Inclusion, respect paramount for IceCaps

Robin Short
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St. John’s rookies get their share of ribbing, but it’s all in good fun

Jason Jaffray, like most, doesn’t know the full story evolving around the Miami Dolphins these days, but the captain of the St. John’s IceCaps understands this much: the heart and soul of a team is one that includes both rookies and veteran players alike.
“When you start cutting teammates out of your circle, that’s when you don’t have a team,” Jaffray was saying this week at Mile One Centre.

St. John’s IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge says captain Jason Jaffray is exactly the type of lead-by-example player a young team needs. Jaffray leads the IceCaps into action tonight against Manchester Monarchs, 7:30, at Mile One Centre in St. John’s.

“That’s been a strongpoint of the IceCaps for the last three years — we’ve had a tight-knit circle. When guys are going out for dinner on the road, we reserve a table for 10 or 12. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 10-year veteran or a rookie.

“Respect is a big thing with me. If you don’t have respect for all the different players on the team, you probably shouldn’t be wearing the C on your jersey. And you should not be on the team.”

The National Football League’s Dolphins have been making news for all the wrong reasons following the suspension of veteran lineman Richie Incognito last week. Incognito is the subject of accusations of out-and-out bullying and harassment leveled towards teammate Jonathan Martin.

Incognito is said to have sent racist and vulgar text messages to Martin, and reports indicated the second-year Dolphin player was pressured into paying a large tab as part of a team trip to Las Vegas.

Hockey has seen its share of rookie hazing incidents get out of hand, particularly at the junior and college levels, but those have become few and far between as leagues and teams have let it be known they will no longer be tolerated.

“Which,” said IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge, “is a good thing.

“With regards to our organization, between the Winnipeg Jets and St. John’s IceCaps, the veteran players lead by example and the young players watch and learn and otherwise have a good awareness of what the older guys are doing.”

Not that hockey teams don’t have some fun with the rookies. The first-year players still have to help with the loading and unloading of extra baggage and equipment on the road, and they’re the players assigned to keep “the kitchen” clean, the players’ lounge area of the locker room.

Sometimes, a rookie will be asked to lead the parade of players on to the ice for the start of the game. The rest of the players will stop and let the rookie twirl around half the rink before he realizes he’s the only one on the ice.

The Jets’ Jacob Trouba fell for that one earlier this season.

Of course, there’s the annual team meal for which the rookies have to pay — though the tab certainly doesn’t reach NFL or Major League Baseball levels, or even the NHL for that matter.

And often the rookies are asked to stand at the front of the bus and sing a song or tell a joke. As we’ve seen in baseball, sometimes rookies are asked to dress up in, shall we say, unusual costumes.

Ever see the young baseball pitchers walking to the bullpen in a skirt, carrying a Dora the Explorer backpack?

“I’ve seen some funny things done in the AHL, but nothing that you can’t get through and just be a little embarrassed,” Jaffray said.

“But it’s good fun, and it brings teams together ... as long as you are bringing the rookies into your circle and not embarrassing them too much.”

McCambridge likes to mix and match his dressing room by having a young player sitting next to a veteran.

Same with the rooming assignments on the road. Jaffray, for example, rooms with the very youthful-looking rookie, Adam Lowry.

“Veterans lead by example,” McCambridge said. “Look at Jason Jaffray. It’s not just what he says in the room, it’s how he plays on the ice, and what he brings in games and practices. That is the example you want.

“You want your younger players to see a guy who has played a lot of years, a guy who came back from a serious neck injury, a mysterious knee injury, but out there leading by example.”

Jaffray said he learned those traits from Mike Keane, a player he tabs as one of the greatest captains in the history of hockey, Nolan Baumgartner and Lee Goren, a one-time Boston Bruins draft pick who was otherwise a minor league journeyman.

Jaffray and the rest of the IceCaps hit the ice tonight following a five-day break on the heels of a recent six-game road trip in New England.

St. John’s plays host to the Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings) 7:30 tonight (930 AM and Rogers TV) and Saturday evening.

The IceCaps split a pair of games with the Monarchs in Manchester to open the road trip, one in which they finished 3-3.

The IceCaps expect to have Lowry and veteran Jerome Samson back in the lineup. Both have missed the last number of games to injury.

Organizations: IceCaps, National Football League, Winnipeg Jets Major League Baseball NHL Monarchs Boston Bruins Los Angeles Kings

Geographic location: Las Vegas.Hockey, New England.St. John

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