Talks to Peter Collins

WITH 'Captain Dave' finally hanging up his skates after lifting the Monteith Bowl last spring, Kurt had to look around for a replacement to lead the team in their defense of their SuperLeague title. And he didn't have to look far, promoting assistant captain Troy Neumeier to the role.

"It's a real honour," he said: "because most of the guys in the locker room could have been chosen. I'm not a real vocal type I prefer to lead by example." Arguably the best 'D' in SuperLeague Troy admitted he is well prepared having learnt off the master. "I got a taste of being captain last year when Davey was injured, and I have to admit I learned a lot off him . The biggest thing is always be positive, it's no use being negative because it all comes back on your shoulders. You're the captain, you've got to get the guys going. You also have to get on with everybody, you have to be prepared to listen to their problems and help them. I've always got along with pretty much everyone and even last year some of them approached me for advice and to use me as a sounding board."

The 28-year-old from Langenburg Saskatchewan, is now in his third year with the club and added to his championship ring an inclusion in the league's All Star team, as well as playing for the North All Stars against the South and being voted 'best road player' by Stormforce at their end-of- season awards. He joined Storm from the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs (he also played for them when they were the Canucks after he was drafted by Vancouver in 1990) having also had spells with the Cape Breton Oilers (where he patrolled the blue line alongside Blair Scott), the Adirondack Red Wings, the IHL's Milwaukee Admirals, and the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders. Along with wife Lisa and their two daughters they spend the summer at their cottage by Candle Lake just outside Prince Albert. "Now we're back for a third year and we're really happy and hopefully things will work out for us and we can stay even longer."

An intelligent player who puts defence first but knows when to jump up into the offence, at 6ft 2ins and 14st he also adds size, determination and grit to the Storm rearguard. He can also make a mean pass when he wants to and can score goals when needed. His baptism as a full blown 'C' came in August when the club returned to Switzerland for their pre-season camp, taking in two competitions. "We came up against very good teams who had already begun their pre-season, and when you go 0-and-6 you kind of have your doubts about the new guys, even the old guys have to buy back into the system, but they did and the new guys have come good and after that opening defeat we went on an eight-game winning streak, we began to gell and as we won our confidence grew and we picked up our game."

When it comes to retaining the SuperLeague title captain Troy knows he and the boys have their work cut out: "All the clubs have got stronger and there's going to be more teams in the race this year that's for sure, four or five maybe. We've yet to face London but they're going great guns at the moment and can only get better. Against Bracknell we just were'nt good enough, we were inconsistent in both games and you can't afford to be like that against a side like them. Sheffield will always be tough to beat and Newcastle can only get better, they will win a lot of games in their own barn. I'm not discounting Cardiff, Nottingham or Ayr, if you take it easy against any of them they'll make you pay too. That's the way the league is and I think it's better for it. After a good start we seem to have been on a roller coaster ride just lately and we have to sort a few things out, but we will.. "

Like his blueline colleagues Troy is getting plenty of ice time this season, which can work both ways. "Playing five 'D' depends how good you feel on the night. It certainly gets you involved in the game more, but when you're playing something like three games in four nights you're going to get tired. But then you don't really have time to dwell on your mistakes and I like it that way. We've already been down to four 'D' at one point, that's when you really hit a problem, although Mike Morin has dropped back and fits in really well, which is a big help." And already this season he's picked up a nasty injury himself, although it didn't stop him playing. In the first game up in Ayr in the B&H Cup he ended up with 14 stitches around his eye and lips after being hit in the face by Cam Bristow's stick. It made him doubtful for the following game against Sheffield, but the swelling around his eye went down and he played with a visor. Last season an elbow injury kept him out for three weeks near the end of the campaign.