Minnesota's 'C Change
After he was named captain on Jan. 1, the first thing Minnesota defenseman Brad Bombardir did was clamp forward Steve McKenna in a celebratory hug. "I was the one congratulating him," says Bombardir. "He had put his money on me."
There have been several such wagering opportunities in the Minnesota dressing room this season because coach Jacques Lemaire has instituted the NHL's only rotating captaincy. On the first of each month Lemaire and his staff assemble the players and produce a folded Wild sweater with only the vaunted "C" visible. They talk for a while about what the current captain has done for the club, discuss the players whom the coaches had considered to succeed him and then shake out the sweater to reveal the name of the latest leader. "We came up with the idea before the season," says Lemaire, who deserves consideration as coach of the year for guiding the expansion Wild to a 22-28-8-3 record through Sunday. "It gives the guys something to work for and take pride in."
Minnesota's inaugural captain, defenseman Sean O'Donnell, was followed by left wing Scott Pellerin in November, center Wes Walz in December and then Bombardir. When the Wild assembled on Feb. 1, Lemaire confounded his players by naming Bombardir again. "Nobody had bet on me that time," says Bombardir. "It's an honor to have been named once, let alone twice. This thing has definitely been a motivation for us—Wes skated a victory lap when he was named."
Minnesota plans to continue the practice next season. "It's the coming wave," says general manager Doug Risebrough. "You're going to see other teams do it because of the way our guys have responded."