When he hits the ice, there’s just one letter on Tim Cook’s chest: A block ‘M’.
True, the senior is considered one of the Michigan hockey team’s leaders, but Cook wasn’t awarded the captain’s ‘C’ or the alternate captain’s ‘A’ by the coaching staff going into this season.
But not being an official captain may be just the perfect thing for Cook. This way, Cook can focus entirely on what really matters: the team.
“I want to win,” Cook said. “This is my last year. If I played every game and we were a .500 team, I’d be a lot more upset than if I never played and we won the National Championship.”
Cook’s attitude is impressive considering the transitions he’s had to make this season.
With a wealth of defensive talent, including incoming freshman Steve Kampfer and Chris Summers, Michigan didn’t have enough defensive spots for Cook.
After missing just one game last year, Cook was the odd defenseman out for five games in the first half of this season.
Even though Kampfer took Cook’s spot in the defensive rotation, the senior didn’t stop offering support to his new teammate.
“(Cook) has been like a role model here,” Kampfer said. “He’s teaching me the little things on and off the ice.”
As Kampfer continued to improve, it looked like Cook would have to spend even more time watching from the stands.
Then Michigan coach Red Berenson offered Cook a chance to get some ice time by moving to forward. Since receiving the opportunity, the Montclair, N.J., native has run with it.
“I shouldn’t say he’s surprised us, but he’s impressed us with his enthusiasm and his transition to the position,” Berenson said.
From the outset, Cook has worked tirelessly to learn the intricacies of his new role. With his defensive experience, he immediately became one of the Wolverines’ best defensive forwards. But he has also put a lot of effort into learning the art of forechecking and offensive breakouts.
“Smarts and intelligence on the ice is what he’s picked up most,” said sophomore Danny Fardig, who plays alongside Cook on Michigan’s fourth line. “Cookie likes his role, and that’s the best thing about it. We battle, we grind and that’s our whole game.”
Even though he doesn’t often show up on the stat sheet – Cook has just four assists this season – every Wolverine alludes to the intangibles Cook brings to the team.
Teammates look to Cook for leadership, motivation, enthusiasm and desire.
“He’s a vocal guy,” said senior alternate captain Jason Dest, who has known Cook since they were 17 and playing juniors in Omaha, Neb. “Everybody on the team looks up to him, even the seniors.”
It’s easy to see why Cook is such a positive example for his teammates. He has shown flexibility and perseverance while moving back and forth between defense and forward.
Cook is always conversing with coaches and teammates during practice and games, trying to learn one more aspect of the game or disperse one more piece of advice.
But even with his great leadership, it’s easy to wonder why he doesn’t have the official role of captain.
It would’ve been easy for Cook to be bitter about not being named a captain. But the senior knows he doesn’t need a title to make a difference.
“The three captains are unbelievable leaders,” Cook said. “And if you need a letter, or someone to tell you to be a leader, then you’re not a real leader. A real leader steps up no matter what.”
With that attitude, Cook has proven he doesn’t need anything extra on his jersey to fill his role.
“I consider him a fourth captain,” Kampfer said.