, in fact, produce the best statistical season of his career if played out over an 82-game season, but the veteran of 14 professional seasons doesn't do a double take when discussing his play in 2013.

Instead, Ribeiro shakes his head and shares a wide smile when he mentions that in a matter of months, his oldest of three children will become a teenager.

After all, it wasn't that long ago that Ribeiro was a teenager himself, a brash 19-year-old skating for his hometown Montreal Canadiens in 1999.

"The biggest thing in my life right now," Ribeiro said, "is being more focused on my children and being there for them."

This is the new Mike Ribeiro -- a husband and father first, who at 33 years of age also has become a more mature, veteran leader on the ice.

It has been a drastic, yet gradual change for Ribeiro, who admitted to cutting back on his late nights, with the worst being a 2010 arrest in Dallas on a charge of public intoxication.

"It starts with better decisions," Ribeiro said. "Instead of after a game going to have beer with the boys, I'll go home. Instead of going to bed at four in the morning, I'll go to bed at 12 at night. I eat better, I take better care of my body … I'm just more focused not on myself, but on being there for my family and helping my team win."

Ribeiro said that he wants to be there for his family, because wife Tamara and children Mikael, 12, Noah, 8, and Viktoria, 7, have been there for him through professional triumphs and personal challenges, helping him, "become a better person," in the process.

"Kids need their mom to be there, but they need their dad to be present, too, so that they can grow up to be good people, and that's my goal," Ribeiro said. "I want to teach my children to not make the same mistakes that I made when I was younger and to have a happy life. I want to be there for them.

"I'm obviously not perfect -- I'm far from perfect -- but I try not to re-do those mistakes that I made in the past, and now I can really focus on my family and my team."

Mike and Tamara Ribeiro have been together for 14 years, but the couple briefly split last year before re-marrying in the offseason and honeymooning together in June. It was on their second honeymoon that the Ribeiros learned that Mike had been traded to Washington after six years with the Stars.

The 6-foot, 177-pound center has come as advertised, according to his teammates, as far as his ability to create offensively. Ribeiro has spent much of the season on Washington's top line with Alex Ovechkin and has been a fixture on the No. 1 power play in the Eastern Conference.

Off the ice, Ribeiro has organized team dinners, hosted the team's annual Super Bowl party at his Virginia home and filled the role of veteran leader that otherwise could have been missed in Washington with the offseason departures of Mike Knuble and Jeff Halpern.

"The maturity is noticeable," Brouwer said. "I know he had some fun earlier in his career when he was younger, but that's allowed. Nowadays, he's helping the younger guys settle in and teaching them right from wrong, teaching them how to conduct themselves and how to be a professional. He's seen most every situation, so guys can look at him and respect what he says."

Among those teammates Ribeiro has taken under his wing is the only other French-Canadian on the Capitals' roster -- as well as a fellow undersized center -- Mathieu Perreault.

"The maturity is noticeable. I know he had some fun earlier in his career when he was younger, but that's allowed. Nowadays, he's helping the younger guys settle in and teaching them right from wrong, teaching them how to conduct themselves and how to be a professional."
-- Capitals forward Troy Brouwer on teammate Mike Ribeiro's leadership

"I've heard all the things that people heard, too," Perreault said of Ribeiro's past, "but I never knew him before, I've only known him this year, and no matter what he did before he's shown that he's mature now. He's shown that he's one of the biggest leaders on the team.

"He's not shy to get up and talk to the whole group, and that's never easy when you're a new guy coming to a new team, but he didn't shy away. The first few weeks of the season, right away he was up talking and being one of the leaders on the team."

Ribeiro still flaunts diamond earrings and gold chain necklaces, and he often wears flat-brimmed hats off to the side -- Capitals coach Adam Oates joked that he thought Ribeiro was a rapper after meeting him for the first time last summer -- but not even a youthful look can take away from Ribeiro's new-found maturity.

"I'm not 19 anymore," he said. "There's a difference between 19 and 33, and there's a lot of life experience that I went through and a lot of mistakes that you make and you try not to make them again. … Now that I'm 33, my knowledge and maturity is a little more advanced than it was even five or six years ago. I try to learn every year; I try to learn about myself, I try to learn how to be a better teammate, a better hockey player and just a better person in general. If you can do that every year and get better as a person and be positive, then I think good things will happen."

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