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Sudbury Wolves honoured their former captain

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The Sudbury Wolves paid high honours to a former team member on Friday when his jersey was officially retired from the clubs roster.

The event was in honour Marc Staal, the now Florida Panthers defenceman, who was drafted by the Wolves as a 16-year-old from Thunder Bay in 2003 and played four seasons with the Sudbury hockey club, two as the team's captain.

Staal's No. 14 jersey now joins five other retired numbers in the rafters of the Sudbury Community Arena. (Supplied)Staal, now 36, was back at the Sudbury Community Arena Friday night as his No. 14 jersey was hoisted to the rafters to join the retired jersey of other hockey stars that played for the Wolves in past years, No. 17 Foligno, No. 15 Hunter, No. 10 Duguay, No. 8 Schutt and No. 6 Carlyle.

Staal played 236 regular season games for the Wolves from 2003 to 2007, scoring 23 goals and contributing 100 assists. Additionally, he played 50 playoff games over his four seasons and in his final year with the club earned the Playoff MVP award.

Staal, who attended the event with his wife, three children and his parents, said thinking back to his first days in Sudbury, he could never imagine such a tribute would ever happen.

"Coming to Sudbury as a 16-year-old kid with dreams of playing in the NHL, I never thought I would be standing back on this ice with my family some 20 years later, receiving this incredible honour," Staal told the crowd.

Staal went on to thanked team owner Dario Zulich and general manager Rob Papineau for giving him the honour that few players receive.

"The future is bright for this team and this city and I am grateful and humbled to be a part of it forever," said Staal.

He also thanked former Wolves owner Mark Burgess for the confidence they showed him as a teenager.

Staal also voiced his thanks to former head coach Mike Foligno whose jersey is also on display in the rafters.

"Mike taught me a ton about what it was going to take to be an NHL player. He pushed me and my teammates hard, every single day, to be at our absolute best," said Staal.

Staal, again with gratitude, mentioned Tom and Sharon Rioux, his billet family, who housed him for the four years while he played for the pack.

"And lastly I would like to thank the fans," he said.

"The people of this city have supported this team and organization for 50 years."

Staal spent some time before the game signing some fan’s autographs.

“It’s always fun coming back here and reminiscing and coming back to the rink that hasn’t changed much and talking to the guys,” said Staal.

“I came here at 16 with a dream to play in the NHL and this is where it all started. Learned a lot and grew a lot as a player, so it means a lot to come back here and to have a night like this is pretty special.”

Staal said to the crowd he was always proud to wear the Wolves jersey.

Staal with is family at the ceremonial puck drop for the Feb. 3/23 game where his number was retired. (Supplied)With files from videojournalist Amanda Hicks in Sudbury

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