When it came time for the Wolf Pack to decide who would be their captain this season, coach Keith McCambridge centered on a player who seemingly has been a leader his entire career.
Joe Whitney, who stands 5-foot-6, may not be the biggest guy in the locker room. But the stature of his personality is much larger.
“His presence, he has an aura about him when he’s in the room [locker room] that leaders possess,” McCambridge said. “He has tremendous practice habits. I’m a big believer in practicing the right way and he leads by example there and in our games. He’s an intelligent veteran player who realizes how the game has to be played and he plays it the right way. He is just the total package.”His presence, he has an aura about him when he’s in the room [locker room] that leaders possess." — Hartford Coach Keith McCambridge
The Wolf Pack are on a mission this season to reestablish themselves as a competitive team after finishing at the bottom of the AHL last season. On their roster now are a number of veterans who have proven themselves over the years in the league.
And on top of that list is Whitney.
“I don’t know much about what happened here last season, but I’ve been on my share of losing and winning teams that won championships. It all begins in training camp,” Whitney said. “We’re ready to go this season. It’s just a matter of minimizing mistakes and learning as we go.
“They are all good guys in that room. No one is selfish in there. We’re all pulling for each other and we made that point clear in training camp. All the young guys are going to buy in, which is the most important thing. Keith is putting his system in place and we’re going to follow his lead and compete as hard as we can.”
The Wolf Pack continue their season Friday against Toronto at the XL Center. They play at Springfield on Saturday. The Wolf Pack opened the season last weekend with a loss to Charlotte and shoot out win over Lehigh Valley. Whitney had one goal and one assist in those games.
Whitney, 29, a former Boston College star, is entering his seventh pro season. He split last year between the AHL's San Antonio Rampage and Tucson Roadrunners. In 55 games with the Rampage, Whitney scored 11 goals and 17 assists. After being acquired by the Arizona Coyotes from Colorado on March 1, he played in another 19 games for the Roadrunners, scoring three goals and adding five assists.
Whitney has played in 390 AHL games and had previously been with Portland, Albany and Bridgeport. In all, he has 115 goals and 165 assists, including three 20-goal seasons and a career-high 60 points (23-37-60) with the New Jersey Devils organization in 2014-15. Whitney has appeared in five NHL games with the Devils, scoring one goal.
“I’ve been a captain and a leader my entire career, going all the way pack to college. You get a year older and you gain more experience that you can pass along to the younger guys. It’s about work ethic; you have to lead by example so the young guys can follow.
“The most important thing about being a captain is to be professional. You come to work every day with a hard hat and your work boots on. We’re here to have fun, but we’re also here to do a job and win hockey games. I think we all understand that. It’s just like Keith says to us, we’re here to get better every day. At some point it’s all going to add up and we’ll be firing on all cylinders.”
Whitney was recruited to Boston College by current UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh, who spent 18 seasons with the Eagles, first as an assistant and then as associate head coach.Stan Godlewski / Special to the Courant Hartford, 11/9/2016 - UCONN head hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh recruited Joe Whitney to Boston College. Hartford, 11/9/2016 - UCONN head hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh recruited Joe Whitney to Boston College. (Stan Godlewski / Special to the Courant)
Whitney helped Boston College to two NCAA titles (2007-08 and 2009-10). In his 161 college games, he scored 40 goals and 102 assists before the Devils signed him as an undrafted free agent following his senior season.
“I’ve known Cav [Cavanaugh] for a long time. He recruited me [to Boston College] and we have a great relationship,” Whitney said. “It’s good to be here, knowing UConn plays in the same building [the XL Center]. I will see him a bunch, have dinners and such. He was awesome to me and my entire family. He’s pretty much like family to me.”
Since he has traveled so much during his career, Whitney has been exposed to many environments and situations. He is confident he’s in a good place now.
“This is a great organization to play for. It’s a wonderful set up, first class all the way. All the guys on the team understand and respect that. …We are going to play as hard as we can for all the fans.” Whitney said. “I played in the Western Conference last year after being in the East my entire career. This is home for me. I’m from New England. I feel more comfortable here. I don’t know what it is, but I just have a good vibe about it all.”