Brent Headon will lead the County of Grande Prairie Kings into NWJHL action this season

County of Grande Prairie Kings captain Brent Headon in training camp action at the Crosslink County Sportsplex on Sept. 10. The Kings kickoff the 25th season of the North West Junior Hockey League on Saturday night when the Fort St. John Huskies come to town. The season lid lifter is a re-match of the last years final, where the Huskies beat the locals in six games. Gordon Anderson / Daily Herald-Tribune

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The journey to name Brent Headon the captain of the County of Grande Prairie Kings began in and around the end of February last season.

Unfortunately for Headon, the skate to getting the “C” began after he took a slapshot to the face during the North West Junior Hockey League (NWJHL) second-round series against the Dawson Creek Jr. Canucks. Headon was sent to Edmonton where he had surgery to put his face back in working order. Obviously, his on-ice participation was over at that point.

“Anybody who can go through that, it was probably one of the most disturbing injuries I’ve seen in my life,” Kings Head Coach Kyle Chapple said. “He was really messed up.”

But even through serious injury, it’s hard to keep a rink rat away from the frozen surface.

It wasn’t soon after where Headon was back in the fold with the Kings, cheering the club on through its run to the league finals-a six-game series loss to the Fort St. John Huskies—followed by the Jr. B provincials in Wetaskiwin in early April.

Although Chapple wasn’t looking for a captain at that point during the season, it was in those times where the bench boss took notice of his injured defender, thinking he would be a strong choice to lead the club going forward.

“There was times at provincials where I saw him talking to players, picking them up when things weren’t going well,” Chapple said. “I kept a close eye to see how he would handle things and he never let his own (serious injury) ever affect the team. He never felt sorry for himself, he came back with a smile on his face—with a major injury, surgery and plates put in his face. He never showed any weakness and cheered on the boys and was supportive and positive.”

There will be a constant reminder of that day when vulcanized rubber met skin and bone at high velocity, as the scar on the right side of his face appears permanent. The scar traces the jawline fromclose to the ear down towards the chin. The injury is still a little tender and numb to the touch for the 21-year old but it’s a long way from the heart.

The Grande Prairie resident found out Chapple wanted him to lead this team in late August. Chapple noted it was a “unanimous decision.”

“I was excited, honoured, obviously, I’m just hoping to make the most of it,” Headon said. “It’s a good way to go out, to end my junior career, captain of the hometown team.” Last year, the rearguard played 26 regular-season games, totalling five goals and seven assists. He had one goal and two assists in nine playoff games.

“When we talked about naming him the captain, his eyes lit up instantly, he wanted it and you could tell,” Chapple added. “Some guys don’t like the extra pressure but I could telll he embraced it, wanted it. The first words out of his mouth were, ‘I’d be honoured to be the captain of this organziation.’ We’ve only been the Kings for nine years but we’ve built up a pretty good reputation as a winning team and he wants to continue that. He knows we’ve got a good team coming back.”

Perhaps his size—a brawy six-foot-one 185 lbs.—is a commanding presence in the dressing room but Chapples noted Headon has got the respect of the players just by his strong purpose of action.

“We look at Headon as a mature influence in the room, a guy that’s got experience, he’s been through the trenches, I can tell you,” Chapple said. “He played in the (Kootenay International Junior Hockey League) with Nelson (Leafs), (going through) long playoff runs with big crowds, he came back last year and was a big reason in helping us get the season turned around, while being vocal but not being shy to be vocal. When he talks people listen.”

Headon played two season with the Leafs, before returning to his hometown team at the start of last season.

“Not only (do I want to) lead on the ice by example but (I want to) mentor them all in the dressing room, keep everyone tight together,” Headon said. “That’s probably one of the most important things in having a good team, is a tight knit group of guys.”

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