Over the past four seasons, the heartbeat of the Melfort Mustangs has been powered by Ben Tkachuk.
The centreman is in his second year of wearing the ‘C’ on his chest with the Mustangs, aiming to lead the junior ‘A’ club to their first Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League title since 2016.
“Last year he was our captain and got in as a 19-year-old against a room full of eight 20-year-olds,” said Mustangs head coach and general manager Trevor Blevins. “So, that says a lot about how much respect he has from his teammates.”
Tkachuk has spent the last season and a half guiding the Mustangs rookies and newcomers in the organization, with close to 140 games of experience played at the Northern Lights Palace.
Even when he was brought into the organization at an early age, Blevins said it was apparent that Tkachuk could be captain material down the road.
“Ben was a player that we got at 17 and you could see that he did everything the right way, even as a 17-year-old,” said Blevins.
“Worked hard, committed, a good teammate, was always respectful, coachable too. He just brought all the intangibles to be a player and to be a Melfort Mustang.”
Luckily, Tkachuk hasn’t had to look too far to learn from one of those captains of the past.
Back in the 1990-91 SJHL season, the Mustangs were in their third year as a franchise and clinched their first playoff berth with the help of a scrappy blueliner.
His name was Kelly Tkachuk, the first member of the family to be named Melfort’s captain.
“I think we started out 0-8 or 0-9 and I was wondering, ‘Holy man, what did I get myself into here?'” said Kelly. “But, we had a great group.”
Kelly and Ben have the unique honour of being the first father-son duo to captain the Mustangs, with their reigns as faces of the franchise — over 30 years apart.
“He’s been a role model my whole life and he means the world to me,” said Ben. “It’s been awesome to wear the ‘C’ just like him and use him for some advice too.”
Kelly played just the one season in Melfort, but is still connected with many of his past teammates.
Conversations around the legacy of the family name with the Mustangs have been few and far between while Ben’s junior career is ongoing, but the pair agree it’s a special feat.
As for which Tkachuk has earned more bragging rights, that’s still up for debate, with both sides claiming their impact was greater.
“He definitely let it be known that he was 19 and the captain, and I was 20 and the captain,” said Kelly.
According to Ben, the same was said by his father when he told him the news of the Mustangs’ captaincy.
“He said ‘no pressure’ and probably joked around saying I wouldn’t be as good as him,” said Ben. “But it was good, he’s been super supportive and it’s been awesome.”
With the ‘C’ being passed down from one generation to another, Kelly and the rest of the Tkachuk clan now get to proudly cheer from the sidelines as Ben makes his own mark on the ice.
“Proud of what he’s accomplished and proud of who he is as a person,” said Kelly. “Really happy for that opportunity and grateful for the opportunity that Melfort and the Mustangs have given him.”