Captain charisma — Loewen to wear C for Kamloops Blazers

Loewen will wear the C, Franklin and Kneen are full-time alternates and Smith and Stuart will share an A.

The Jermaine Loewen story keeps getting better.

From a Jamaican orphanage to Arborg, Man., from being disappointed about receiving skates for Christmas to his first organized hockey experience at age 10, from a project bantam draft pick to a goalless rookie season, from a promising sophomore campaign (his first WHL goal coming after 48 career games) to statistical regression as an 18-year-old and from a breakout season in 2017-2018 to being drafted into the NHL this past summer.

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Now you can call him the captain of one of the most storied franchises in junior hockey — and those are just the Coles notes.

Kamloops Blazers’ head coach Serge Lajoie met with Loewen, 20, Nolan Kneen, 19, Luc Smith, 20, Zane Franklin, 19, and Brodi Stuart, 18, on Tuesday before practise at Sandman Centre to inform them of their inclusion to the leadership group.

Loewen will wear the C, Franklin and Kneen are full-time alternates and Smith and Stuart will share an A.

“The position I was in a few years ago, I never really pictured that I would be the captain of the Kamloops Blazers, but just through hard work, and I have had a lot of help from people in the organization giving me chances to become who I am, it’s pretty awesome to be where I am right now,” said Loewen, who was the Blazers’ MVP last season after leading the team in points (64) and goals (36).

Lajoie emphasized a leadership-by-committee approach and said players don’t need to wear a letter to help lead, but, “those are guys that not only show leadership, but embody and exemplify what Blazer hockey will look like in the very near future.”

Loewen’s tenure as captain begins under unusual circumstance, with him serving a four-game suspension for a checking to the head major penalty and game misconduct incurred against Portland on Oct. 5. He will not play again until Oct. 26, when Kamloops visits Seattle.

The Blazers are also on a five-game losing streak that has dampered a perfect 2-0 start to the campaign.

“It’s a good test for me early on,” Loewen said. “I want to be out there and helping guys, showing my support, but I think I can come in here and bring positivity every day.

“We’ve just got to turn things around and we will.”

Lajoie said that while he expects no one to drastically change the way they act, there will likely need to be some tinkering for the newly minted leadership group.

“The messaging, they might have to step a little bit outside of what they’re comfortable doing naturally,” said Lajoie, the Bonnyville, Alta., product who was named the Blazers’ bench boss in June. “Jermaine, maybe talk a little bit more at the right time. Leadership is also listening. We have some good listeners. We have some good talkers.”

File Smith in the vocal leader category, never shy about offering his opinion and able to communicate with flair.

“While it looks like we are on a bit of a skid, it doesn’t feel like it in the dressing room,” said Smith, the Stony Plain, Alta., product who had career-highs in points (44), goals (21) and assists (23) last season.

“It feels like we are kind of on the uprise. We had some tough results these last couple games, but coming back from that this weekend is going to be huge for us.”

The Blazers (2-5) will play the Giants (6-1) in Langley on Friday and the Silvertips (3-3) in Everett on Saturday.

Smith will wear an A during away games and Stuart will be an alternate for home games in the first half of the season, with the duo expected to switch — Smith at home and Stuart away — for the second half.

There were no shocking inclusions to the leadership group, but Stuart was not certain he would be named a captain.

“It’s a huge honour to wear a letter for this team and this franchise and to do it with these other leaders, it’s pretty special,” said Stuart, a forward from Langley.

“In the next couple years, I’d like to be more of a leader and continue to grow my skills that way.”

Kneen, the Duncan product who is the only defenceman to earn a letter, also sees his appointment as an opportunity to groom for more responsibility.

“With the leaders in the past, you sort of look up to them,” Kneen said. “Now you’re in that position and you want to set a good example for the young guys.

“Having it this year, it’s a learning role. I’ll learn this year and, hopefully, have the C next year.”

Franklin is the only player in the leadership group who was not around last season.

He came to Kamloops from Lethbridge via trade this past summer and quickly endeared himself to coaching staff and teammates.

Lajoie announced the captains list during a team meeting Tuesday.

“They all give you a hoot and a holler,” said Franklin, from Marwayne, Alta. “It’s a really good feeling. It’s just about the history of the Blazers. It’s pretty sweet that way.”

© 2018 Kamloops This Week

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