For the first time since February 2016, the Carolina Hurricanes have a captain - and not just one, but two who will wear the distinguished letter.
Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk will serve as co-captains in the 2017-18 season, while Jeff Skinner is the team's alternate captain.
"There's no question that there are only a select few players that get to play in the NHL and be honored with the 'C,'" Staal said at a Thursday press conference. "There's definitely no better excitement for myself."
Staal will wear the "C" at home and Faulk will wear the "C" on the road, a designation that will flip mid-season and could differ based on opponent or location of the game, like when the Canes visit Faulk's home state of Minnesota in March. Skinner will wear the "A" full-time, and whichever co-captain is not wearing the "C" will sport the second "A."
"It's a huge honor for both of us. We've been saying for all of last year and even the year before that we have multiple leaders in the room," Faulk said. "I don't know, necessarily, that we are going to go in there and change. That's the beauty of it with all the guys in the room who can step up and lead. The two of us, we're going to continue to be ourselves and go about our day the same way."
"We've given this a lot of thought as an organization, myself as a coach and my coaching staff," head coach Bill Peters said. "It's a special honor and a proud day for them."
Video: Hurricanes Captains Announcement
Though rare, co-captaincy isn't a new concept in the NHL. Rick Middleton and Ray Bourque shared the captaincy in Boston from 1985-88. More recently, Danny Briere and Chris Drury served as co-captains in Buffalo from 2005-07.
Team leadership doesn't end with the letters, either. There's Victor Rask, who served as a part-time alternate captain last season. There's Justin Williams, whose veteran leadership on and off the ice will be supremely valuable to the team.
"Justin Williams is Justin Williams, whether he's wearing an 'A' or a 'C' or no letter. It's not going to change who he is," Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis said. "He understands what it takes to be a successful winner. He's going to be a huge sounding board for these guys in that room and helping them grow as leaders."
There's Jaccob Slavin, who sets an example with his demeanor and lifestyle. There are guys like Marcus Kruger, who along with Williams and Cam Ward, know what it takes to win a Stanley Cup.
"We have an unbelievable group in the room with unlimited leadership," Peters said. "With our leadership group, it doesn't have to be a burden for anybody to be the leader on this team."
"There are obviously guys that are leaders in that room who would love to wear the 'C' who didn't get selected and were disappointed. That's a good thing. You want guys who want to be that guy," Executive Francis said. "We think we've got a great group of players and human beings in that locker room, character individuals who want to help this team be successful."
Following the trade deadline departure of Eric Staal in the 2015-16 season, the Hurricanes opted to move forward without a captain. In the 2016-17 season, the team had a rotating cast of alternates that featured, among others, Staal, Faulk and Skinner.
The process to name the seventh captain in team history then gained steam in the offseason.
"Multiple guys were making the suggestion that it was time to have somebody wearing the 'C,' so that kind of started the process," Francis said, referencing exit meetings with the team. "We walked through it, talked to a lot of people and came to this conclusion."
Other than the letters on the fronts of their jerseys, though, not much is going to change for Staal and Faulk, who were already a core part of the team's leadership group.
"Myself and Faulk both understand who the leaders are in the room," Staal said. "It's always been a shared thing."
"I don't want them to change one bit as people. They're unbelievable people. They're leaders. I want them to continue down that path," Peters said. "I think what will happen with our leadership group is that they'll lean on each other. They'll lean on Rod Brind'Amour and Ron Francis. They'll get direction and guidance in order to fulfill the job."
Staal, Faulk and others have already been handling some of the captain's duties, especially the minutiae such as bus times on the road. So, what does the new job entail?
"I didn't get a hand-out that had the list of duties," Faulk joked.
And if there is a split in opinion amongst the co-captains?
"We'll be on the same page," Staal affirmed with a smile.
The Hurricanes open the 2017-18 regular season at home on Saturday against the Minnesota Wild. Perhaps fittingly, the new captain(s) will be facing the old captain, and it will be Jordan wearing his brother's old letter.
"Being able to skate on the ice with the 'C' playing against Eric is going to be cool," Staal said. "He's excited for me, and I'm beyond excited about that. It's just going to make Opening Night even more special."
The expectation is that the 2017-18 season could be a special one, as well, and the Canes have a leadership group with co-captains at the helm that is mature and well-equipped for the road ahead.
"This, in my opinion, gives us our best opportunity to max out our potential as a team, and that's what we're focused on right now," Peters said. "Our team is in a position to make a push and fulfill our expectations."