Second-year Flyer Forsberg named new team captain
VOORHEES, N.J. -- Now the Flyers can call him "Captain Peter the Great."
The selection was really no surprise. He only hopes he can play with the letter on his sweater opening night. When training camp opens Friday, Forsberg will be skating on his surgically repaired right ankle four months after it was feared he would be lost until January.
Maybe "Captain Comeback" is more appropriate.
"It's definitely something that I have wanted to do," Forsberg said. "I've played a long time in this league and it's going to be great. We have a great team here and I'm looking forward to being the captain of this organization."
Forsberg, an MVP with Colorado in 2003, would like to have the title for more than a season. The two-year, free-agent contract he signed before last season expires at the end of this one, and Forsberg has said he'd like an extension. The appointment signals that one could be coming soon.
General manager Bob Clarke, a former Flyers captain, said Forsberg was the first choice to succeed the injured Primeau.
"Right from the start of the summer, we felt that once we heard that he had a chance to be healthy, he would be the guy," Clarke said.
Losing Primeau was considered as big a blow in the locker room as on the ice. Named captain in October 2001, Primeau was the go-to liaison between the players and coach Ken Hitchcock and the two formed a tight bond. Hitchcock said they had an emotional meeting Thursday morning before Primeau announced his retirement after a 15-year NHL career.
Hitchcock and Primeau worked during the summer on the "commitment code," which a captain has to sign. It's an actual document that lays out the captain's responsibilities, including such details as when and where any meetings about conflicts or suggestions would be held.
"You can have all the speeches you want, but it has to be sold inside the locker room," Hitchcock said. "That 95 percent that we're not there, that's the whole thing that decides what type of team you're going to have."
Hitchcock believes Forsberg has that needed presence around his teammates after learning the leadership ropes from players like Joe Sakic and Adam Foote in Colorado.
"He wants to be the person who establishes the direction of the hockey club post-Keith Primeau," Hitchcock said. "He knows that it's big shoes to fill and he knows the job that Keith did."
Primeau's departure was another sign of a franchise in transition since the 2003-04 season. Only four players -- Simon Gagne, Robert Esche, Sami Kapanen, Joni Pitkanen -- remain from the team that came within a victory of the Stanley Cup finals.
With the Primeau situation over, the Flyers are suddenly settled entering camp. Team MVP Gagne signed a five-year deal this week. Forsberg is a healthy captain. Gagne and Derian Hatcher have been named alternate captains.
About all that's left is signing Hitchcock to an extension. His four-year deal (extended a season because of the lockout) expires this season, and both sides are hopeful of a resolution before the opener. If not, Hitchcock insisted his lame duck status won't be a distraction.
"The good part for us is a lot of the distractions that have been here are now over," Hitchcock said. "Neither one of us want something to happen during the season to be a distraction."
If it does become one to the players, they can take it up with Forsberg.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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