When the captains for Canada’s three national teams at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge were announced the morning of Nov. 2, there was a common theme that didn’t go unnoticed.
Born in 1998? Absolutely.
All from the WHL? For sure (seven of the nine players given letters play Major Junior west of Ontario).
The most unique similiarity, though, was that all three – Kale Clague, Tanner Kaspick and Nolan Patrick – play for the same Western Hockey League team – the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Clague, a Lethbridge, Alta., native, is the captain for Canada Black, Kaspick, from Brandon, Man., leads Canada White and Patrick, born and raised in Winnipeg, Man., has the honour for Canada Red.
Though the odds of Clague, Kaspick and Patrick all wearing the ‘C’ for their teams in Sarnia and Lambton Shores, Ont., may have been slim considering the leadership and talent spread across the three rosters, the trio are excited to represent their country, and their club team, together.
“It’s definitely special the fact that all three of us play on the same team, in Brandon,” says Kaspick. “It’s pretty remarkable odds that it ended up happening this way because of all the CHL players here, and all the great leaders coming from across Canada. It was really exciting for me, but even more exciting to share it with those two.”
The three are certainly no strangers to leadership; Clague was captain of Alberta at last fall’s Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup in Calgary, Alta., while Patrick captained Manitoba at the same event, and Kaspick served as one of his alternates.
Kaspick had the last laugh there; his Albertans beat Manitoba 3-2 in the preliminary round and ended up winning the gold medal, while Patrick, Clague and their province settled for bronze.
So what exactly does it take to be a great leader and captain? All three Wheat Kings seem to agree.
“You have to be able to show that you’re willing to do all the right things to win, as well as saying all the right things at the right times to the other guys,” says Kaspick.
“You have to lead by example on the ice, as well as off the ice,” adds Patrick. “You must work hard on every shift that you’re out there and set the example.”
“I think respect is a big aspect of being a true leader,” says Clague. “We need a good work ethic, in practice and in games. You need to act like a professional wherever you go and show discipline on-ice and off the ice; it’s pretty much like being a role model for other people and players.”
As impressive as the feat is for the three players, it’s a huge feather in the cap of the Wheat Kings organization, and the Canadian captains are quick to praise those in Brandon who helped get them to Team Canada.
“It shows that it’s a pretty high class organization,” Patrick says. “Everyone knew that before we were named captains, but Kelly McCrimmon (Brandon’s head coach, general manager and owner) really shows his players how to be professionals and that’s the result that you see here.”
“They do a great job at developing not only hockey players, but also good people,” Kaspick adds, “and I think this decision really reflects that.”
While Clague, Kaspick and Patrick are close friends off the ice, they know the goal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge is to win a gold medal; and if they have to go through each other to get it, so be it.
But don’t expect any ill will between the three.
“We’re best buddies and we’re together every day, just hanging out 24/7 in Brandon,” says Patrick. “Obviously we’re hoping to have good success here individually, but you also wish the best to those guys and their teams as well.”
So now the question becomes this: with captaining Team Canada under their belts, the next time the ‘C’ becomes available with the Brandon Wheat Kings, who will it be?