From Todd Johnson during the first season of the franchise to present day official on-ice team leader Colin Archer, the Red Deer Rebels have presented an impressive list of captains to their paying customers.
Each season, only one player can wear the coveted ‘C’, and don’t think for a minute that Archer takes the honour for granted.
“It’s something I’m really proud of. I mean, you just look at some of the guys who came through here and were in my position,” said the 19-year-old defenceman. “It’s pretty amazing . . . some of the guys who have been through here. There have been some pretty prestigious players serve as captain of this team.”
Indeed, the line of Rebels captains through the years includes the likes of Brad Leeb, current head coach Jesse Wallin, Colin Fraser, Bryce Thoma, Jim Vandermeer and Brett and Brandon Sutter. All were effective leaders, capable of inspiring the club with their on-ice performances or as dressing room orators, or both.
Archer feels he fits into the latter category.
“It’s different for all guys. For me personally, I think I need to be a vocal guy,” he said. “I can’t be quiet, I need to be a presence in the room and a presence on the ice as a physical player. I might not be a very skilled guy but I have to compete hard. I have to lead by example as well as being a vocal guy.”
Archer is in his third season with the Rebels and his second season as team captain. He was handed the role when Brandon Sutter did not return from the Carolina Hurricanes for the 2008-09 campaign.
“We saw a guy who is really disciplined in his approach to the game, a guy who is really respected in the room and a guy who wants to take charge,” said Wallin, explaining why the coaching staff felt Archer was the right man for the job.
“He’s a vocal leader in the room, a guy who everyone looks up to and based on what we’d seen out of him the previous year and his response to certain situations, we just felt he was the best fit.”
Archer was flattered that the coaches (Wallin, Bryce Thoma and Dallas Gaume) identified him as a consummate leader and still feels fortunate in that regard.
“It certainly is a huge vote of confidence from the (coaching staff),” he said. “They are guys who have played with some great leaders. Jesse has played with Steve Yzerman. If he sees leadership in me when he’s played with guys like that . . . it’s a huge compliment.”
Wallin served as the Rebels captain during his final two WHL seasons (‘96-97 and ‘97-98) and was captain of the Canadian national junior team for the 1998 world championship in Finland.
“He knows what it takes to be a captain, as does Bryce who was also a captain here. Like I said, it’s a huge honour just knowing how those guys feel about me,” said Archer, who is grateful for the opportunity of playing with and learning from Brandon Sutter as a Rebels rookie in 2007-08.
“Brandon was a great guy and well respected in the dressing room,” he said. “He was a good guy to follow into this role after watching how he acted as team leader.”
Archer, who always wore a letter during his minor hockey days and was an assistant captain with the Red Deer midget AAA Optimist Rebels before moving up to the WHL, admitted he’s a tad more comfortable in his role as a 19-year-old than was the case last season.
“When you’re a younger player it’s a little hard to know where your place is with older, more experienced players on the team,” he said. “You don’t want to rub them the wrong way because they’re also leaders.”
His job description goes beyond what transpires on the ice and the dressing room. He organizes teams functions and is also expected to stand behind a microphone.
“Sometimes you have to be a public speaker on behalf of the team,” he said. “You just have to get used to it. You know it’s your place to step up and talk.”
Most importantly, as team captain Archer has to be an exemplary citizen of the community.
“No question, as the leader of the team you’re in the public eye,” said Wallin.
“You’re a spokesman for the team and a guy who people look up to. How you carry yourself in the community, how you present yourself in a lot of different situations, is a reflection of the organization, a reflection of the team. It’ an important role and one that I took great pride in.
I think ‘Arch’ does the same. It’s a huge honour for him and he doesn’t take it lightly.”
As the Rebels team captain, Wallin was the definitive team player. He sees that in Archer.
“The biggest thing is your captain has to put the team first, ahead of himself,” said Wallin.
“I think ‘Arch’ does that. He cares, he genuinely wants to see the team succeed. He brings that to the rink each day and works extremely hard. He’s not the most skilled guy on our team by any stretch, but the effort he exerts each day in getting better both in practice and the weight room . . . his work ethic is second to none.
“He’s certainly a leader in that regard. He pushes himself and he expects his teammates to push as well.”