The Next Great Captain?

For the first time since the 2001-02 hockey season the Broncos will have a new captain leading the charge. Pat Dwyer, a 2002 draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers, was elected as the replacement for 3-year captain Dana Lattery.

"It's an honor," says Pat Dwyer who looks at his job as an extension from the players to the coaches. Joining Dwyer are assistant captains Brent Walton and Vince Bellissimo. "I'm more of a lead by example guy. Vince is pretty vocal and Wally is too. We've got three captains with their own leadership style that seems to be working well."

"I think he's a little mixture of both," said head coach Jim Culhane of Dwyer's leadership style. "I think that Pat when he needs to say something and voice his opinion and maybe challenge a teammate he will. But yet I think he lets his work ethic and what he brings everyday in his determination and hid grit in practice and in games just speak for itself."

The legacy Dwyer joins includes some of the great captains in Bronco history, including Culhane who served as an assistant captain his senior year at WMU. Other great captains in the program according to Culhane were Chris MacDonald who led the Broncos to their only CCHA title and Brent Brekke who is now an assistant coach for Cornell.

The latest of the great captains in Bronco history was Dana Lattery who recently graduated and signed a professional contract with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. "Dana was tremendous leader," said Culhane. "When you look at the great leaders associated with Bronco hockey Latts is certainly right there."

Dwyer got a long lesson in being a captain as Lattery was in that roll in each of Dwyer's previous three seasons as a bronco. "He [Lattery] established some team rules that obviously we want to keep going along with," said Dwyer. "We continue to try and build on what he's done."

What is Culhane looking for out of Dwyer? "Tremendous leadership on the ice, off the ice, everywhere. We expect him to have a big year for us, and lead the guys not only on the ice but away from the rink too."

One of Dwyer's first duties is to lead the team in informal "captain's" practices before the team can officially take the ice under the leadership of the coaches. The focus of these captain's practices is to work on passing and shooting skills, something the team couldn't work on with coaches until today (October 2).

The team does shy away from the physical contact during these informal workouts. "We don't get into the contact yet, we don't want anyone to get hurt in the preseason," said Dwyer.

What the team can work on formally with the coaching staff is conditioning… everyone's favorite activity, right? "Our conditioning is hard but in the end it really helps us," Dwyer said of the hard work that goes in before the season kicks off. "[Bob Vezeau] is our strength and conditioning coach, he's real innovative and is always coming up with new stuff that works."

The obvious goal of all this work is to win more games. "Our expectations are really high," said Dwyer. "I think we have a great team here. We have a group of guys that should be able to do something. I think we've got better team chemistry then we've had in the past."

For Dwyer the ultimate goal is to win a CCHA title, but following a decade of failing to reach Joe Louis Arena for the conference tournament finals the stepping-stone to a title is to reach the CCHA Super Six at The Joe this March. "If we don't make it to The Joe it's a disappointing year this year," said a determined Dwyer. "I know it's been said in the past but I really believe it's our year to go to The Joe and maybe even get a shot at the title."

How excited is Dwyer for the season to get started? "We really want to get out there and hit people other then our own teammates."

The first action for the Broncos is a Brown and Gold intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday October 6 at 7:35pm. The first action against another team is an exhibition against Brock University (Ontario) the following Friday also at 7:35pm, both games at Lawson Ice Arena. The Broncos will then open the regular season on October 15 and 16 against Alaska Fairbanks for a pair of home games.


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