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Just Chirp'n 7

10/15/2010 6:53 AM -
Just Chirp’n #7 2010-2011

Oct. 14, 2010
by Michael Hissam

When Garrett Poland motored into town a few weeks ago, he had no idea there would be an extra letter on his Rhino jersey.

To wear the “C” – as in captain – leaves Poland “very excited, very proud, and with a good feeling” going into his final year before aging out.  “I came here to play.  I trained; I worked out.  I had no idea I would be captain.”

His teammates had other ideas – they saw the leadership attributes.  They voted Poland to be their leader.

Poland, from Lincoln, Nebraska, said he prefers to lead through his actions, not just by what he says.  “It is about working hard, being on time, respecting the coach and the community.”

Yet, he credited a couple of role models, former Rhino captains Nick Gorup and Austin Balko in helping determine his approach to the added responsibility.  Gorup is a fellow Cornhusker whom Poland has known for years.

Looking ahead to the October 22 home opener, Poland spoke of his game:  “I’m not changing my game just because I am captain.  I prepare in practice as thought the practice is the game.  I will be preparing the guys.  I played summer league up in Omaha, which included a couple D-1 and NHL guys.  I worked out, ran and lifted weights every day.  I shot pucks.  My family helped in any way they could.  I knew I could do better.  There is nothing to stop me.  This is my last year in El Paso.”

Although this is his last year in El Paso, Poland eagerly awaits the opening night experience – especially what the new guys will experience.  “I can’t describe it!  It is hard to put in words what they will experience when they hit the ice in El Paso; the town, the fans!”

Wearing the “C” also gives Poland a distinct privilege – if a player considers talking to the referee a distinct privilege. “Somebody yelled at me in Fort Worth, ‘You gotta talk to him!’  I’ve been good at negotiating.”

If this year’s Rhino squad is as feisty as some of the previous, he’s likely to get plenty of opportunity to negotiate.  The problem is the striped-shirt brigade tends to do more of the talking than listening during those conclaves at the referee’s circle.

While Poland may have prepped on ice, as well as off, there may be another life experience that comes into play.  Last year he served as a mentor to two young students at Crosby Elementary in northeast El Paso.  “It carries over into leadership.  I hope I can be a mentor again.”

While being a mentor this season has yet to be decided at an elementary school.  Poland will be a mentor – for about 20 guys on a hockey team.

That is the real privilege of wearing the “C.”

mjhissam@sbcglobal.net