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Red Savage captains Team USA into IIHF U-18 Championships

The common threads are there. So to are the differences.

Sudbury native Brian Savage was playing high-school hockey at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary, just two years before he accepted a golf scholarship to attend the University of Miami (Ohio).

Following a season and a bit with the Canadian national team on the heels of his graduation from the ranks of the NCAA, Savage would play his first NHL game as a member of the Montreal Canadians.

Eleven years later, Savage would retire from the NHL, but not before amassing nearly 200 goals.

Earlier this week, his son, Red, the middle of three boys in the family, was named captain of the Team USA side that will represent the country at the IIHF Men's World Under-18 Hockey Championships in Texas.

Much like his father, the 17 year-old projected NHL draft pick this summer has followed a somewhat unconventional path, one that started a long way from the hockey hotbed in which young Brian initially developed.

"When I was growing up in Phoenix, it was a new hockey market," said Savage. "There weren't too many rinks there, not a lot of ice in the desert. It was a growing market and one that has evolved over the years."

While the move of the Winnipeg Jets to Arizona has long been the source of contraversy, there is little doubt that it would create the early regional interest in hockey that would eventually produce Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews.

"He (Matthews) is someone who is only a few years older than me, but he really pavced the way for Arizona hockey," suggested Savage. "But it's a lot different than somewhere like Sudbury where everyone is playing all year round."

"You can hop out on a lake in the winter and play with your buddies. In Phoenix, you're battling to get ice time, with rinks being a lot fewer and farther between."

Still, the Savage lads have thrived, with Ryan now two years into his NCAA career at the same school that welcomed his father years ago. There is something to be said for the family name that has produced some of the most natural athletes ever seen in these parts.

"The Savage genes are definitely nice to have," said Red with a laugh. "I've been a pretty good athlete my whole life. I play a bunch of different sports. Hockey is definitely my sport, but I'm also a big fane of golf - just like my dad."

In fact, while he admits that the father-son hockey scouting reports would clearly differ, there are commonalities that extend a little beyond the game.

"My dad was a little more natural of a goal scorer and a big points guy," said Red. "But I think we have similarities off the ice. I've really picked up a lot from his work ethic and professionalism and tried to add that to my game."

It is absolutely part of the package that coaches and teammates identified in looking to 5'11" forward to proudly don the "C" as the United States faces Russia in their opening game on Monday.

"This is my first time being the full captain," said Savage. "My role as captain is really to lead by example. I might not be the loudest person in the room, but it is something that I'm working on."

In many ways, that willingness to continually finetune his hockey skill-set defines the player that Red Savage is.

"One of the biggest reasons for my improvement is that I really found a role, I found a spot on the team where I can create the most positive outcomes and affect every game," he said.

"I'm not trying to be a superstar and do all sorts of crazy things. I'm trying to win battles. I've evolved my 200 foot game to where I don't have to get on the scoresheet every game to affect the outcome."

"I can do a lot of little things that hopefully add up to winning games, winning championships."

Sounds like captain material, for sure, one who will certainly make dad and the entire family proud.

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