SCHENECTADY -- They've had co-captains and even tri-captains since moving to Division I in 1991-92.
They've never had one who wears the mask. Until this year.
Junior goalie Darion Hanson has been named a captain of the 2019-20 Union men's hockey team, and he'll share that duty with senior defenseman Vas Kolias.
Head coach Rick Bennett did not name any alternate captains, so this is a ship to be sailed by two players who are well-liked by teammates and will primarily exercise their new responsibility in an encouraging and positive way. That could be beneficial to a team that lost nine seniors to graduation and has brought in 12 freshmen..
"It's an honor," Kolias said. "I've got a great guy with me, Darion, and we're going to be applying ourselves in the most beneficial ways possible, the team ahead of ourselves.
"These guys are all individuals. They all have their own ticks, their own little things that get them going. I think we've done a good job of getting to know each [new] guy and how to get them going."
"I think the kind of leader I'll be is more of a pat-you-on-the-back kind of guy," Hanson said. "I know the guys trust me if they have problems with anything or feel down on themselves, I'm usually the guy to pick them back up. I'll make sure that everyone works hard and comes to play every day. So, yeah. It's a huge honor, and hopefully I'll live up to it."
"I think Darion is a little similar to Cole [Maier], a watch-me-work type of player," Bennett said. "But he's a very caring guy, and I don't think he has a problem of, if he sees somebody that is a senior or a junior, he will get on them. That, to me, is a sign of leadership. It's easy to get on the first-year or sophomore, but to get on someone within your class, to give them a kick in the pants or whatever term you want to use, to me, that was a strong point for Darion."
As the clear No. 1 goalie, Hanson won't suffer from lack of lead-by-example opportunity.
With Jake Kupsky and Joe Young graduated, it's Hanson and two freshman at that position, 6-foot-4, 245-pound Garrett Nieto and 5-11, 170-pound Merek Pipes.
It's a different frame of mind for Hanson in the sense that he's not in the same type of competition for the job like he was last year, but he said that, hockey-wise, his preparation won't change, as the Dutchmen head into the season opener at 4 p.m. Saturday against Boston University at Messa Rink.
"Yeah, is Darion going to start in net on October 5th? Is it a big secret? No," Bennett said. "I think Darion's biggest hurdle is to establish himself as the No. 1. He started to do that at the end of last year, but he's never done it for a full season. So that's his mission, to be the No. 1 goalie for the full season."
"If I don't play well, I'm not going to be in the net," Hanson said. "Rick Bennett doesn't care if I'm a senior and the other two guys are freshmen. He doesn't care where you came from. You've got to go out and perform, and if you don't, someone's going to take charge. So as far as I'm concerned, nothing's changed from last year."
He said he see himself as a older brother to his teammates now, whereas Kupsky and Young served that role toward him.
The Dutchmen have just three seniors, and Hanson is among nine juniors.
"He's a brick wall, and a staple in our leadership group, as well, so we're lucky to have him on the team," said classmate Parker Foo.
Foo will miss the BU opener due to injury, but is "day-to-day," Bennett said, and junior forward Jack Adams is out indefinitely after blowing out his knee at the Detroit Red Wings NHL Prospects Development camp.
With all the roster turnover, Bennett said he still isn't sure who the top offensive line is, and the fact that the coaching staff waited until late September to name the captaincy shows how the coaches are still feeling out what they have to work with.
"It was said in the spring that we were going to wait until mid-September, late September, [depending on] how they did in the weight room in the spring, their grades and also we followed it up with how they're going to perform coming back and show up in their testing in September," he said. "And we got some feedback from some other people as well. It was, really, for the first time, a community effort, which was kind of neat.
"It's really been impressive, how those guys [Hanson and Kolias] have intertwined so many so early."