ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — One of the main reasons why the IceHogs brought back Kris Versteeg for a second stint with the organization was for his leadership. Now his job as team leader is official.
Wednesday after practice he was named the captain of the team. He is the first captain that the IceHogs have selected in three years.
At this stage of his career Versteeg checks all the boxes of a team leader. He’s a veteran with 13 professional seasons under his belt. He has been on two Stanley Cup Championship teams, and he has an interest in helping out the younger guys.
He was a bit overwhelmed when he was told during a team meeting that he is the captain.
“It was a pretty special moment,” said Versteeg. “It’s been a long time since I had a letter or wore anything. I don’t expect to change who I am or anything like that, but it was a moment I’m going to remember in hockey for a long time.”
“He’s been through the ringers with his hockey career,” said IceHogs head coach Derek King. “He’s had ups and downs. He’s won Cups. Played at the highest level. He’s been overseas. He’s been in the minors.”
“I love his personality,”continued King. “He’s a character, but he’s a helluva hockey player and he still has compete in him, and I think that’s the big thing. He competes hard enough where our guys need to follow him if he’s going to lead by example, plus I think they respect him as a person.”
“I think it’s just his energy,” said forward Matthew Highmore when asked what attracts younger players to Versteeg. “How much he loves the game. Obviously he’s been such a successful player in the NHL, and obviously his perseverance too. He’s had lots of surgeries and come back from that, so I think that’s something that everybody can draw from, and he’s a great guy and somebody you can always talk too.”
Highmore, Tyler Sikura and Jacob Nilsson have been named alternate captains. The IceHogs will open their season on the road Friday night at Iowa.