Homegrown Bison awarded captaincy
Hockey: Okotokian Michael Savage to captain Junior B squad
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 06:00 am
Okotoks blueliner Michael Savage will close out his Junior career with a crest on his chest after being named the Bison captain for the 2013-14 season.
“It’s something I definitely wouldn’t say no to. I was looking forward to it if I got the opportunity and I did,” Savage said. “And I’m pretty honoured by it.”
The 21-year-old defenceman admitted first making the squad as one of four overage players was preseason job number one.
“My first priority was cracking the squad,” said Savage, entering his fourth season with his hometown club. “Then after that, I would be excited to take on a leadership role.”
Defence partner Matt Howatt has witnessed first-hand the leadership of the freshly anointed captain since the Bantam level.
“He’s a great guy to have in the dressing room and on the ice,” said Howatt, named an alternate captain last week. “He just always tries his hardest out there, never gives up on a play.”
One sequence last year truly epitomized the aforementioned never-say-die spirit. In Game 1 of the league semifinal, Savage shook off a blindside hit at centre ice before being sprung on a breakaway and falling on all fours at full speed to bury the rebound five-hole. In doing so, the hard-nosed defenceman skidded into the boards head first and fractured his 12th vertebrae.
Flash forward a couple weeks and Savage was back on the ice playing through a serious injury in Wainwright and helping the Bisons secure their first provincial banner in team history.
It’s the type of toughness and dedication that rendered head coach Mike Hannigan’s captaincy decision into something of a one-horse race.
“It really went back to the playoffs last year when he sacrificed his body to get us to where we needed to be,” Hannigan said. “The respect factor in the room is incredible. He gets so much respect from the players.
“It was a no-brainer.”
Savage carries on a recent tradition of soft-spoken skaters leading the charges.
“He’s very, very quiet, but when he does talk everyone listens,” the coach added. “Very similar to our captain last year, Chase Fallis.”
Similar in many ways indeed.
“Fallis, one thing I learned from is he led by example and it worked,” Savage said. “Every time we needed a rally Chase was the guy that was going to win a battle, make a big hit or score a big goal.
“People played better when he played better so I know I have to do that. To lead and get the boys going on the ice.”
Savage, the first Okotoks native to serve as captain since Matt Gelinas held the honour from 2008-10, knows he has a challenging leadership role ahead of him with as many as 10 first-year Bisons on the roster.
“It’s a hard adjustment right now coming off three years with all the same guys and knowing everyone,” Savage said. “Just trying to get chemisty and everyone to bond and know each other and play well together is going to be a first step.”
Howatt, Kevan Mikkelsen and Phil Dillon will serve as the alternate captains.
“In preseason and up until now everyone’s been listening to us, asking us questions and looking for us as examples on the ice,” Howatt said. “We’ve just got to do the best we can.”
For more information on the Bisons go to okotoksbisons.com