by Bruce Campbell - Sports Editor - The Western Wheel
Alberta Junior A Hockey referees won’t have to take a second glance to see which of the two Okotoks Junior A Oilers captains are wearing the C for a particular game.
All they have to do is listen.
One captain, Jeff Barrett, doesn’t say much while the other, Ben Gamache, can talk like Calgary Stampede track announcer Les McIntyre after drinking a pot of coffee.
“Ben has a little more rah, rah in him while I am a little more quiet,” Barrett said with a laugh. “I have the ability to speak up when I have to. I think the two of us will make a really good team together as captains.”
Head coach Garry VanHereweghe and the Oilers’ coaching staff selected Barrett and Gamache as captains last June. The pair will work similar to how it was done last year when Chris Duszynski and Brandon Hoogenboom shared the captaincy and led the team to their first South Division title in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
The selection left the 19-year-old Gamache speechless, well, for a while anyway.
“I didn’t expect it,” Gamache said. “I thought I would have to work my way up the ranks. We have a lot of quality 20-year-olds coming back. ”
His job will to keep all the players up and focused.
“I like to talk positive on and off the ice and try to step up and do what it takes to make the team successful,” he said.
It’s not the first time Gamache has worn a “C”. He was the captain of the Notre Dame Hounds when they won the Midget AAA national championship in 2009.
Former champions are the kind of people VanHereweghe wants in the dressing room.
“You want the guys who have won before and provide that kind of leadership on the team,” VanHereweghe said.
The trend is continuing because the captain of the 2010 national champion Hounds, Scott Bolland, is also at the Oilers camp.
Gamache played in 58 games last season with the Oilers and contributed 11 goals and 19 assists. Although he was one of the smaller Oilers at five-foot-seven and 185 pounds, the feisty Gamache had 89 minutes in penalties. He shone in the Oilers’ opening round of the playoffs when he had nine points in six games against the Canmore Eagles.
However, he was injured in the Oilers’ loss in five games to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the league’s semifinal series.
“It was a clean hit, that’s just part of hockey,” he said of his injury.
Barrett missed 29 games last season. Though it was frustrating, he said watching from the stands might have helped him prepare for becoming a captain.
“I would come into the dressing room and tell the boys what I saw,” Barrett said. “I sat and watched 30 plus games and you see things different than when you are in the game and on the bench.”
When Barrett got back from his injury he was put on a line with Derek Rodwell and Duszynski. The big line not only put the puck in the net, but also knocked down plenty of bodies.
The six-foot-two, 200-pound Barrett is entering his third year with the Oilers. Last season he finished seventh on the team in scoring with 14 goals and 21 assists in just 31 games.
Barrett said watching Duszynski and Hoogenboom share the captaincy proved the system works.
“If there is an issue with one of the captains there is always someone there to back him up,” said the 20-year-old Barrett. “There’s also two points of view. Plus one game you might be wearing an A and the next game you are wearing a C. So it creates more cohesiveness with the team.”
It’s important to remember the C not only stands for captain but also class. The captains are just members of the team.
“It’s crucial that you don’t start thinking you are the big cheese,” Barrett said. “You are just one of the guys. If someone asks you to do something you jump right to attention and vice-versa. In the dressing room everyone is at the same level.”
The captain also acts as a liaison at times between the players, VanHereweghe and the coaching staff. That’s a two-way street though. If there’s a problem it is also the captain’s job to maybe knock on the coach’s door and say: “Hey Garry, there’s a tiny, tiny chance you might be wrong.”
“If there’s some issues going on, you have to deal with it,” Barrett said. “Garry’s got a great open-door policy, and he’s open to do all sorts of different ideas.”