Brian Gionta has become the 28th captain in the 101-year history of the Montreal Canadiens and only the second American-born player to formally wear the 'C' since Chris Chelios co-captained the club in 1989.
Recognized for his leadership on and off the ice, the 31-year old is entering his 9th season NHL season and his second with the Canadiens. Signed as a free agent in 2009, Gionta made his presence felt in his first season with the Canadiens leading the team with 28 goals, including a team high 10 power play goals.
"It's one of the most storied franchises in the league. It's obviously quite an honour,'' said Gionta. ''I'm real excited about it, but obviously, with all the guys, the hall of famers who have come through here, it's pretty special.''
Head coach Jacques Martin praised the decision and said that choosing Gionta to captain the Canadiens was an obvious choice.
''It was obvious for us, the people that deal with him on a daily basis,'' said Martin. ''I think it's obvious for his teammates as well, and what's probably more important is that our leadership group is still very strong and I think people are very supportive of him.''
Defenceman Hal Gill and Andrei Markov will remain as assistant captains.
''It's a high-pressure job and he's going to be looked to, and I think he's a guy that can handle that,'' Gill said. ''I think that's why he was named captain. He's a guy that doesn't get fazed by much; he's pretty even keel.''
For teammate Mathieu Darche, Gionta was a no-brainer.
''I compare him Martin St.Louis and Ian LaPerriere, two guys I'm friends with,'' said Darche. ''He has the same type of leadership. It's not about what they say or what they look like. They will do anything for the team, and they'll lead by example.''
Gionta said he too will lead the team with his actions and said he didn't think things will change too much.
''I lead by example on the ice and there's a good group of core guys on this team that can do the majority of the leading. I still think that's going to be the case, regardless if there's a captain or not. It's a group with the core guys that lead the team.''
The Canadiens opted not to have a captain for their 2009-10 campaign after parting ways with Saku Koivu last summer and overhauling their roster.