Cruthers, Baker, Martin named Orlando captains

ORLANDO, FLA – Leadership on the ice and in the locker room is a key component to success in the standings. When the team is a group of guys who are just learning each other’s names, having players who are willing to step up and take charge can be the difference between winning and losing.
Wednesday afternoon, the ECHL expansion Orlando Solar Bears announced that they had found the three men who would lead the franchise into battle. Ryan Cruthers was tabbed by head coach Drake Berehowsky as the Solar Bears captain and Kevin Baker and Derick Martin were selected as assistant captains.
“Any decision we make, especially with the captains, isn’t taken lightly. I think it’s an honor to wear a letter,” Berehowsky said about his three captains. “They’ve led in everything they’ve done (both) on the ice and off the ice. For older guys to come out like that who are pretty secure with their position on the team and come out and lead by example just shows me that they are hungry, they want to be good leaders and they should be rewarded for it.”
Berehowsky, an NHL veteran, and assistant coach Matt McIlvane were very deliberate in making the choices. For the head coach, it was important to find the right players to fit his expectations of what a captain needs to be, especially with a brand new squad.
“A good captain has to be able to take the message of the coach and get it out to his players and make sure everybody is following in that message. This year we have a whole new organization. Nobody’s been here before. There’s no hockey culture set,” Berehowsky said. “You look at the great teams and they have a hockey culture. Look at the Edmonton Oilers. No matter who comes in or who goes out, the culture is always there. That’s what we want to start here. In order for me to start that, you have to have those original leaders to be great leaders. They have to make sure everybody is falling into line and that we all follow that certain hockey culture the Solar Bears are trying to create and those guys are perfect for the job.”
All three of the players chosen have leadership in their hockey backgrounds. Cruthers, the first player signed by the Solar Bears, was the captain of the Reading Royals team for the past two seasons until being traded late last year. He scored goals in both of Orlando’s games last weekend, including a short-handed tally that keyed a comeback that fell just short on Friday.
Cruthers, who played two years of hockey at West Point, said that he is both honored and humbled to be chosen as the captain of the Solar Bears.
“I was excited when Drake told me. It’s a great honor to be the first captain since the team has come back. It’s a role I’ve had before so I’m used to it,” he said. “This is a new group of guys. We have a great leadership group but to be able to put the “C” on is truly an honor.”
With a work ethic traceable back to having relatives in fire and police departments in the New York City area, Cruthers lets his actions speak for him.
“I just try to lead by example. I think everyone has a little bit of leadership in them. It’s just how much you want to show and how much you want to give,” Cruthers said. “It’s a role I really embrace and I love doing it.”
Baker, a former ECHL Most Valuable Player, has more than 400 professional games under his belt including 317 in the ECHL. Like Cruthers, he understands that being a captain comes with a great deal of responsibility.
“It’s one of those things you need as a team – leadership on the ice and off the ice as well – to keep things going in the direction we need to go,” Baker said. “It’s kind of a voice for Drake to express (his thoughts) to the team and also for the team to talk to Drake about stuff that needs to be changed or what we need to work on. It’s a real honor and I’m going to take it and do the best that I can.”
Martin also has leadership pedigree in his pro hockey past. In 20-10-2011, he spent time as an alternate captain for the ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings. He also served in the capacity of captain for the Utah Grizzlies a year ago. Regarded as a solid defenseman, Martin has 425 ECHL games under his belt.
Martin said that being named one of the captains shows the confidence that the coaches and other players have in the trio selected to lead.
“It just feels good to know that the coaches are behind us, behind the guys that are here working. It’s just an honor to be named a captain by the players and the coaches,” Martin said. “It’s always nice to be respected that way.”
Martin said that Coach Berehowsky hasn’t given the captains any specifics on what to do. He did add that in his estimation, one of the biggest things the captains can do is work with the younger players to make sure they understand how to play the game.
“I think it’s just showing the example. I think with young players on our team – first year pros and things like that – (we can) showing the way in practice, working hard every day, just work ethic, training, taking care of your self off the ice,” he said. “Maybe we can be that extra shoulder also if guys are having problems. We’re always here to talk to because maybe we’ve been through that already.”
The ups and downs of a hockey season can be crushing to even the most veteran of players. With so many young players on the roster, Berehowsky said that having three captains who have been through the wars will help create a winning team over the long haul.
“They’ve seen a lot of hockey. They’ve seen guys go up and guys go down. They’ve been up and down. They’ve seen a lot of the ups and down of hockey,” Berehowsky said. “When we talk about hockey, we always know it is going to be a roller coaster ride. The team that can keep the most even-keeled will be the most successful team – the team that doesn’t get too low, doesn’t get too high, just steadily keeps improving. They’ve seen that and I’m sure they’ve been a part of that at certain parts of their careers. That’s part of the culture we want to build here is a steady progression and they understand that.”
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