He's Capt. Canada

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

HALIFAX -- There was no white smoke pouring out of the chimney at the Delta Barrington. Team Canada didn't need a conclave to name a leader.

"He is Captain Canada," said Joe Thornton. "There isn't any other choice than Ryan Smyth."

All they were waiting for was for Thorton's arrival to complete the team to make it official.

"He's what a Canadian hockey player is," said Thorton. "He's what a Canadian hockey player looks like."

Even the mullet?

"Even the mullet," he said of Smyth's out-of-date hair style. "He's what Canadian hockey is. Everybody loves him. He's a great choice."

It's the fifth straight season the native of Banff is headed to play in the IIHF World Hockey Championships wearing the captain's 'C'.

The ultimate compliment is that they didn't waste any time this time. It's the first time Smyth was given the honour before the team left North America, the first time they made the announcement before the first pre-tournament game. They didn't put it on with Velcro this year. The 'C' was sewn on for last night's game against Team USA.

The 29-year-old, who took over as captain when Mike Peca suffered a broken collar bone in the 2001 Worlds, has a quad of assistants. Thornton, Kris Draper, Shane Doan and Ed Jovanovski will form a rotation wearing the 'A'.

"It's something just to be here wearing a Canada jersey let alone having a letter on it, but there was only one guy in consideration to wear the 'C'," said Doan. "He's Captain Canada. That's what everybody calls him. He always answers when Canada calls. It speaks volumes about what kind of guy he is."

The prototypical Canadian hockey player, who will play a record 51st hockey game for Canada when the tournament opens in Innsbruck, isn't the best player on this team. But to a man, Team Canada players say he best represents everything about wearing the red maple leaf for Canada.

"I take a lot of pride in being named an assistant. Ryan should take a great deal of pride in the honour they've given him again," said Kris Draper, the Toronto product who likely would be wearing the 'C' if Smyth weren't here. "I'm happy for him. He's earned it over the years."

Smyth said the honour gets greater the more members on the team are captains and assistant captains on their own teams.

"I'm backed up by a lot of guys who are leaders on their own teams."

Smyth said he also appreciates the extra honour of being named to the position the morning after the last player showed up to join the team.

"I think it's a comfort zone for the coaches to have all the players here and all the captains named before we play our first game."

Smyth has a chance to become the first player in the history of Canadian hockey to captain three straight teams to world hockey championships.

"Success was a big factor in this," said Craig MacTavish, Smyth's Edmonton Oiler coach who is Marc Habscheid's assistant with this team.

"He's done a tremendous job over there for the last two years. I think a lot of players relate to Ryan so well because he plays the Canadian game and he plays it the same way even if he's playing it with a bunch of 10-year-olds in front of his house.

"Guys like that passion. Guys who play with that passion get the most out of their ability."

You get the idea. This is Ryan Smyth's team from any angle you want to view it.

Maybe one day it'll be the same with the Oilers. Maybe one day they'll let him wear the 'C' on his own team.


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