Comets Tales: Captain Cal O'Reilly

by Don Laible

Oct 27, 2014

Being a leader is nothing new for Comets center Cal O’Reilly, it’s just now official.

In the Mohawk Valley, Utica Comets hockey games are the social events of the season. Fans center their schedules; be it family, work, or school, around when their team is skating at The AUD. The three home contests that have have turned out three straight sell-outs, attests to the local’s loyalties. In wearing the “C”, O’Reilly is no stranger to what the expectations are in Utica.

Prior to signing with Utica on November 19, 2013, O’Reilly played in the Russian-based KHL. After he played in 14 contests with the Mike Keenan coached Metallurg Magnitogorsk, his second season with the club, the Clinton, Ontario native moved on to his eight professional team.

O’Reilly immediately earned the endearment of Comets fans. In 52 appearances, the former draft selection of the Nashville Predators racked up 45 points (7-38-45). However, no more memorable game for the captain took place than on Friday March 7, in The AUD. On Irish Night, an early St. Patrick’s celebration, Callahan Patrick O’Reilly didn’t disappoint the home crowd with the game’s final shot. O’Reilly, in a shootout, in a special green Irish-themed jersey, scored the decisive goal that set off much jubilation in The AUD. The evening’s conclusion couldn’t have been more apropos.

With the Comets racing off with a 5-1-1 record this season, good for second place in the Western Conference behind the Milwaukee Admirals by only one game, being captain is good. But challenges will surely be presented as Utica’s schedule progresses. This is when the decade of professional competition experienced by the Comets’ captain will be most appreciated.

O’Reilly, older brother to Colorado Avalanche’s Ryan O’Reilly, appears to be up to the task to lead the Comets. “I found out before the first regular season game,” O’Reilly tells of when Comets’ coach Travis Green informed him officially of being team captain. “Lots of guys could have gotten the “C”. I’m here to share confidence on and off the ice.”

It’s clear when speaking with O’Reilly on his time in Utica last season that a connection was made with the locals. He tells of wanting to say and do the right things. Pride is evident as O’Reilly addresses the media minutes after the Comets out scored the San Antonio Rampage last Friday. He says that over the summer there were conversations with coach Green that being named captain could be in the cards.

To put his best skate forward in leading the Comets, O’Reilly recalls past captains he has had beginning when he first turned pro with the Milwaukee Admirals. Greg Zanon wore the “C” for Milwaukee during the 2005-06 season. Sheldon Brookbank was the next to wear the “C” with the Admirals who O’Reilly keenly observed. There were NHL team leaders to draw leadership qualities from.

Jason Arnott, Shane Doan, and Sidney Crosby all were captains on teams that O’Reilly has played on at the NHL level. The precedent has been set for success in Utica.

Along with being the team leader in the dressing room and at practice, O’Reilly’s game performance remains one to mimic. After collecting three points in Saturday’s game vs the Marlies he leads the team with eight points (1-7-8) in seven games.

With 113 NHL games under his belt and four AHL clubs played for, throw in KHL experience, and you have a Comets captain with plenty of knowledge and experience to draw upon. The Comets have fivefirst round draft picks on their current roster. Fostering a cohesive group on a daily basis will require patience and diplomacy for O’Reilly. With the younger players, and a mix of experienced pros such as Brandon DeFazio, Alex Biega, and Darren Archibald, the captain can best lead by example.

Thus far, by all accounts, O’Reilly is doing just that.

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