Role Warrior

CHRIS NICHOLS -- McKeensHockey.com

, Last Updated: 1:28 PM ET

For Kendall McArdle, there is no debate as to whether or not athletes should be considered role models.

In a conversation with McKeensHockey.com for its March draft update, the Moose Jaw Warriors forward said that being in the public eye comes with certain responsibilities like setting a good example for young eyes that may be watching.

"It's important," he noted. "I think the two go hand-in-hand. If you're not ready to be that role model, you should choose a different line of work. It's an intangible with the game and there's no way around it because kids look up to you. It's a responsibility of the players in our league and the players in every other league to set that example. You want to teach kids how to win and to not put a bad name on the sport that you play."

McArdle, a native of Burnaby, B.C., grew up cheering for hometown hero Joe Sakic.

"He was a prolific player from our town and everyone knew about him and everyone watched him on the Nordiques and the Avalanche," he said. "As I started to slowly learn my game and what I've brought to the table, I've been watching Jarome Iginla in Calgary. He's slowly become that man I was talking about before and he's an example of my end goal in how I want my game to be."

Iginla is of significant importance because aside from serving as a role model for all kids, Iginla - like McArdle - is a minority. McArdle says that while young minority hockey players are going to be looking up to anyone displaying positive traits, regardless of race, it certainly makes a difference when someone like Iginla comes to the forefront.

"Yes, definitely. That's another reason why he is a role model for me both on and off the ice. He's always got a smile on his face and is always happy to talk to the media or to kids. He's got those intangibles that come with the game, like I was talking about before. I think that's truly what defines a complete player."

CLIMBING THE RANKINGS

McArdle, a 5'11", 200-pound left winger in the WHL, has been making quite a name for himself this year.

Seemingly a day-two selection for the 2005 draft at the start of the season, McArdle has been rocketing up the charts and he now seems to be a solid first round choice.

Aside from his knack for scoring, one of McArdle's most attractive qualities for an NHL GM may be his willingness to muck it when needed to make a play.

He's long since smashed his rookie totals of 8-8-16 in 54GP from last season and is past a point-per-game pace (37-36-73 in 67GP) as the season winds down. He's also racked up 115 PIM's. Ranked 48th and 29th in the past two McKeen's draft updates, McArdle has edged up to 25th in the March edition.

So what has changed from last season to now?

The forward says that between a wrist injury and just making the transition into the WHL, there were definitely some struggles. He came on strong during last year's playoffs though and his self-belief grew from there. With every little bit of success McArdle has earned, his confidence has grown and that in itself has helped his game.

"Oh, definitely," he smiled. "Confidence is one of the key factors to performance. Obviously this year I was put more into that role by my coaches here and I was given every opportunity and from there your confidence grows. Once you start to do well, your confidence grows even more. It's really just a snowball effect."

TOP PROSPECT HONORS

Aside from winning WHL Player of the Week honors in December, McArdle also put on an outstanding two-goal performance at the Top Prospects game in January. That entertaining show netted him Team Davidson Player of the Game honors and only enhanced his belief in his own abilities. Being able to play in front of his home province certainly didn't hinder him either.

"It was a surreal experience," he smiled. "The whole week was great and it being in my hometown was just that much more exciting."

Although he's certainly been getting more attention from scouts and the media in general, McArdle still seems firmly grounded and set on team-first goals. Despite the struggles of the Warriors this season, the squad managed to fend off Regina for the final playoff spot in its division and will hope to make its mark in the playoffs. The Warriors will take on Brandon in the first round.

"Definitely," he said. "That's our main focus right now - there's no question about that. We'll have to play to the best of our abilities to go as far as we possibly can. Right now, I truly don't think there's a limit as to how far we can go and everyone here is on the same page."

Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming playoffs, hockey fans can rest assured that McArdle will be exhibiting his tenacity nightly. Leaving everything he has on the ice is a trait he's proud of and one that comes with its own lesson.

"I think great things can come from hard work," he reflected. "I think if there was a kid looking up to me in town, I'd like him to know I wasn't always my team's top scorer. I wasn't always from a young age the kid who was going to be the Next One. I've definitely had to work hard to improve my skills, so there's no question that hard work is definitely a quality you have to have."

It would seem that Moose Jaw has its own role model in the making.

***

Read the full Q&A with McArdle tomorrow by visiting McKeensHockey.com as part of its March Madness Draft Update.

Chris can be reached at chris_nichols@canoemail.com


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