When looking to promote a new captain, Comox Valley Glacier Kings head coach Joey Ewing looked to keep it in the Whistler family.
The longtime Whistler Minor Hockey Association bench boss tabbed Grant Iles to wear the "C" this season and said expectations were high for the 19-year-old.
"I expect a lot out of Grant because I've known him for 13 years and coached him for 10," Ewing said. "He knows what to expect, so it's a bit of an easier learning curve, but in the same case, he gets it pretty hard because he knows what I expect, so if it's wrong, I'm a bit harder on him than most captains, I think.
"He wanted to come up to the challenge."
As a league all-star and Unsung Hero Award recipient last season, hopes for Iles were already high coming into the year. But in addition to taking on off-ice responsibilities with the role, Iles is also working part-time and taking four college classes.
Iles said Ewing let him know of the decision leading up to the first game of the season.
"Coach Joey just pulled me aside and said 'I want you to be the captain this year,'" Iles recalled. "I quickly obliged. I think it's a pretty big honour to be named captain of such a storied franchise.
"I think I'm settling in pretty good. It's a little different from what I've experienced the last few years. It's a little bit more responsibility but it seems to be working out."
The captaincy involves more than just how Iles rallies the team on the ice, as he is also responsible for coordinating the players' community commitments.
Ewing noted Iles, who has 14 points in 17 games thus far, will be expected to boost his attacking pace as the season progresses and he gets more comfortable in the role.
"Some of his offence maybe has been lacking a bit just because he's been spending so much time on and off the ice — this is the youngest group I've ever had — so he's making sure they're going to their team functions, going to the in-school services," said Ewing, noting the team volunteers 3,000 man-hours a season in the community. "He organizes all that. I don't organize anything. He's like another assistant coach."
Iles has had the benefit of playing with linemates he skated alongside last year in Ty Madden and Grayden McInnes, but with a good number of new faces on the team this season, it took some time for everything to fall into place. After starting the season slowly, going 2-4-2 out of the gate, the Glacier Kings have since posted a 7-1-1 record to find themselves in striking distance of the league lead.
"When we started out, we didn't really have a lot of experience on our team but now we're just really finding our groove here and putting some wins together," Iles said. "(There's) not one specific thing. It all just kind of clicked for us. Everyone figured out their role and how to play it."
Iles' role has been to take on pretty much anything he's asked, noting his attention to defensive detail has particularly improved in his time in the VIJHL.
"Coach relies on me in the last couple minutes of the game to take faceoffs and be that shutdown guy as well as to put the puck in the net," he said.
Ewing told the Comox Valley Record before the season that "we're gonna win a title" and Iles has the same confidence in the team.
"The only limiting factor would be ourselves. I think we can go all the way if we all buy in and everyone plays their part," he said.
Another Whistlerite suiting up for the Glacier Kings is defenceman Ben Raffler, who was acquired from the Campbell River Storm earlier this season. The 17-year-old has tallied four points in six games since the trade.
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