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Jets captain carries some extra burdens

by Patrick Williams /
WINNIPEG -- Andrew Ladd is about to learn about life in the fishbowl that goes with being the captain of a Canadian-based NHL team.

Captaining any of the League's 30 member clubs is an immense honor for a player, but doing so in Canada brings additional scrutiny and demands. In Winnipeg, there will be nowhere to hide.

"We are learning that very quickly," Ladd said. "But that is the trade-off for having a full building every night."

Ladd officially joins that group of Canada-based NHL captains on Sunday when the Jets mark the NHL's return to Winnipeg after a 15-year absence by hosting the Montreal Canadiens at the MTS Centre (5 p.m. ET; NHL Network-US, CBC, RDS).


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For Ladd, a 25-year-old who brought the "C" with him when the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, the job has brought a lot of additional responsibilities. Ladd has shouldered the task of navigating one of the NHL's youngest teams through a complete makeover of its management and coaching staffs along with the many tasks associated with a team relocating to a new city in a new country.

It's a lot different than being a captain in a non-traditional hockey market, as Ladd was last season in Atlanta.

"There is definitely a bigger responsibility for myself and the other leaders in this dressing room," Ladd said, "to set a good example and be involved with the community and other aspects, and really just embrace the city."

Ladd went to work on that process just a week after True North Sports & Entertainment announced its intentions to bring the NHL back to the city after a 15-year absence. Ladd headed to Winnipeg to meet with team officials, check out the MTS Centre and see what the city had to offer him and a roster full of teammates facing a move en masse to Winnipeg. The visit reassured Ladd and his teammates that the transition would be a positive one.

"It's going to be a great culture for us here," Ladd said of the report that he delivered to his teammates, "and [there are] good people here who are going to do everything it takes to treat us [well] and create a great environment for the players and families. I think there is kind of a fresh-start feeling for everyone."

Ladd and the Jets found such a comfort level, in fact, that the club signed him to a new five-year contract on July 5.

In Ladd, the Jets are staking their hopes on a 25-year-old left wing who broke out last season with a career-high 29 goals. The Maple Ridge, B.C., native is also well-accustomed to pressure situations, having won Stanley Cups with Carolina and Chicago, participated in the NHL Winter Classic while with the Blackhawks and won a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2005 World Junior Championship two hours south of Winnipeg in Grand Forks, N.D.

Ladd has also gone through the process of being a first-round draft pick and being traded twice, so he is able to relate to many of his teammates' individual situations.

Winnipeg's Ladd says he's ready for the extra responsibilities that come with being the captain of a Canadian-based teams. (Photo: Getty Images)
"It feels like a long six years, for sure," Ladd said of his crowded hockey resume.

While Ladd and his teammates are adjusting to life in a new city, he does bring a shared history with Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. The two were together with the Blackhawks for the 2010 Stanley Cup championship when Cheveldayoff worked in Chicago's front office as an assistant GM.

"Knowing Chevy and having that comfort level from Chicago made it easy," Ladd said.

Much of Ladd's on-ice work this season will involve flanking center Bryan Little and right wing Blake Wheeler on Winnipeg's top line. Off the ice, he'll have to help his teammates navigate the huge increase in media and fan attention.

For now, though, Ladd's focus is on Sunday.

"I don't think we totally understand the historic value of it yet," Ladd said of the NHL's return to Winnipeg, "but it's pretty unique to be a part of it."

Eventually the excitement surrounding the NHL's return to Winnipeg will subside somewhat and the Jets can resume just being one of 30 League clubs competing for the Stanley Cup.

"It's going to be nice to start just playing hockey," Ladd said.

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