CALGARY, AB — Mike Carnegie wore the captain’s ‘C’ on the front of his jersey for the first time on Dec. 20 during a 13-12 exhibition win over the Vancouver Stealth at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” said Carnegie, who found out from coach Curt Malawsky only two nights earlier that he was Calgary’s new captain. “I just put my jersey on and played.”
The 31-year-old defenceman will play his first regular season game as captain on Saturday night (7 p.m.) when the Roughnecks open the 2016 National Lacrosse League campaign with a tough test against the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush (formerly Edmonton).
“I think it’ll be a little bit more (real) at home when I play the first game and it’s a chance for the real season to start,” said Carnegie, who has served as an alternate captain for the past five seasons. “I’m just taking it one day at a time. I’m not doing anything special. I’ve worn the assistant captain for a while and I was a captain in Junior A. I’ve won in the league, I’ve won outside the league. I’ve won at the international level. It’s a good transition (that Malawsky) thought for me to step into this role.”
Malawsky has no doubt that Carnegie will be able to provide the type of leadership that the Roughnecks have become accustomed to from previous captains Andrew McBride and Tracey Kelusky.
“It’s a decision that we spend a lot of time thinking about,” Malawsky said. “Once it’s made, you look Mike and say what a great captain. It’s a lot of pressure on Mike and the fact that he’s got to uphold that standard. He doesn’t need to be that vocal guy. He just needs to play his game and that’s why we picked him because he’s got an exceptional character and he upholds that standard and that culture that we create in Calgary. He’s going to be a big part of moving forward with this young group.”
Although he doesn’t describe himself as a ‘rah-rah’ guy, Carnegie said that he’ll be able to lead in many other ways.
“You’ve got to find that balance of letting the guys be themselves and letting a man being who he is and how he wants to play and then infusing your own little bit into that,” said the native of London, Ont., who’s embarking on his ninth NLL campaign. “That’s kind of what we’ve done. I’ve talked to the coaches about that. I’m not a big speech guy, but I can certainly lead with my minutes and how I want to play the game and advise guys about off-the-floor and things like that.”
Although McBride retired from the NLL in the off-season, Carnegie said that he’ll be able to consult his good friend for advice throughout the season.
“He’s definitely someone I can lean on throughout the year if things go sideways or if we’re doing really well, just to talk about the positives,” Carnegie said. “He’s a good rah-rah guy and he’s great in the community. Andrew will always be there for me to guide me and lead me. Andrew and I are great friends. I can pick up on Andrew’s leadership from the last five years.”
Carnegie’s leadership abilities will be put to the test right off the bat on Saturday when the Riggers take on the Rush.
“Most people are pegging them as still the No. 1 team,” Carnegie said. “They didn’t lose anybody and they had a good draft too. Certainly they’re the cream of the crop. It’ll be a good test for us. If we can run with them and can score with them, I think our chances are good this year.”
Malawsky agreed with his new captain that the Riggers will have their hands full with the Rush during their home opener at the ’Dome.
“To start right out of the gate, we’ve got the champs,” said the Calgary bench boss. “They’re our rival and they didn’t make a lot of changes. They’re going to be hungry and they’re going to be very well prepared. Their offence is very, very dynamic and they’ve got great goaltending and they’ve always had the best defence in the league.”