ACADIE-BATHURST, N.B. — The news might be of the monocle-dropping variety — if any of Brandon Hynes’s old hockey coaches wore monocles.
In his younger days, Hynes was always regarded as a talented kid, a force on the ice, a player that could take over a game in a single shift.
But he was never, ever referred to as a true team guy or a leader.
“That was definitely the knock against me,” the now-20-year-old Hynes said on Thursday night, exuding a maturity that comes naturally after being named captain of his new Acadie-Bathurst Titan team.
Traded from the Victoriaville Tigres over the summer, Hynes demonstrated a dramatic turnaround during the past Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season, becoming a go-to guy both on the ice and off — obviously enough to entice Titan coach Eric Dubois to adorn him with the C on his sweater.
Actually, the first idea was to have three rotating captains — Hynes, fellow Newfoundlander Zach O’Brien and Matthew Bissonnette.
Hynes was actually the only one of the three to not wear the C during pre-season, but just before the regular campaign began, he was informed of the new decision.
“(Dubois) told me he’s got trust in what I’m going to bring to this team and what I can do as captain,” said Hynes.
“He said, ‘I expect you’re going to speak up, you’ve got a bit of an edge and an attitude and if you don’t have that as captain, your team is going to get walked over.’”
It’s a strange situation for Hynes to be in.
First, because of his old reputation, which he freely acknowledges, while insisting he’s changed. Second, he’s still the new guy on the team and he was just getting used to his new surroundings when he was given a whole new gig.
“When I came in, I guess you could say I was out in the ocean; I didn’t know anybody except O’Brien and Bissonette,” he said.
“It was the first time I was ever traded too, so it was a bit of a transition. I didn’t ask any questions, I just worked hard on the ice.”
Hynes sees himself as more of an on-ice leader than one of the vocal variety, though he has no problem saying something in the locker room if it needs to be said.
“I’ve been waiting for a coach that’s going to be some responsibility into me and respect what I’ve done to change my career,” he said. “I’m the complete opposite from what I was at 16.
“I told Eric if he had me at 16, he probably would have sent me home.”
Instead, Dubois and the Titans inherit a dangerous sniper at the time of his game. He spent 18 straight weeks training for this season, fixated on making his last QMJHL season his finest yet.
“I have the same mindset I had last year in Victoriaville,” he said. “That’s to do anything to help this team win.”
He knows, as one of three 20-year-olds on the club, he needs to be the straw that stirs the offence — which is happening just fine, with five points (3G-2A) in the first three games of the season as of Thursday night — but he’s also taking on penalty-kill duties this year, regularly blocking shots and sacrificing his body for the good of the scoreboard.
The National Hockey League lockout sabotaged his chances of making a go of it as a professional this year, he said, noting he had two or three different options that might have produced an opportunity, but he’s still hopeful something will come up after this, his final junior season.
“It’s going to depend on my year, obviously,” Hynes said. “One year can make a lot happen.”
But, for now, the Norris Point native is just trying to enjoy himself and soak in every last experience of his QMJHL career.
“Every game feels like a countdown to me,” he said. “Opening night there were a few emotions while I was waiting for them to call me out.
“It’s just like, this is your fifth and final time to do this — then it’s business for the next 68 games, then your junior career is done.”