by Nicole Del Villano | AHL On The Beat
Zac Dalpe and Nathan Gerbe are heading into their third season together as Cleveland Monsters teammates with an additional title this year: co-captains.
Multiple players are sharing the captaincy for the sixth time in Monsters franchise history, with both forwards being voted into leadership roles by their teammates at the start of the 2019-20 season. Also wearing a letter this season is Cleveland blueliner Dillon Simpson, who will wear the alternate captain’s “A” in every game; Dalpe wears the “C” on the road and Gerbe represents with a “C” on his sweater at home.
“I think it’s an awesome situation,” said Monsters head coach Mike Eaves. “It speaks to the depth of our veteran players and leadership. As it’s been said, ‘Two heads are better than one,’ so I think we have a strong leadership core right there.”
As a second-year captain, Gerbe was again honored by his teammates as one of their leaders and the veteran winger says he’s excited to build on the momentum he created last year. After appearing in 41 games last season, the Michigan native tore the labrum in his right hip and suffered bilateral hernias that forced him to re-evaluate his role from an off-ice perspective.
“I tried to shift my focus with not being able to help out on the ice but being able to help in the locker room instead,” said Gerbe. “I watched all the games and tried to help each individual. If they were struggling, I tried to pick them back up and just let them know that I was there.”
During his time out of the lineup, the former Boston College standout went through three surgeries and resultant rehabilitation to get back to top form in time to start his 12th professional campaign. Gearing up to lead both familiar and new faces on the ice, Gerbe approaches each game in a way he sees mirrored by his co-captain.
“When you get older you take great pride more so in how you approach the game,” said Gerbe. “I think Zac is at that point too with how he’s approaching the game. He’s doing all the small details that you want to see as an older guy… you want to be that guy that everyone looks upon, and you want to try to help younger guys reach their goals.”
Entering his 11th professional season, Dalpe added the “C” to his sweater for the first time in 2019-20 after being named an alternate captain several times earlier in his career, including last season with the Monsters.
The Paris, Ont., native is coming off a historic season the previous year as the former Carolina Hurricanes draft choice achieved several personal and Monsters records along the way. Finishing with a personal-best 55 points (33 goals, 22 assists), Dalpe shot his way up several franchise statistical categories including setting a new Monsters record for most goals in a single season.
The forward is on pace to set several more Monsters records this season, but it’s the letter on his jersey that kicked the year off on a strong note.
“It is a huge honor,” said Dalpe. “I think it’s nice to be recognized for the hard work you put in. I always pride myself on being a good professional and example for the young guys, so it’s a huge honor for me.”
With 12 games under their belts thus far in 2019-20,Gerbe (three goals, eight assists) and Dalpe (five goals, four assists) have combined for 20 points and sit among the team’s leaders in all categories. They have also contributed seven points to Cleveland’s power play and each has notched game-winning goals.
The two players’ leadership both on and off the ice will only continue to help the cause as the Monsters look to extend a six-game point streak (5-0-0-1) this weekend.