It’s not a scarlet letter, not unless you’re in Detroit or Montreal or a few other red-sweater places.
It does make your uniform heavier.
The Ducks bestowed the C upon Ryan Getzlaf seven years ago, when he was 25. He was the new captain.
In most sports that is strictly honorary. You go out and do the coin toss. But hockey is built on quaint and unassailable custom.
In this world, C stands for Conduit, Confessor, Commandant, maybe even Counselor.
You do not get a night off from the media. You do not allow rookies, new arrivals and slumping teammates to walk alone. You spring for dinner and you consult with the coaches on travel, schedules, who’s doing what and who’s not.
“You’re representing your organization,” Getzlaf said. ‘It’s a tradition that goes a lot deeper than junior hockey.”
Was Getzlaf ready to follow Chris Pronger, who followed Scott Niedermayer? Looking back, maybe not. But then they don’t give you a manual for leadership, or an Internet video to balance the demands of hockey and fatherhood.
Ducks fans have seen Getlzlaf grow up before their eyes, through brilliance and disappointment. He and the Ducks crank it up again Thursday, with nothing predictable about the road ahead but the identity of the driver.
“The ultimate goal is to build an organization where you don’t have to rebuild,” Getzlaf said.
The Ducks have been to the playoffs eight times since they won the Stanley Cup in ’07. In each of the past five years they have won the Pacific Division. They were in the Western Finals in 2015 and 2017. They also had lost four consecutive Game 7’s at home before they beat Edmonton in last year’s second round.
The Ducks then lost to Nashville in bitter, six-game fashion. But Getzlaf emerged with unprecedented stature. For his career, he has scored 118 points in 121 playoff games, with 19 in 17 last year.
He and Corey Perry no longer play together exclusively. Now, playing alongside Getzlaf is a gift for Nick Ritchie or Ondrej Kase or whoever proves he deserves it.
“I remember we had a game in St. Louis where we got beat 8-2 or something,” said Todd Marchant, Getzlaf’s ex-teammate and the Ducks’ director of player development. “We told (coach) Randy (Carlyle) to give us a minute, that the players needed to talk. Several guys did, but Getz didn’t.
“Afterward he asked me, ‘Should I have talked?’ I told him the fact that he felt like he had to ask me that question indicated that he shouldn’t…