Toronto unveiled Tavares’ new “C” as part of the pregame introduction for the team’s season opener Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators. Forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and defenseman Morgan Rielly were named alternate captains.
Tavares served as the New York Islanders‘ captain from 2013-2018 before signing with his hometown Maple Leafs in free agency last summer.
Tavares is the 25th captain in Maple Leafs history. The Leafs did not have a captain since Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Senators in February 2016. Before Phaneuf, Mats Sundin had the title for a decade (1997-98 to 2007-08).
Tavares, 29, scored 47 goals and 88 points — both career-highs — during his first season with the Leafs. Toronto has lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, including the past two at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
“It’s hard to say if [being named a captain] will have an effect on the ice, but there’s obviously a special significance with the Maple Leafs, the city, the franchise with the captain,” Tavares told reporters last week. “It’s obviously been an important role in hockey history and with many franchises. Many great captains, great leaders.”
Toronto has not won a Stanley Cup since 1967, and fans are getting antsy. There are tremendous expectations for this year’s team — especially with more than $33 million in cap space dedicated to Tavares, Matthews and Marner, three of the NHL’s most elite forwards.