Wearing the Captain’s “C” on the front of an NHL jersey symbolizes leadership, strength and courage. What that prestigious letter doesn’t always tell you though, is the path, trials, tribulations and significant growth a player must take in order to be bestowed one of hockey’s greatest honours.

By entrusting the Canucks captaincy to Quinn Hughes on Monday, it marks the culmination of years of dedication and sacrifice that the young blueliner has had to make; an incredible hockey player who continues to grow up right before Canucks’ fans' eyes. “It means a great deal to me to be named captain of the Canucks,” Hughes said with immense pride. “When I came here 5 years ago, I knew what I was walking in to having grown up in Toronto; just a crazy hockey market and a passionate fan base. It has been a pleasure and treat to play for this franchise and to be the captain is something that is incredibly special and something that I couldn’t ever imagine would happen.”

After being handed an “A” for the first-time last season, Hughes becomes the 15th captain in team history and the first defenceman to hold that honour since a three-player rotation during the 1990-91 season that included d-man Doug Lidster. The last full-time rearguard to wear the “C” was Kevin McCarthy from 1979 to 1982, so it is a very rare and special occurrence to have a defenceman be the Canucks captain.

Hughes has the mindset and skillset that sets him apart from other blueliners. The way he skates, dekes, dangles and carries the puck so effortlessly makes the game look easy for the 23-year-old. But don’t kid yourself, because success at this level isn’t easy, and the ultra-competitive Hughes would be the first to tell you just how difficult it is to play hockey in the NHL. Which is why he believes it is so vitally important to have a solid group around you. “The locker room is good and I believe everyone coming in early and being here the past two weeks has been great. We have a lot of guys who are hungry,” Hughes stated matter-of-factly. “We are really competitive, want to have a good season and be respected as a team. I want to be a part of this group and want us to win games. For everyone to show up early shows just how committed everyone is and that we are on the right page together.”

Aside from being very comfortable living in a hockey-mad Canadian market, the seventh overall 2018 first round pick loves the undying support and even the scrutiny he and his teammates face daily from a very passionate fan base. That positive mentality and strength comes from the unwavering support from his family, which includes influential mentors in mom and dad, plus a pair of younger brothers who have continued to challenge and push him in almost everything he does both on and off the ice.

That strong family tie is something that has really impressed Canucks management, who strongly feel the young defenseman is the right person for the job. “We informed our core leadership group that Quinn was going to be the captain,” said Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin. “Not only was everybody enthusiastic and supportive of the decision, but they were also extremely happy for Quinn. He is very well liked and respected inside our dressing room, and we know he will continue to grow and develop his leadership skills in the years to come.”

In 5-plus seasons in the National Hockey League, Hughes has already established himself as one of the best defencemen to ever wear a Canucks uniform. The fastest defenceman in NHL history to get to 200 assists, his impressive offensive numbers include setting single season team records for points and assists by a defenceman last year. A 2020 NHL All-Star, the dynamic and determined young blueliner has also worked extremely hard on his defensive game. For what he lacks in size, he has started to use his speed and smarts to become a much better defender.

Following the Covid-shortened 2020-21 campaign when he finished the season a disappointing minus 22, Hughes returned to his off-season home in Michigan and dedicated his summer to becoming much harder to play against. The work he put in has really paid off, by finishing a combined +25 the past two years. “Quinn is such a competitor, workhorse and off-season rink rat,” said Canucks Head Coach Rick Tocchet. “There are lot of ways to lead, and Quinn does it by example and by always giving his teammates, coaches and organization the upmost respect. When he does address the locker room it is very powerful and his growth and maturation in just the short time I have been here is very impressive. Quinn isn’t afraid to get uncomfortable and voice his thoughts during both good and bad times which says a lot about his character and desire to win.”

Looking forward to training camp and the start of the season, Hughes believes he is ready for the added responsibility and pressure that comes with wearing the “C”. That being said, he isn’t going to change who he is or the way he plays. No one takes losing harder in the locker room and no one is more self-aware and critical of their on-ice performance.

The new Canucks captain also realizes that there is strength in numbers and counts himself lucky to have so many other strong players on his team. “I had great mentors in Tanev, Luke Schenn and Markstrom, and currently I am still learning from Millsey and Myesy.” Hughes said proudly. “Even guys who are around my age - Brock, Elias and Demko - I am always learning from those guys and taking things from what they do to try and incorporate that into how I lead, and hopefully I do the same for them. We just have to keep pushing each other. Everyone has something to prove this year, we just have to remember that fact through training camp to stay hungry and we need to be ready to go.”