By Hannah J. Goldman | Photo Contributions by Ross Dettman
Even though he has registered more than 450 points in his American Hockey League career, Jason Krog is the first person to give the credit to his teammates. The Wolves superstar forward is a quiet leader who makes his noise on the ice with playmaking abilities that speak for themselves.
This year, he finds himself in a new role, as captain for the first time in his professional career. But the returning sniper, humble as ever, defers to his teammates.
“It is a great honor and a lot of responsibility comes with it,” he said. “But we have a lot of veteran players on this team. It is not just one guy that leads. I am not a super vocal guy, so I lead in my own way.”
His linemate for the better part of four years, left wing Brett Sterling, can attest to that.
“Krog isn’t a guy that is going to be whooping it up in the locker room,” said Sterling. “We have a lot of very vocal guys on the team so it works for Krog. He can go out on the ice, get done what needs to get done, and just lead by example.”
The example that Krog is setting so far this season definitely is one that the younger players can admire. A little less than a quarter of the way through the season, the center ranks among the top of the team in both assists and points, and if Krog’s past is any indication of the future, that is where he plans to stay.
When asked about his personal goals for the season, Krog was quick to reply. “I don’t set number goals, but I expect to be one of the top offensive guys in the league,” he said. “I expect to be a good leader and I hope to lead this team back to the Calder Cup.”
“Communication is a huge factor,“ he said. “Trying to keep the locker room positive and making sure that guys are responsible, acting professional and working hard in practice are all key. It also is important to be accountable for each other in games, even if that means getting on a guy to make sure he is doing his job.
“Everything helps, but I would say that communication, keeping a tight locker room, and keeping everyone informed were the keys to getting back on track,” Krog said.
With a team that has eight first or second-year professionals, another important factor was helping the younger players through the early-season adversity.
“The main message is that it takes time to learn everything and adjust to the pro game,“ Krog said. “It is different, whether you are coming from college or juniors, and the guys have to know that there are going to be ups and downs. Usually it will be a roller coaster ride for first or second-year players, so you need to limit their highs and lows so that they become better players.”
It isn’t only the young guys that need some friendly reminders. When the captain speaks a few words to the team, he keeps it simple.
“I remind the guys to make sure they are ready to start each game,” Krog said. “Play one shift at a time. Do not worry about tomorrow or the next day; just focus on one shift and one period at a time.”
The Wolves are happy to have the crafty forward back in Chicago.
“It is great playing with him,” said Sterling. “He is a guy who has played at both the AHL and NHL levels and had a ton of success. He is a guy that you want leading your team and it is nice having someone like him on your line; he makes you a better player.”
Krog reciprocates his excitement to be back in the Windy city.
“I have always loved it here and have good memories with Chicago,“ Krog explained. “I am comfortable here and am excited to be back. The way we get treated here and the fact that this organization is always trying to win a championship when they put a team together make it a great place to play.”
And another championship is what Krog craves.
The centerman is no stranger to playing hockey deep into the spring months, but coming away with a trophy to show for it in 2008 was something of an anomaly. Having lost in the NCAA finals with the University of New Hampshire in 1999, the Calder Cup Finals with Bridgeport in 2002, the Stanley Cup Finals the
following year with Anaheim, and losing again in the Calder Cup Finals last year with Manitoba, winning the Calder Cup Championship with the Wolves in 2008 has been the shining moment in Krog’s career.
Even with numerous other achievements on his record, such as winning the 1999 Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top collegiate player, collecting AHL regular and postseason MVP accolades in 2008, or playing for the 2003 Stanley Cup championship, Krog views his 2008 Calder Cup championship as his favorite hockey memory.
“Being able to finish your season with a win like that makes the summer much more enjoyable,” he said. “It is special and you are going to remember that for the rest of your life.”
After a number of runner-up finishes for the Fernie, British Columbia, native, it was a weight off of his shoulders to bring a championship home.
“Being in second place isn’t very fun,” said the 34-year-old. “I sort of wondered if I was going to get another opportunity to win after so many years. But it is the best feeling in the world and fun to be a part of.”
Even though the Wolves may not look the same as they did two seasons ago, Krog feels that the same philosophy still exists.
“There are still the same team goals and it is still the same mentality of ‘Championship or bust’,” he said. “There is a core of us that have to push that message. So there are new faces, for sure, but the same stuff still applies.”
Krog does not take the fact that he has had the opportunity to be on so many championship caliber teams for granted, but for the veteran forward, close is not enough. He wants a second ring and will do anything he can to help give the Wolves that chance.