TIMMINS – Wayne Mathieu has been named the third captain in Timmins Rock history.
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
Technically, the franchise has had many, many more captains, but prior to the team’s return to Timmins they wore Abitibi Eskimos, Iroquois Falls Jr. Eskis, or Timmins Golden Bears uniforms.
Mathieu, a 20-year-old Timmins resident who will be entering his third season in a Rock uniform, takes over from Jordan Rendle, who served as captain during the 2016-17 NOJHL campaign.
“Wayne’s on-ice characteristics are something that came to the forefront during training camp,” said Rock coach Corey Beer, shortly after presenting Mathieu with his home and road No. 11 jerseys freshly adorned with the letter C.
“His work ethic is day-in, day-out the best on the team. Obviously, he has the ability to put up points and produce that way and it is something we are going to lean on this year a lot.
“He is kind of that quiet leader guys look to in terms of how he plays the game and the subtle things he does. That is something we, as a coaching staff, appreciate, as well.”
Mathieu (54, 29-32-61, 22) is coming off a solid offensive season that saw him finish in 19th place in the NOJHL scoring race and third among Rock skaters — behind only Rendle and Tyler Romain.
He was equally at home on either Rock special team unit, scoring six power-play goals and adding a pair of shorthanded markers.
“He has a bit of a slippery element to his game,” Beer said.
“Wayne certainly likes to have fun while he is playing the game and I think that is one of the key points about him, as well.
“We love everything about him, the speed, the tenacity on the puck, the ability to adapt his game plan and change to whatever style we are asking of him.
“He is certainly an elite player in this league and we are lucky to have him.”
Mathieu, a humble individual off the ice, had no idea prior to the presentation he would be named captain of the hockey team.
“I just want to keep things simple and play the same way I have played for the last two years,” he said.
“I just hope to be able to show the guys by example how to play this year.”
Mathieu had the opportunity to play with Rendle last season, as well as the Rock’s first captain — defenceman Kealey Cummings — during the squad’s first year back in Timmins.
“Those guys really showed us young guys the ropes,” he said.
“Their on-ice presence was unbelievable, both of them, and I just want to be like them.”
The most visible part of a captain’s duties, from a fan’s perspective, is what they do on the ice and when the team is out in the community at various functions, but that is only part of the job.
Some of the most important work occurs in the dressing room, or when they are interacting with the coaching staff.
“With a team like this, that part of the job is really easy,” Mathieu said.
“Everyone listens and everyone is buying into the program. We really have a great group of guys.”
Mathieu isn’t worried about having any additional pressure having the big letter C on the front of his jersey might bring with it.
“I am just going to go out and do the exact same things I have been doing for the last two years,” he said.
“I am not going to let it affect my game. With the group of guys we have, it will be easy to wear that letter. I will be honoured to wear it.”
After sitting out the Rock’s first exhibition contest, Mathieu scored a goal to help lead the team to a 4-3 win over the arch rival Cochrane Crunch Sunday night in Iroquois Falls.
“Obviously, we have a new coach and a new system this year, but everyone is buying into it and I thought we looked pretty good out there,” he said.
“We just have to keep working hard and I think we will have a good season. We are going to be a really fast team. We don’t have a lot of size, but we have a lot of speed and skill.”
The Rock leadership group for 2017-18 also includes alternate captains Grant McClellan (55, 6-8-14, 56), Jared Hester (52, 10-19-29, 56) and James Watier (42, 3-12-15, 29) on the back end and Stewart Parnell (54, 10-32-42, 30) and Alex Brisson (48, 17-23-40, 42) up front.
Like Mathieu, Hester and Brisson will be entering their third seasons in Rock uniforms.
“Having those guys serve as alternates, will make my job as captain 100 times easier,” Mathieu said.
“I know I can really count on those guys. I know they are all ready to step up when needed.”
Beer is confident in the qualities of those five Rock veterans and Mathieu.
“They have experience in the league and you want to reward guys like that,” he said.
“I think they are very deserving from what I have been able to see so far. They have come into camp and acclimated themselves well to the new program.
“We also have a lot of other veterans on this team, who have experience in different leagues and they have shown very well.
“They all shown very well and our leadership group isn’t just the five or six guys who will wear the letters. Everyone will be responsible in their own way of leading, whether they are a young player or an older one.”