stood on the Islanders blue line on Sept. 24, 2011 for the first time in almost one year. The enthusiasm Streit felt seemed to come alive in the fans. It was only a preseason game, but one fan screamed out…
“We love you Mark Streit
!” and it echoed across the Coliseum.
Streit’s return from a shoulder injury that cost him the 2010-11 season had an added layer of meaning attached to it. Streit wasn’t only returning from a torn rotator cuff, he was also making his debut as the Islanders captain.
|Islanders Captain Mark Streit skates through four Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 11, 2012 at Nassau Coliseum. |
“I thought it was a great experience and obviously a big honor,” Streit said of his first season wearing the C. “Coming back after last year after missing the whole year and then putting a lot of pressure on your shoulders being the captain, it took a little while to get used to everything on and off the ice.”
Streit was named the 13th captain in Islanders history on Sept. 21, 2011, taking over the reigns from the retired Doug Weight. On the ice, the effects of his layoff lasted longer than he’d anticipated.
“It took a little longer,” he said. “It seemed like the last month or two it came all together. I felt great on the ice, I had a lot of confidence, I felt my rhythm and it just felt way better than in the beginning.”
Streit looked like he had found his rhythm when he skated through all four Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 11, netting the game-winner in overtime. The Swiss defenseman put together a six-game point streak (1g/7a) in mid-March en route to 47 regular season points (7g/40a), ranking ninth in defensive scoring in the league. He played all 82 games, leading the team in ice time for 37 of those contests.
Off the ice, Streit learned to deal with the challenges of being a captain. As the team’s leader, he serves as a liaison between players, coaches, management and the league. He’s also counted on to maintain good relationships in the room and be a leader on the ice every shift.
“You don’t realize how much is on your plate, how much responsibility is in it,” Weight said of being a first-year captain. “It’s a lot bigger job than just coming to camp in shape and being a great leader and working and setting a good example on the ice. There are a lot of things off the ice that come with it.”
Streit is a sounding board for personal issues, organizes team functions and works with the coaching staff to set up practices and meetings. He also had to learn the best time to call meetings and be vocal in the young room.
“I don’t want to have a speech after every game, that’s pointless,” Streit said, instead choosing to call occasional meetings and lead by example. “We just have to hold each other accountable. We need to be consistent as a team, but every player has to realize how important it is that he is a consistent player.”
The young defensemen he led onto the ice thought he handled the role well in his inaugural season.
I thought it was a great experience and obviously a big honor...I learned a lot as a player on and off the ice. I think I’m going to be a better captain next year. - Mark Streit
“Mark’s a great leader,” second-year blueliner Travis Hamonic
said. “I think he’s vocal when he has to be vocal. He goes out and tries to lead by example on the ice. I think you can see him taking over games and that’s something you need and we definitely relied on.”
What rubbed off on Hamonic was Streit’s passion for the game, game-in and game-out.
“You can really tell that he has that passion and it’s something that’s pretty important and it’s the biggest trait you need in a captain,” Hamonic said.
Like coming back from an injury, it takes time to grow into the role as captain. Streit relishes having increased responsibility in the locker room, but acknowledges that he can still improve and ultimately must lead the Islanders to the playoffs.
“It’s a process, it’s a role you have to live into it a little bit,” he said. “I learned a lot as a player on and off the ice. I think I’m going to be a better captain next year.”