ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Kris Versteeg’s decison to leave the IceHogs and move toward retirement from hockey has left a hole in the IceHogs roster.
It’s not Versteeg’s on-ice production that they’ll miss. He had only played in six games. At times he was a healthy scratch. He didn’t score a goal and he had only one assist. Where the IceHogs will miss him is with what he contributed off the ice.
“Where it’s going to hurt us is in the locker room, away from the rink too,” said IceHogs head coach Derek King Wednesday after practice. “Just the way he managed the guys and the guys looked up to him, and the way the guys and even for me, somebody to talk to like, ‘Hey get a feel for what’s going on with the guys. Are they tired? Are they not tired? Anybody need this, need that?’ He was a great communicator like that.”
“He was a huge leader,” said IceHogs forward Brandon Hagle. “You see what he has done over the years, and he was honestly one of my closer friends in the room, so obviously we’re going to miss him as a team and a group.”
Versteeg was the IceHogs’ captain. King says he’s inclined not to name another captain at this point.
“I like having a captain, but we had the captain and now to replace it…I’m not 100 percent (sure)…I’m not against it, but I’m not just 100 percent sold yet.
Other players who are IceHogs veterans might have to assume more of that leadership role now. Tyler Sikura, now in his third season in Rockford seems like a natural fit for that role. When I asked him if he feels he needs to assume more of that responsibility he admitted the thought has crossed his mind.
“This is something that I’ve kind of dealt with throughout the course of my career in terms of being a leader or wearing a letter. Sometimes maybe I’m going to have to be the guy to address the team instead of him or something like that, but ultimately I think you’re chosen to be a leader for what you’re already doing, so I’m just going to try to continue that.”
Versteeg announce this past Sunday that he had requested his contract with the IceHogs be terminated. He doesn’t want to take playing time away from the younger guys who need to develop their games, plus he wants to spend more time with his family.