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The players have spoken

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Michel Therrien’s troops have spoken. Max Pacioretty will be the new captain of the Montreal Canadiens.

Elected by his peers on Thursday night, Pacioretty – along with general manager Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens' bench boss – met with members of the media on Friday afternoon at the Bell Sports Complex to be introduced to the public in his new role for the first time.

Max Pacioretty was named the 29th captain in Montreal Canadiens history on Friday.

Sporting the coveted “C” on his No. 67 jersey, the 26-year-old forward made his opening statement in French, making it perfectly clear that he plans on embracing everything that comes along with captaining the most successful franchise in hockey history on home soil and abroad.

“It’s a great honor to be the new captain of the Montreal Canadiens. I’m very touched to be in the same group as the 28 former captains of the team. This nomination is very important to me because my teammates were the ones who selected me,” offered Pacioretty, who became the third American-born player to captain the Canadiens, following in the footsteps of former teammate Brian Gionta and Chris Chelios, who was a co-captain along with Guy Carbonneau during the 1989-90 campaign. “My family and I are very happy to live in Montreal. I’d like to thank Geoff Molson, Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien for the opportunity to play for the Canadiens. I’m looking forward to the start of the season and getting back to playing.”

Set to embark on his eighth NHL season, the three-time 30-goal scorer has spent his entire career in a Canadiens uniform, learning the tricks of the trade from players past and present while steadily growing into one of the league’s elite players along the way. That – in addition to being a model citizen off the ice – has earned him the respect of those going into battle alongside him night in and night out.

“To have the support from my teammates, I’d put it right up there with the top feelings in my life. I’ve grown a lot as a player, but I’ve got to credit the people who have been in this organization with me and made me into the person I am right now. To know that my teammates felt that way about me was special, and I’ll remember it forever,” shared Pacioretty, who boasts 144 goals and 280 points in 399 career NHL regular season games, and has also chipped in with 10 goals and 18 points in 32 postseason outings. “I’ve been here for seven years now. I’ve learned what it means to be a Montreal Canadien. Maybe when you’re younger, you don’t appreciate it as much or you don’t understand how important it is. Every time I put on the jersey, I’m thankful that I’ve been given this opportunity. I also know that it comes with more hard work, more dedication, making the right decisions and doing the right things. That’s what I’m willing to do going forward.”

While playing most recently under Gionta’s brand of leadership – and benefitting from Saku Koivu’s tutelage earlier in his career – the New Canaan, CT native learned the fundamentals of guiding a squad over the course of a long NHL season and important life lessons, too. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say Hall-of-Famer Jean Beliveau was Pacioretty’s most significant mentor in his early 20s, having spent plenty of time with him prior to his passing in December 2014.

“Saku and Brian both had huge influences on my career. I’m going to try to think back to the way they handled situations and obviously try and use it going forward. Last year was a special year, though. It wasn’t the year we wanted in terms of what happened to Jean Beliveau, but we learned a lot from that and we saw how important it is for this organization to act the right way, leader or not,” stressed Pacioretty, who claimed the 2012 Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game, after returning to the ice following a severe injury. “We were surrounded by a lot of the legends and the people that played in the past. We saw their passion and just how they spoke of Jean. Going forward, it changed me and I think it changed my teammates as well.”

Pacioretty met the media on Friday afternoon in Brossard along with Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien.

One of four assistant captains to also be named on Friday, veteran defenseman Andrei Markov couldn’t say enough good things about Pacioretty following the announcement on the South Shore.

“He’s been a leader for us over the past couple of years. He deserved the honor. He earned it,” offered Markov, who, along with Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher, will help Pacioretty in his duties come early October. “It’s hard to say what makes him a good captain because you have to be in the dressing room to really understand it. It’s tough for people outside of it. What happens in there is our business, but I can say that he’s a real leader both on and off the ice.”

In Gallagher’s case, sporting a letter on his jersey entering just his fourth NHL season is a significant source of pride.

“It’s a great honor and I’m proud. But, at the same time, there are a lot of leaders on this team so I don’t have to really change the way I go about things,” explained Gallagher, who sees Pacioretty as someone who has taught him a lot in a short time period. “He’s been a big help. I had the chance to play with him and he’s always been there for me. It’s easy to talk to him. He’s a real professional. He isn’t afraid to invite you over for dinner to talk to you and things like that. He’s great with the young guys.”

Like his charges, Therrien believes Pacioretty has the necessary qualities to be a successful captain, particularly with just under 20 players on the roster under the age of 30.

“I look at his work ethic, the way he conducts himself during games and practices, too. There’s a whole packet of factors that came into play as to why the players felt comfortable naming Max,” offered Therrien, who is adamant that Pacioretty has played an integral part in the Canadiens’ success in recent years. “We have confidence in our group. We like our group. They made a good decision, and we’re happy about it.”

For his part, an always-humble Pacioretty is just trying to come to terms with his new status.

“In my mind, it’s the biggest honor [in the NHL]. I just can’t believe that I’ll be put in the same category as the people before me. I really am honored,” concluded Pacioretty, who says his leadership style will go unchanged as team captain. “I don’t think I belong in the same sentence as any of those other 28 captains. Once it sinks in, it’s going to be a little bit easier, but right now I’m still in shock.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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