Two years ago, Bryce Salvador didn’t know if he would ever play in the NHL again.
Now he has become the 10th captain in the history of the New Jersey Devils, the latest chapter in his remarkable recovery from a serious concussion that forced him to miss the entire 2010-11 season.
"When I look back a couple of years ago, I was in a much different situation, that’s for sure," Salvador said in a telephone interview Thursday after the Devils named him captain. "It’s just been a great evolution the way things have gone for me personally."
The 36-year-old defenceman becomes the first Brandonite to don the ‘C’ in the NHL since former Brandon Wheat King Laurie Boschman was named the first captain of the Ottawa Senators in 1992. While Boschman was actually born in Kerrobert, Sask., he was raised in Brandon, played all his minor hockey here right up to junior with the Wheat Kings before moving on to a lengthy career in the NHL. Former Wheat King Ron Chipperfield — who is listed as being born in Brandon but was raised in Minnedosa — was the first captain of the Edmonton Oilers when they entered the NHL in 1979.
For Salvador, it’s an honour to become part of hockey history in Brandon and in New Jersey and the first time in his hockey career — at any level — that he has been a team captain.
"It’s a tremendous honour and it’s just a great compliment when an organization offers you the ‘C’," said Salvador, whose sister still lives in Brandon, while his mother and brother are now in Winnipeg. "It’s definitely a nice thing to be able to talk about, when there comes a day when I’m not playing hockey anymore."
Salvador’s career was in doubt two years ago, but he bounced back to play in more than 100 games last season, suiting up in all 82 regular-season contests and 24 playoff games as the Devils came within two wins of hoisting the Stanley Cup. He was sensational in the playoffs, as the usually defensive-minded Salvador finished second among NHL blue-liners with four goals and 14 points as New Jersey knocked off Florida, Philadelphia and the New York Rangers before falling in six games to the Los Angeles Kings in the Cup final.
Salvador’s performance earned him a three-year contract worth US$9.5 million, not to mention a ‘C’ on his jersey when New Jersey opens the NHL season Saturday against the New York Islanders. For a kid who was passed over in the WHL bantam draft and is now preparing to begin his 11th season in the NHL, it will be a special moment.
"I just always believed in what I could bring and how I play and how I prepare … and it’s just been kind of a unique evolution," Salvador said. "And to get named captain of an organization that has a great history and some pretty unbelievable captains in the past, it’s a great honour."
The NHL begins its abbreviated season with a Saturday smorgasbord of televised games, beginning with the Winnipeg Jets hosting the Ottawa Senators at 2 p.m. (CBC) and the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings opening against the Chicago Blackhawks at 2 p.m. (NBC). Saturday’s slate also features Brandonite Ryan White and the Montreal Canadiens clashing with the Toronto Maple Leafs at 6 p.m. (CBC), while the Vancouver Canucks host the Anaheim Ducks at 9 p.m. (CBC) ...
Were last weekend’s back-to-back wins after trading away Michael Ferland, Alessio Bertaggia and Ayrton Nikkel just a temporary blip on the radar screen, or the start of a late-season turnaround for the Wheat Kings? Tonight should serve as a good indicator when Brandon (16-25-2-2) battles the East Division leading Prince Albert Raiders (26-15-1-3) at Westman Place. Last weekend’s 6-2 victory over Moose Jaw and 2-1 win over Regina left the Wheat Kings seven points out of playoff position, although they have only 27 games left and three teams to leapfrog in order to move into the eighth and final spot ...
Brandon’s Cassie Hawrysh is in Innsbruck, Austria preparing for the eighth and final race on the World Cup skeleton circuit today (3 p.m., Sportsnet). While she is a rookie, the 28-year-old Hawrysh is ranked eighth on the World Cup tour behind Canadian teammates Sarah Reid (fifth) and Mellisa Hollingsworth (sixth). Meanwhile, Russell’s Jon Montgomery, 33, races in the men’s skeleton event on Saturday (3 p.m., Sportsnet). The reigning Olympic gold medallist is ranked 11th on the World Cup tour …
Virden-based pairs skaters Paige Lawrence, 22, and Rudi Swiegers, 25, begin the Canadian Figure Skating Championships this afternoon in Mississauga, Ont. Bronze medallists at nationals last year, Lawrence and Swiegers, coached by Virden’s Patty Hole, skate their short program today at 3 p.m. (TSN), followed by Saturday’s free skate at 5:30 p.m. (TSN) ...
Over at BU, you won’t see better volleyball in Brandon this season than this weekend’s heavyweight battle between the fifth-ranked Bobcats men’s team and the powerhouse Alberta Golden Bears, the No.1-ranked team in the country.
The Bobcats (10-4), led by Canada West conference leader Sam Tuivai (4.11 kills and 4.65 points per set), and the Golden Bears (14-0) go head-to-head tonight at 7:45 and Saturday at 6:45 p.m.