Thirty years of NHL captains with London connections

Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares (91) looks on during second period NHL hockey action against the Ottawa Senators, in Toronto on Wednesday, October 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

It’s enough to dream of one day playing in the National Hockey League.

Less than one per cent of people who play hockey ever get to be on that side of an NHL dressing room.

To make it a career is even rarer.

In his book, “Selling the Dream,” author and hockey writer Ken Campbell points out that only about 50 per cent of the players on Canada’s World Junior team actually go on to play a full NHL career.

It’s hard.

Being named captain of an NHL team is even more rare. Not seeing-a-unicorn-in-a-chocolate-forest rare, but headed in that direction.

Except if you have ties to London, Ont., or the London Knights.

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Do the math and you discover that just shy of 10 per cent of the captains in the NHL right now have ties to London.

The easy one to pick out is Londoner Logan Couture, who was named the captain of the San Jose Sharks this summer.

READ MORE: Around The OHL: Petes head coach Rob Wilson and AOHL’s Victor Findlay

Bo Horvat was recently given the “C” in Vancouver. He spent three years with the London Knights and scored a very famous game-winning goal with 0.1 seconds to go in Game 7 of the OHL Championship series in 2013. Horvat grew up in Rodney and spent his minor hockey career with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs.

And then there is John Tavares with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His ties to London came in a span of just over three months after he was acquired from the Oshawa Generals and helped the Knights to the Western Conference finals in 2009.

It’s also fairly easy to project that when Mark Giordano retires in Calgary, former Knight Matthew Tkachuk would be in the conversation to replace him. Londoner Drew Doughty wears an “A” in L.A. Could he be given a “C” at some point before his career comes to an end?

While we wait for the answers to those two questions… here is a rundown of the past 30 years of NHL captain connections to the city of London and the London Knights.

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89-90 – Rob Ramage – Toronto Maple Leafs

Rob Ramage only spent two of his 15 seasons in Toronto but he was the captain of the Maple Leafs for both. Ramage won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and again with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. Ramage grew up in Byron and his number hangs in the rafters at Budweiser Gardens.

90-91 – Dan Quinn – Vancouver Canucks

Dan Quinn is not from London and he did not play for the London Knights. He did play very briefly for the London Diamonds in 1980-81 when he put up 66 points in 42 games. Quinn would go on to play 14 seasons in the National Hockey League and wore the “C” briefly in Vancouver.

92-93 – Craig MacTavish – Edmonton Oilers

Craig MacTavish is best-known for winning three Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers and for being the last player in the National Hockey League without a helmet. The Londoner did spend two years as captain of the Oilers between 1992 and 1994 before being traded to the New York Rangers, where he helped New York to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

94-95 – Eric Lindros – Philadelphia Flyers

Eric Lindros spent his formative years playing Red Circle hockey and went on to lead the Oshawa Generals to a Memorial Cup title before starting his NHL career with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1992. By ’94 Lindros was wearing the “C” and he continued to wear it for the next six seasons before being forced to sit out a season due to concussions in 2000-01. Lindros was also the captain of Canada’s Olympic team in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.

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READ MORE: London Knights name captains for 2019-20

94-95 – Dale Hunter – Washington Capitals

The man who would go on to become one of the best coaches in Major Junior hockey history with the London Knights was also known for his leadership skills as a player. Hunter was named captain in Washington in 1994-95 and wore the “C” for his final seasons with the Capitals before he ended his career in Colorado. Hunter grew up in Petrolia and is currently on track to become the fastest coach ever to reach 800 regular-season victories in the Ontario Hockey League.

95-96 – Brendan Shanahan – Hartford Whalers

Brendan Shanahan was a leader from Day 1 of his hockey career. As a 16- and 17-year old with the London Knights, he was a go-to guy for everyone. In a bit of an odd twist, Shanahan only wore the “C” once and for only one season in the National Hockey League. It happened during the Whalers’ final year in Hartford. The three-time Stanley Cup champion was an alternate captain for 12 of his 21 years in the NHL.

99-00 – Steve Smith – Calgary Flames

Steve Smith was born in Glasgow, Scotland, but became a star defenceman in the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights and went on to play for the Edmonton Oilers where he won three Stanley Cups. Smith was named captain of Edmonton’s rival in Calgary in 1999 as he closed out his career with the Flames.

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00-01 – Dave Lowry – Calgary Flames

As Steve Smith’s career ended and the Flames transitioned toward what would be a Stanley Cup final appearance in 2004, the “C” was passed from Smith to former London Knight and now Knights Hall of Fame member, Dave Lowry. Lowry was a veteran on a young Calgary team and wore the “C” for two of the final three full seasons that he spent in the NHL.

00-01 – Jason Allison – Boston Bruins

In his 10 seasons in the National Hockey League, Jason Allison played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the L.A. Kings, the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins. Allison took over as captain in Boston when Ray Bourque was traded to Colorado and held the “C” until Joe Thornton assumed it in 2002.

02-03 – Joe Thornton – Boston Bruins

Joe Thornton is from St. Thomas but is always listed as having been born in London. He captained two different NHL teams, beginning with Boston in 2002 and then San Jose in 2010. Thornton has played more than 1,500 games in the National Hockey League and should top 1,500 points before his career comes to an end.

READ MORE: Big game from co-captain Alec Regula not enough for the London Knights in Saginaw

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03-04 – Steve Rucchin – Mighty Ducks of Anaheim

Steve Rucchin took a longer road to the National Hockey League than most players do. He played four years with the Western Mustangs but lucked out in that the Ducks were entering the NHL and looking for promising players who may have fallen through the cracks and they selected Rucchin second overall in the 1994 Supplemental Draft. Rucchin went on to play 12 seasons in the NHL and captained Anaheim in his final season with the team.

05-06 – Alex Henry – Minnesota Wild

Alex Henry is an incredible story. He is originally from Elliott Lake, Ont. and was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 OHL Priority Selection. That draft only lasts 15 rounds now. Henry ascended all the way to the NHL as a steady defenceman and for a brief stint he wore the captain’s “C” in Minnesota. He had AHL stops after that in Milwaukee and Hamilton and was named captain of both teams as well.

06-07 – Tim Taylor – Tampa Bay Lightning

Tim Taylor just finished helping the St. Louis Blues to their first Stanley Cup as their Director of Player Development. He won two Stanley Cups as a player in Detroit in 1997 and then in Tampa Bay in 2004. Taylor closed out his final two seasons in the National Hockey League as the captain of the Lightning.

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07-08 – Rick Nash – Columbus Blue Jackets

Rick Nash was drafted first overall by Columbus in 2002 to become the cornerstone of their young franchise. Nash played nine seasons with the Blue Jackets are was captain for four of them. He also captained Team Canada at the World Championship in 2011. Nash retired at the beginning of the 2018-19 NHL season.


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