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‘I can’t think of a better person:’ New Jets captain Wheeler celebrated as community leader

The new Winnipeg Jets captain already comes with a reputation of caring for his city.

Blake Wheeler was named captain of the Winnipeg Jets during a press conference Wednesday

David Lipnowski / For THE CANADIAN PRESS

Blake Wheeler was named captain of the Winnipeg Jets during a press conference Wednesday

Winnipeg Jet Blake Wheeler has some big skates to fill.

Wheeler, who turned 30 Wednesday, received quite a birthday present: a brand new "C" stitched to his Jersey.

He succeeds Andrew Ladd as the Jets' captain. Ladd was beloved by Winnipegers as a cheerleader for the city, and Wheeler pledged to follow in his footsteps.

"We look forward to leading on the ice and in the community," Wheeler said of himself and his family, including his wife, Sam, and their two children.

Howard Koks is the executive director of the Dream Factory, a charity for sick children that Ladd supported. He said big-name stars like Wheeler have a responsibility to be part of the city's charitable fabric.

“The Jets are big heroes,” he said.

Koks said that to him, the trait of a good leader comes down to character.

“When someone cares you can tell,” he said.

Carla Martinelli-Irvine, executive director of The Winnipeg Pet Rescue, believes Wheeler is just the man for the job.

Several years ago, Wheeler, along with Jets forward Bryan Little, attended an autograph signing fundraiser for the no-kill shelter. More than 1,000 people lined up to meet the players, resulting in more animals finding homes, Martinelli-Irvine explained.

“I can't think of a better person," she said. "The Blake that I know is a kind and decent human being, and has a willingness to serve the community and you can’t ask for more than that."

Center Mark Scheifele and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will serve as alternative captains to Wheeler.

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