By Ryan Stanzel
Before the Dan Cavanaugh feature, his bobblehead has asked for a minute of your time to answer some hard-hitting questions. Bobbleheads are renowned in sports for being attention hogs.
Q: Whos better looking, you or the real thing?
BH (Bobblehead): (Nods head yes)
Q: How does your slapshot compare to the rest of the Aeros?
BH: (Nods head yes)
Q: They said that ladies dig the bobblehead. Is this true?
BH: (Nods head yes feverishly)
Q: Which bobblehead do you enjoy hanging out with more, Johan Holmqvist or Chilly?
BH: (Nods head yes)
Q: Are you an environmentalist?
BH: (Nods head yes)
Q: Then why are you made of plastic? It lasts for as long as the Earth spins.
BH: (Stares blankly)
Q: Do you like Greek food?
BH: (Nods like crazy)
Q: Can you dance for us?
BH: (Continues to nod while breaking a plate)
The Cavanaugh clan was excited when Dan Cavanaugh was named Aeros captain in October.
Sure, they were thrilled about seeing him return to Massachusetts for a St. Patricks Day game last week in Worcester.
But what really has Springfield, Mass., abuzz?
Dan Cavanaugh Bobblehead Night, this Saturday at Toyota Center when the Aeros take on the San Antonio Rampage. The first 3,000 fans through the doors, which open at 6 p.m., will get a collectible to take home with them.
My family and friends are definitely excited, said Cavanaugh, who is completing his third season with Houston. It seems like each week as the word spreads more, Ive got more people asking me to save them some.
They were excited to come and see me play last week, but the bobblehead is something they can keep for a long time.
Theres a good chance Springfield restaurants and bars will be plastered with the collectibles. His father, Moe, is a beer distributor. Cavanaugh has one older brother and sister, but tons of aunts and uncles and cousins who follow his game intently.
Cavanaugh at first couldnt believe it when assistant coach Cam Stewart said he was the teams choice for the second bobblehead night. Calder Cup Most Valuable Player Johan Holmqvists bobblehead helped draw 11,624 fans to Toyota Center on January 24.
Stewie told me and I started dying of laughter, said Cavanaugh. I thought it was hilarious. But its cool. Its something Ill remember for the rest of my life.
Cavanaugh began the season as the Aeros captain, before yielding the way to veteran defenseman Jason Marshall, nine years his senior, when he was assigned to the team two months into the campaign. Marshall has since been traded, and head coach Todd McLellan has kept the A for alternate captain on Cavanaughs left shoulder.
The decision (to make Cavanaugh captain at the seasons beginning) was two fold, said McLellan. It was done through a player vote which I believe is very important. The players made it clear that he was their choice, and he got our approval as well. That speaks volumes when everyone can unanimously pick you. There have been young captains before, but hes maybe gone through as much in a short period as anyone. Look at where hes come from his first year
hes won a championship and hes faced adversity. Age wise his captaincy may have been unique, but maturity no.
Cavanaugh, who turned 24 earlier this month, said he learned a lot from both his time as captain, and from watching Marshalls interaction with the players.
I actually think I may have learned more when I was the captain, said Cavanaugh. I learned what to do and what not to do because I had to. I learned what to say and when to say it and when to step back.
When Marshall wore the C it was great too, added Cavanaugh. Hes a guy we all looked up to. We respected him, hes spent so many years in the NHL. We saw how he prepared himself every day and how he was a gentlemen. He treated all of us the same regardless of our age.
Sometimes when youre being mentored, that prohibits your progress a bit, said McLellan. Youre somewhat afraid to step past your mentor. Now that Marshys gone, DC has expanded his role in leadership and is taking charge and pulling the team together.
Cavanaugh has seen a steady stream of players such as Stephane Veilleux, Rickard Wallin and Zbynek Michalek all get their chance with Minnesota this season. The quartet helped the Aeros to the Calder Cup in 2003, while noticing the leadership qualities of the older players that they would replace just a few months later.
Cavanaugh earned praises from Wild coach Jacques Lemaire during Wild camp in the fall, and he eagerly awaits his chance.
Obviously its my goal to play in the NHL, said Cavanaugh. Im going to work as hard as I can. Every guy here has the same dream, so its good to see guys go up. It gives you confidence. After camp in Minnesota, I expected to come down here and play a large role on this team. And now every guy in the locker room is excited about getting to the playoffs.
I talked about the adversity hes overcome, and hes now experiencing the business part opportunity, said McLellan. Hes still a very highly thought of prospect in the organization. The opportunity hasnt opened up yet, but that doesnt mean it wont, certainly if he continues to improve and carry himself like he does. Its a matter of understanding that patience is a tough word to comprehend but an important one as well.