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by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
tbl.commentator - Melanie Formentin

When Tim Taylor became the eighth captain in Tampa Bay Lightning history he knew he was carrying the weight of more than the additional letter sewn onto his jersey. What he was carrying was the invisible weight of responsibility and honor that comes with being named the captain of an NHL hockey team.

In his 12th season in the NHL and fifth with the Lightning, the veteran Taylor has become known for his leadership abilities and calm attitude surrounding hockey games. Considering that he has played under legendary captains such as Steve Yzerman, Raymond Bourque and Mark Messier, it's not hard to understand why Taylor was named the newest Lightning captain entering this season.

During the run to the Stanley Cup in 2004, Taylor may not have been the captain, but he was one voice of calm in what could have been a brewing storm. Through his words and actions he helped convey a sense of confidence that helped the Lightning beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the Conference Finals before rallying to beat the Calgary Flames in the Finals.

With nine new faces in the Lightning's lineup and a need to rebuild a sense of tightness and family between new and old teammates, Taylor looks to use his experience to help bring the locker room together.

"It's a huge honor, and with that comes a lot of responsibility in the aspect that you just can't worry about your own hockey game, you have to worry about everyone else's," said Taylor of his captaincy. "[With] disagreements amongst teammates, you have to kind of make sure you're a referee and help out there. [I] also help the young, the older and the new guys to adjust to our new situation and the way things are run around here."

In an effort to help everyone adjust and become accustomed to the team's concept and style of play, Taylor falls back on a variety of lessons he has learned throughout his career.

One of the biggest things Taylor brings into his game and his role as captain is that need to remain calm and collected; a hallmark of his leadership manners. Looking to understand the team as a whole, Taylor feels one of the most important things is not to get too high with the highs or too low with the lows.

"Making sure guys are ready to play each and every game, and knowing the pulse of the team," Taylor said of his most important job as the captain. "Guys are down, guys are up, depending on how we're playing and what's transpiring within each game situation. [I] try to keep guys on an even keel to make sure they're ready to play each game [and] not to get overly excited about situations."

For Taylor, being ready to play each game also means having the proper mindset and a strong work ethic.

Some of the biggest lessons Taylor learned from the great leaders he has played with have to do with hard work, determination and a sense of confidence. And, once again, remaining calm under pressure even in the face of adverse situations.

"The biggest thing I think I learned is to work hard in practice [and] in games," Taylor said. "That characteristic hopefully transpires within your team to work hard in games and not to be too emotional when things are going bad and not to get over anxious and rant and rave. When things are going well, try to keep guys ready for hockey games, to prepare so they don't get too high."

"I think the big thing for a leader is to make sure he's always calm, cool, no matter what situation he's in - to show [the players] that you're ready to play."

Recounting an instance where confidence became a key in keeping the team on the right track, Taylor brings up a memory from the Finals against the Flames in 2004. Having won a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 1997, Taylor was able to fall back on past experience to help keep his teammates focused on the task at hand.

"In Game 6 when we went into Calgary the job of the leadership group was to make sure we were confident we were going to win that hockey game," Taylor said. "Always show that confidence that you're going to win each and every game, to give the team some confidence as well."

While confidence within the game and a team is important, sometimes the most impressionable thing a captain can do is care for his teammates beyond the daily happenings at the rink.

When dealing with younger players, blossoming leaders or newcomers to a lineup, it is that extra effort to reach out that can really tighten a locker room and solidify someone's respectability as a captain. No one knows this better than Taylor, who says actions like those from his past captains are what have made the biggest impression on him in his career.

"The biggest impression a captain has ever left on me was Stevie [Yzerman] calling me for something outside of hockey. Our daughter was born and he called me right away and talked to me," Taylor said. "The other one was Raymond Bourque calling me after his career was over to let me know, and our team know, that I could instill some words of wisdom within our hockey team that he instilled with his team in Colorado when they lost Game 5 at home and went on and won Games 6 and 7."

"That was the biggest impact I think I've ever had from a leader, calling me outside - he had no concerns about the game, just to help me out."

Taking these past experiences into consideration, the Lightning look to Taylor to help build a sense of camaraderie in a locker room with half a team full of new faces. He carries the "C" with the purpose of bringing confidence to the club. It's a new sense of responsibility that Taylor has accepted with open arms, and as one would expect, with a calm, cool and collected demeanor.

As any hockey player might tell you, and as Taylor might show you, it's an amazing thing to see just how much that small "C" sewn on to a player's jersey can actually hold.
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