He's Captain Canada

Canada's junior team member Michael Richards was named captain of the squad over the weekend....

Canada's junior team member Michael Richards was named captain of the squad over the weekend. (Winnipeg Sun/Jason Halstead)

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

It may have taken a while to sink in but to Mike Richards, Captain Canada has a pretty nice ring to it.

Richards, a Kenora product and captain of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers, found out yesterday that he'll be wearing the C on his jersey for Canada's junior national team.

"It's a real honour right now," said Richards, a 2003 first round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers who has 14 goals and 32 points in 26 games for the Rangers this season. "There are so many guys in the dressing room who are great leaders and to get the nod was a great feeling.

'PRETTY EXCITED'

"I was pretty excited right when he (head coach Brent Sutter) told me. You didn't really know what to think before that. It's sinking in now and it's a pretty cool feeling."

Richards says he learned plenty from Rochester Americans forward Daniel Paielle, who was Canada's captain on last year's world junior team.

"He was a guy you looked up to quite a bit, he led the way for us, showed us the ropes," said Richards. "My natural leadership is to lead by example. I'm not the loudest guy in the dressing room. I won't be the guy yelling at people to do stuff. I'd rather show them what to do than tell them what to do."

Jeff Carter of the OHL's Soo Greyhounds, Dion Phaneuf of the WHL's Red Deer Rebels and Patrice Bergeron of the AHL's Providence Bruins are the alternate captains.

When selecting his team captains, Sutter knows he probably could have done just as well picking names out of a hat but he had a good feeling about Richards.

"It didn't take me long in the evaluation camp in August to know that and to have an idea what direction we'd be going in," said Sutter.

"To me, he's just a great leader. He was a logical choice for us. He's intense, in your face every shift every time (he's) on the ice."

Rangers head coach Peter DeBoer, an assistant on Sutter's staff, said Richards was an excellent choice.

"He plays how he preaches and he backs it up," said DeBoer.

"I don't think he's a big talker but he's one of these guys that understands when a message that needs to be sent, he'll send it. If you're talking all the time, guys tune you out. They listen when he speaks.

"He also has a real coaches-type mind to his game. He can understand the intricacies of what the coaches want, the details of the game and he can pass that on to the other guys in the room."

Being a leader has always come naturally to Phaneuf.

"I try to lead by my play on the ice, it's the way I've always been," said Phaneuf.

"I don't need to have a letter on my jersey to lead. Ever since I was 16 and came into the league with Red Deer, I wanted to be a leader."

Receiving a letter was welcome news for Bergeron, who won a gold medal with Canada at the 2004 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Prague and spent last season with the Boston Bruins.

"I was surprised, I didn't expect to have a letter," said Bergeron. "I'm pretty happy they gave me the chance to wear (one) and be part of the leadership group."


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