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Williams Earns Captaincy

Veteran forward will be 16th player in franchise history to serve as team captain

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

On the back of his sweater, from shoulder to shoulder, is his surname: Williams. Below that, a large No. 14.

On the front of his sweater, above the Carolina Hurricanes crest that adorns the chest, is a new addition: the letter C.

Justin Williams will be the 16th player in franchise history to serve as team captain, as announced by the Canes on Thursday.

"Big surprise, right?" head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Leadership is a big, big part of any success of a team. The best forms of leadership are earned. I don't think anyone in here would [say] that he hasn't earned the right to be the leader of this hockey club."

"Willy is the right captain for us. Everyone knows that. He's just a great leader. I'm going to follow him and watch and learn how he does things," said Sebastian Aho, whose stall is positioned beside Williams' along the back wall of the locker room. "He earned it."

Williams, 36, is entering his 18th NHL season and seventh with the Hurricanes. The three-time Stanley Cup champion and 2014 playoff MVP - affectionately known as Mr. Game 7 - has totaled 733 points (289g, 444a) in 1,162 regular-season NHL games, in addition to 94 points (36g, 58a) in 140 playoff contests.

Even with that pedigree, Williams has never officially worn a letter, aside from designations during the preseason or with others injured.

That changes now.

"I think one of the most important things that I'll take into this is to not change myself or be anybody that I'm not. Leadership comes naturally and comes from years of watching other great leaders," Williams said. "Certainly, my current coach is one of them. I'll be taking little things from his leadership and instilling them in mine. It's something I'm very humbled by and very proud of and something I don't take lightly."

Video: Justin Williams: "I'm humbled and proud"

Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk, who were named co-captains for the 2017-18 season, will now serve as the team's alternate captains. Brind'Amour talked with both individually over the summer before announcing the not-so-unexpected news to the team as training camp opened on Thursday.

"Jordan was great when I talked to him. When I told him what I was thinking about doing he was like, 'It's obvious. Justin's the captain,'" Brind'Amour recalled. "When you get that kind of confirmation - not that I really needed it - it's nice because those are the guys who matter. It's in that room. I think everyone has his back."

Everyone, including Staal and Faulk.

"We're all here to get better, help each other out and make sure everyone's voice is heard," Staal said. "We want to make sure everyone's improving."

"We're obviously happy. We think the world of Willy, and I think everyone else in this room does, too," Faulk said. "We're ready to go."

"I think we can all admit last year, the double captaincy was a little bit of a mess," Williams said, echoing a sentiment expressed in the room. "We're moving on from that. It takes a lot of leaders in the dressing room to build a championship team. The three of us are going to do our best to be the voice of the team and create new leaders out of it."

Staal, 30, has tallied 482 points (206g, 276a) in 843 games, including 234 points (86g, 148a) in 412 games with the Hurricanes. Faulk, 26, has played in 477 games with the Hurricanes over seven seasons and is a three-time NHL All Star.

The Canes' leadership group is experienced, strong and united in their goal.

"I think it's key for every organization - certainly every successful one - that everybody knows what each other is capable of and everybody is pulling in the same direction. Everybody wants the most out of everybody, and the only way you get that is through internal competition," Williams said. "We're going to lay it all out there. We're really excited about the direction of this team, and I think the fans and community should be as well."

Of the decisions Rod Brind'Amour will make as head coach, his team's captain was one of his first and one of his easiest.

It was the right choice. It was Justin Williams.

He's a veteran. He's a leader. He's a champion. Now, he's the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes.

"He checks off all the list of things that would make a good leader. He comes to the rink every day and plays the same way. He's a great person," Brind'Amour said. "At the end of the day, he knows how to win. That's what we've got to get to."

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