Anchorage — Late Tuesday morning, after the Alaska Aces practiced for more than an hour, Steve Ward spent time working out in the small exercise room the club keeps at Sullivan Arena.
That's one of the things Aces coach Rob Murray admires about the veteran defenseman: He always puts in the work.
And that's one of the reasons Murray tapped Ward, 26, as the hockey team's new captain.
"It's his character, the way he carries himself, the way he prepares night-in and night-out, and the effort he gives night-in and night-out,'' Murray said. "He's not a rah-rah guy, but he has the respect of his teammates and the coaching staff.''
Ward succeeds former NHLer Brian Swanson, who retired after last season. Murray also has named center Nick Mazzolini an alternate captain and said he expects to name one more alternate captain.
Murray needed to appoint new leadership because the five guys who wore letters for the club last season are all gone. Swanson and alternate captains Wes Goldie, Bryan Miller and Chad Anderson all retired, and Ethan Cox was traded during last season.
Ward last Friday morning learned he would be wearing the "C'' in his third season with the Aces and his sixth season as a pro. Murray pulled him aside at the end of the team's morning skate and gave him the news before a season-opening 6-3 win at Colorado.
"I was excited,'' Ward said. "I was honored.''
Ward said he called his fiancee and his parents with the news.
Ward last captained a team in his final season of major junior hockey (2006-07), when he led the Plymouth Whalers to the Ontario Hockey League championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup.
With the Aces, Ward has proved himself a multi-dimensional blueliner -- he logs regular shifts, power-play time and penalty-killing duties, and is a guy Murray leans on.
Ward also is known for his even-keeled demeanor -- he never seems to get too excited or too down. He said he'll speak up when necessary and otherwise try to lead by example.
"I'm not going to be on your back to do things,'' Ward said. "I just expect guys to come prepared and ready to go every day.''
The presence of three NHL skaters on the club -- Nate Thompson, Brandon Dubinsky and Joey Crabb are playing for their hometown team during the NHL lockout -- furnished Murray options, but there is no way to know how long those players will be Aces.
"I wanted somebody I know will be here all year, someone I'm comfortable with and someone who deserves it,'' Murray said.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Veteran defenseman Steve Ward is the Alaska Aces' seventh captain since they joined the ECHL in 2003. Here are the guys who have worn the "C":
Steve Ward 2012-
Brian Swanson 2011-12
Scott Burt 2008-11
Matt Shasby *2008
Barrett Heisten *2007-08
Mike Scott 2006-07
Keith McCambridge 2003-06
* Heisten began the 2007-08 season as captain, but repeated concussions prompted his in-season retirement and Shasby was voted captain by teammates.