Vancouver Canucks captain Quinn Hughes says he sees himself as the type of leader who wants to build a family atmosphere on the team where everybody feels welcome.
“It’s definitely not a dictatorship,” he said Sunday as the NHL team completed its training camp and started pre-season exhibition games ahead of its Oct. 11 season opener against the visiting Edmonton Oilers.
“There’s going to be lots of guys speaking up or have different roles and feel comfortable doing that, and that’s how it should be,” he said.
Hughes, 23, was named Canucks captain earlier this month, succeeding former captain Bo Horvat who was traded to the New York Islanders last season.
The smooth-skating defenceman said collaboration and openness will be the hallmarks of his leadership style.
“I want everyone to have a voice and I want it to be a family,” Hughes said. “When I know that one of the younger guys says something in the room, that’s when I know we’ve kind of turned it into a family.”
Hughes said he understands at training camp and early in the season some younger players are nervous and would rather not speak up.
“I was that guy,” he said. “I want guys to feel comfortable who they are. I don’t care if you’re a young guy, first year guy or just first camp. I mean don’t be obnoxious, but be yourself and feel comfortable with yourself. That’s the big thing with me.”
Hughes said being named captain will also be a personal learning experience as he progresses in his hockey career.
“I’ll just keep learning, learning how to deal with the role, how to handle my teammates and enjoy it and have fun with it,” he said. “Not only with the captaincy, but my own game. I always feel like I’m growing. It’s a big part of why I keep getting better.”
The off-season arrivals of defencemen Ian Cole from Tampa Bay, Matt Irwin from Washington and Carson Soucy from Seattle and last year’s late season acquisition of Filip Hronek from Detroit adds veteran presence and experience to the Canucks blueline, Hughes said.
Cole and Soucy also bring playoff experience to the team, he said.
Hughes said he’s looking forward to this season after last year, when the Canucks finished out of the playoffs in sixth place in the Pacific Division.
“Guys are excited to play,” he said. “We need guys who are really competitive, want to win and hate losing.”