SYDNEY, N.S. - It’s a pretty cool experience when you get to play for the team you grew up cheering for. It adds another level of excitement and gratification when you’re named captain of that team.
That’s the case for Antigonish’s Declan Smith who, this week, was named captain of the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles for the 2018-19 season.
The Screaming Eagles began their season last night (Sept. 21) in Charlottetown were Halifax’s Matthew Welsh, goaltender for the Islanders, was named first star as the home team secured a 4-2 victory over Cape Breton.
“It’s a pretty big honour; I was always cheering for this team when I was younger so being a leader on the team now, is a big deal to me,” Smith said, talking to the Casket prior to the game in Charlottetown.
Smith is in his fourth year with the Sydney-based team after being drafted by the Saint John Sea-Dogs in the fourth round of the 2014 QMJHL draft. He was traded to the Screaming Eagles that same year and played in three games as a call-up, from the Port Hood-based Cape Breton West Major Midget Islanders, at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Smith, who also played a handful of games as a call-up to the Antigonish Farmers’ Mutual Junior Bulldogs while in Port Hood, was an assistant captain for Cape Breton West.
“This is the first time I’ve been captain in my hockey career,” Smith said, while also noting what he’ll bring to the role.
“Being a good example, I think, is a big one … especially for the younger guys,” he said.
“Speaking up in the room has a bit to do with it too, but it’s not just words, you have to show actions too; I think that is big part of being captain.”
A centre, known for his rugged style and strong two-way game, Smith said he expects the Screaming Eagles to have a “pretty big year.”
“Our team looks really good and I can’t wait to see what the season brings,” he said.
“I think we have a strong core and everyone in here is family. It’s looking good; I can’t wait to get going.”
The big addition to the Screaming Eagles line-up is Sydney’s own Mitchell Balmas; a proven scorer in the league who was picked-up from last year’s Memorial Cup champions, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
Balmas, named an assistant captain, scored one of Cape Breton’s goals versus the Islanders.
“He is going to be a big help for us,” Smith said, noting too it’s great Balmas is getting an opportunity to play in his hometown to conclude his junior career.
“Getting to play his last year of junior at home is pretty nice too.”
The Screaming Eagles are back in action this evening, in Acadie-Bathurst, versus the Titan. They open at home next Friday (Sept. 28) with their Nova Scotia rivals, the Halifax Mooseheads, providing the opposition. Game time at Centre 200 is 7 p.m.