Tyler Brenner, John Lunney, and Patrick Shantz all wore the captain’s “C” on their jersey in recent years.
In the 2009-2010 season it will be Elmira’s own Jeff Zippel.
After some three seasons with the Sugar Kings, Zippel will step into the captaincy at the start of next season. The coaching staff went public with the news just this week, but broached the subject with the player at the end of last season.
“I think this is going to be an easy transition because Jeff and I always had a really good relationship and he displayed so many good, great leadership qualities already,” said head coach Geoff Haddaway, explaining Zippel’s selection.
Already an assistant captain last year, Zippel, who is entering his fourth and final year with the Kings, is one of the most veteran players on what will be a young squad that takes to the ice in September.
According to the coaches, it was an easy choice asking the local boy to assume the leadership role.
“I think it was the next logical step. For our team’s sake and continuity’s sake and the fact that Jeff’s been a real great Elmira Sugar King for the last three full seasons, going into his fourth year. What makes it more special is not only is he a deserving candidate but he’s a local guy too.”
Indeed, for Zippel, the opportunity to lead a team he watched as a young boy is particularly rewarding.
“I’ve always wanted to play for the Kings; to be captain’s just a greater honour to have,” he said.
Zippel, a gritty, stay-at-home defenceman, will not only offer some steadiness and assurance on the blue line, but also some leadership and guidance for the young guys.
“I think Jeff’s really well respected league-wide because he’s just a true teammate; he’s a consummate teammate in that it’s always about the team foremost,” said Haddaway.
“Jeff is the first guy to stand up for his team and he’s the first guy to make sure that no one’s taking advantage of our goaltenders or our young guys, so this (captaincy) is a choice that really in the end was an easy one.”
Zippel will form a core part of the Kings’ blue line corps, but might also be called upon from time to time to jump in on the attack – something he has done frequently in the past.
“The two of us have always talked about him sort of becoming the next Scott Lepold in Sugar King history in that Scott went about his things very honestly, very quietly, and was just a reliable player and Jeff has certainly taken that on,” said Haddaway, alluding to a player who was a key component in the Kings’ 2008 Cherrey Cup win.
“He’s the kind of guy that on any given night I could ask him to do something new and he’d be game to do it.”