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Oh Captain, My Captain

By Jamie MacDonald, 02/02/17, 10:00AM EST


Wearing the 'C' comes with great responsibility

The ‘W.’ That’s the most important figure on the score sheet when you wear the ‘C.’ At least that’s the case for Boston College captain Chris Calnan, a Norwell native who was named captain of the Eagles this past summer. In fact, Calnan doesn’t really look at the score sheet after a game anyway.

And when he does finally take a look at the sheet, he’s not looking for his name in the goals column.

“Obviously, the win is the most important,” he says, before rattling off some of the other key statistics in his hockey life. “Shots on goal, plus/minus, and face-offs are huge, blocked shots, too.”

According to Calnan, a third-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, earning the ‘C’ comes down to one important foundation: character.

“For me, a huge thing is the character piece,” says the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder.

And while leadership can come in all shapes and sizes and personalities, that thread of character runs deep. 

“Just seeing the guys from my freshman year and growing up here at BC, it was nice to see the leaders and watch everything that they did,” Calnan says. “They knew the culture before I got here, and before they got here.”


Character behavior … everywhere

 Asked what kinds of actions display a depth of character, Calnan summed it up as a way of life.

“It's how you handle yourself in everything you do,” he says. “What you eat, the way you act in class, everything in life. And, when you look at your whole day, you want to do the best job with everything you do. [Teammates] see that. And it's not just hockey and on the ice. It's in the weight room. The way you carry yourself.”

Calnan, a star for the Cape Cod Whalers, the South Shore Kings and at the Noble and Greenough School, also learned a great deal while working with Brian McDonough at EPS. Having the opportunity to train with and learn from a number of NHL players went a long way.

“You watch what they do, and how they eat, how they treat their bodies, and I think, ‘Wow, these guys are really serious about it,’” he says. “It gave me a goal to start doing that.”


Expect more … of yourself

Calnan credits high expectations throughout his life for setting up his own successes.

“I felt like, my whole life, everyone has high expectations wherever I've been, and that's helped so much,” he says. “Once you have high expectations, you want to meet them. It relates to everything in life.”

And it started with his father.

“It's pretty cliché, but everything he did I kind of watched,” Calnan says. “He works really hard and, and he instilled in me that, no matter what, you put everything into it all the time. And Coach [Jerry] York is definitely a big piece of that, too. He stresses that every day. He definitely helped me out a lot throughout my years here.”


Be a team player

There are big captains and small captains, there are quiet captains and there are loud captains. There isn’t a Central Casting for a captain. With Calnan, the Eagles have an admittedly vocal leader.

“When people hear ‘vocal,’ they may take it as a negative,” he concedes. “But that's not really it. It's more of an energy thing. In between periods or if you're down, just get guys going and stay positive as a vocal leader. You never want to lose the energy throughout the locker room. Once you lose that, there's not a lot to work off of.”

As a case in point, Calnan points to his time playing for the South Shore Kings, when in his estimation they were winning against teams that may have had more talent.

“We found a way to win and everyone loved winning,” he says. “Do you want to play with guys who love being at the rink? Who don’t care about goals or assists, and you put that aside and have fun and play as a team? That's huge. Have a bunch of guys like that in the locker room and it's pretty easy.”

When young players ask for his advice, a lot of it comes down to exhibiting wholistic leadership.

“I've gotten that question a few times this year from kids who have come in,” he says. “I just told them that, whatever you're doing, do it to the best of your ability. Put everything aside. Whether you're in the classroom, or on the ice, or lifting weights, do those the best you can and don't think about anything else. Think about what's important now.”


Earn respect and the ‘C’ may follow

 By the time a Division I athlete reaches his or her senior year in college and takes on the role of captain, the respect they have earned along the way is rarely a fluke.

“You want to get the respect of your coaches, your family, your teammates, the people around campus, leaders around campus,” Calnan says. “And I feel like I've gained that respect throughout the years.”

And the payoff has been special for Calnan.

“You look at Boston College, and just putting the jersey on during games, and you see the history, and you know how much has gone into that jersey and into the program, and how much Coach York and the coaching staff have done with it,” he says. “So, every time you kind of look back and know you're a captain, you know how important it is. I'm really lucky to be in this position. It has definitely been a blast.”


And if you aren’t wearing a ‘C’ …

Calnan admitted he would have been let down had he not been named captain of this season’s young Eagles team. But he also wouldn’t have sulked. That’s not what a captain would do.

“Yeah, I would've been disappointed because I think all the guys on the team respect me and I would've been bummed out,” he says. “But I wouldn't have taken it like that. I just wanted to bring everything to the team that I could, and do everything I could – but I definitely saw myself being a captain one day, and it worked out.”

Calnan’s leadership group makes sure to remind all of their teammates that leadership isn’t only about the one person wearing a ‘C.’ The idea is to lead – ‘C’ or no ‘C.’

“You don't have to wear have a letter on your jersey to be a leader,” Calnan says. “We need leadership roles from everyone. We have 13 freshman this year and we tell them, ‘Be a leader in your own way. Work hard, do the right things, and take care of yourself.’”