By Matt Mackinder
Being named captain by the coaching staff is one thing, but to get the same respect from teammates is another.
That’s the case this season for Toledo Cherokee captain Donnie Nagle.
To start the season, the Cherokee coaches put the ‘C’ on the second-year defenseman and then moving forward, the coaches put the onus on the players to name a captain.
No matter who was making the decision, Nagle was the unanimous choice.
“Being a returning vet in itself brings more responsibility and so does being captain,” said the 18-year-old Nagle. “I have two great assistants in Andrew Benyo and Parker Hack and I think the rookies look up to us and try and take everything in. I try and lead by example and pretty much keep my mouth shut unless I see something that needs me to speak up.”
Toledocoach Scott Syring said the past six months really showed him Nagle’s leadership.
“Donnie is very mature and always gives everything he has,” said Syring. “He played AAA hockey his whole life and probably would be in the North American Hockey League this season if not for an arm injury he suffered last season and took all summer to rehab, including having a bone marrow transplant in his arm. It was scary stuff, but he’s been cleared to play by the doctors and that’s how Donnie is on the ice, too – you knock him down and he just gets back up.
“He’s the prototypical NAHL kid and he has the potential to also play college hockey down the road, but right now, he’s focused on leading our team. Any time I ask him to do something, he gets it done.”
Coming into this season knowing the Cherokee systems, Nagle needed very little time to get back into the swing of things and has taken the time to work with the younger players, many of which are playing junior hockey for the first time.
“We have a very young team this year, but all these guys work hard non-stop,” Nagle said. “Scott rolls four lines until he has to shorten the bench and some of these new guys might not be used to that, but we were once in their shoes and can explain to them why that happens. The chemistry on this team is really coming together and no one is scrambling. We all play together and everyone knows their role on this team and everyone is comfortable with their role.”
The season just a few weeks old, Nagle feels the Cherokee is headed in the right direction.
“We want to get back to the Hurster Cup and I really like our chances,” said Nagle. “We just want to keep coming at teams. We split with Flintlast weekend and I think that shows how we can play against one of the better teams in the league. We are in a tough East Division, but I like that.
“Every team is strong and every game will be a battle this year.”