When our Captain is on the ice, his sweater is often tucked in to his pants at the back just like the Washington Capital forward, Alexander Ovechkin, used to do, until the NHL outlawed jersey tucks at the start of the 2011-12 season.
Lots of amateur players do that, if their coaches let them get away with it. It makes reading his number, 16, a bit difficult sometimes for both the officials and the fans, but since the back protector built into his black hockey pants is red and that red really stands out, Michael Siket is easy to spot.
It’s a look. It betrays a touch of non-conformity that you’d never expect from this super-polite 13-year-old. That is, until you scratch beneath the surface and find that he does things just a bit differently than all the other boys.
He’s no James Dean, but he is a rebel.
He’s no James Dean, but he is a rebel. When his first season as a Pee-Wee ended, Michael decided he didn’t want to play defence any more. He’d been playing defence since he was six years old, and decided he wanted to try his hand at not being just a forward, but as the center, trying to win face offs, leading his team’s charge into the opposition’s territory. During this season’s tryouts, he tried out as a center, but was quickly pulled aside and told he’d make an “A” team if he stayed at defence.
That wasn’t what Michael wanted to do. He was holding out for center and if he couldn’t play as center, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to play. Since he had no history as a center, no one knew how he would play and it wasn’t a risk the evaluators were willing to take. When all was said and done, the leftover players were distributed amongst Jonquiere’s two Pee-Wee “B” teams and Michael ended up playing for the 11-player Predateurs in the coveted position of center.
In fact, Michael’s schedule may not have let him play hockey at any higher calibre. An A+ student, he’s in the Sports and Art Study section at his local high school. This gives him the time he needs to learn and practice his first love, guitar, which he often plays up to 5-hours a day. Ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, he won’t say “hockey player” like many of the kids on his team. No, not Michael. He’ll tell you guitarist — and that’s because he’s way too self-deprecating to say “Rock Star”, which is probably what he’ll be.
The other day, carpooling to a game, the Styx hit “Come Sail Away” came on the radio. He sang along, from beginning to end, and even though I didn’t see it, I’d bet his fingers were invisibly playing his electric guitar as he sang, as players usually do. When asked if he knew how to play that song, he replied “I do! How else would I know the words?” How else, indeed? That Styx hit is nearly 3 times as old as he is.
The Captain of the Team
Michael was elected the team Captain, and, as Captain, he took his role seriously from the very start. In the locker room before one of the team’s first games, the coaches took turns speaking to the team, offering key reminders for the game ahead, and encouragements. When they finished, the team’s Head Coach, Dominic Bouchard, asked if any of the players would like to say anything.
Michael said yes.
He stood. With his hands clasped together, fingers intertwined, Michael spoke, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he did, looking down towards the floor, at first, as he searched for the words that held the right emotion to convey to his team. He did not waste time with a speech that went on and on: his speeches were brief, but not too brief, where he reminded them of how capable they are, urging them to remember a particular play from a game or practice, of how they could win if they remembered to pass.
“J’ai jamais eu…I’ve never had a captain with so much maturity at such a young age,” says Bernard Dubé, one of the team’s Assistant Coaches. “Michael is really something else.”
His leadership extends beyond the locker room and onto the ice. Siket lead the league in the regular season with a whopping 62 points. His 39 goals are a tribute to his soft hands that look for, and find, the top net, and a speed that nets breakaways, with dekes that frustrate the opposing defenders. But it’s not just his goals, it’s his team play. His offensive line has combined for 111 points, and his team has six players in the top 20 – each of them with more than 30 points. Michael may be his team’s scoring leader, but he’s no puck hog, always looking for ways to confuse his opponents by changing the rhythm of the game by making the right pass at the right time.
Captain, My Captain
“I think he’s a great Captain,” says Nicolas Landry, one of Michael’s team mates and, like Michael, one of two just players who speak English natively in not just the team, but the entire league. “He knows what to say to us, and how to talk to us politely without putting anyone down or making them feel bad about things they’ve done. He makes us feel strong, that we can work together, and really be a team.”
During the Predateurs’ last tournament of the season, the team found themselves vying for first place for the first time. Before the game, the coaches made their speeches as usual. And then, as he often does, Michael took his turn.
Standing, as he always does, displaying just a bit less of that nervous energy that he had at the beginning of the year, Michael told them that being in the finals was already exceptional, regardless of whether they would win, or lose. But they would win, he told them, because their team is different, because they have so much heart, so much intensity, and much more team work than the other team does. That their heart makes all the difference, making them want to win as a team, that it’s not one player that makes the difference but how they all make the difference when they work together as a team.
His speech, made to the silent, listening coaches and players, took all of 36 seconds. In French, Siket talks about having heart, how it isn’t up to one player to be brilliant to win the game, but of the entire team together. It ended to applause and cheers and then the team got together in a circle and did their team cheer. As it was the final, and the Predateurs were the home team, their team went first onto the ice. Each player skated on to the darkened ice as their name and number was called, a solitary spotlight following their path.
They won, 3-1 in a game that dominated their opponents in all three periods. Now all that’s left is the regional championships. If our Captain has his way, his team will continue to dig deep, show heart, and win. After all, he’s seen their potential and believes they can win when they work together, the way he knows they can.