It’s a historic season for the Elmira Sugar Kings as the hockey club celebrates its 40th season, and the Kings are turning to one of their most-senior players to lead them through it.
Josh Woolley was named the team’s new captain last week. It was a clear choice, said general manager Keith Stewart.
“For us it was an easy conclusion: he is a leader on and off the ice,” Stewart said shortly after presenting Woolley with his familiar #14 jersey with the captain’s ‘C’ stitched to the left shoulder.
Woolley takes over from last season’s captain, Jeff Zippel, a hard-hitting defenceman who was respected around the league. Zippel, an Elmira native, graduated out of the Junior hockey system after last season.
“Everybody really liked Jeff,” said Woolley. “He was vocal in the room but showed leadership on the ice as well.”
Woolley began last season with his hometown Cambridge Winter Hawks before being traded to the Sugar Kings on Nov. 30 for cash.
After a slow start in Cambridge, scoring one goal and collecting two assists in 11 games, Woolley certainly proved to be a worthwhile investment in Elmira. He posted eight goals and seven assists with the Kings in the 27 games following the trade, along with 28 penalty minutes.
The Kings GM expects the 6’3” forward to provide much-needed leadership and experience up front, particularly because the Kings expect to ice another young team this season.
“His work ethic, especially with such a young team, is going to rub off on the other players, on and off the ice,” explained Stewart.
Kings head coach Geoff Haddaway said that he and the other coaches had some good candidates to choose from, but Woolley was the top guy on all of their lists.
“It was consensual,” he said. “I think leadership is something that is learned; certainly he has some natural [leadership] instincts.”
Haddaway and the rest of the coaching staff are counting on Woolley to have a big season for the Kings at both ends of the rink, but the coach was quick to add that just because Woolley is the new captain, he will still have to earn his playing time.
“He comes in with a reputation of a hard worker and a great kid, and someone respected throughout the league, but Josh would be the first to tell you if things aren’t going well offensively, maybe I’ll give someone else a chance to play.”