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 Charlotte Checkers

Disappointed Zac Dalpe Continues to be Driven by Desire to Win

May 14, 2024 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Charlotte Checkers News Release

Zac Dalpe wants to win.

Fourteen years into his career, it continues to be the driving force behind him and a singular focus on the ice.

It's no surprise, then, that the Checkers' early exit from the playoffs seemed to hit the veteran forward the hardest.

"It's tough to draw positives when you're cleaning out your locker at the end of April," said Dalpe. "You play for one thing and one thing only, and that's to win in the end. And when you fall very short of that it's disappointing."

The 34-year-old suited up for 67 games this season - his third consecutive campaign reaching the 60-game mark, something that he previously hadn't touched since 2014-15 - and while he was a positive force throughout, a slight dip in production didn't live up to his personal expectations.

"I wasn't very happy with my year," said Dalpe. "You come into every season wanting to be the best and wanting it to be your best year - sometimes you fall short of that. Sometimes you get a little older, you have more bumps and bruises, you spend more time off the ice trying to keep your body in check - which I felt like I had to do more. Which is fine, that's pro hockey."

Even with his tough assessment, Dalpe still managed a 30-point effort for the season and ranked fourth on the team in goals. He moved around the lineup throughout the year and ended up taking on a bit more of a physical role - he set a career high with 50 penalty minutes and dropped the gloves four times.

"Whatever is going to help the team win," said Dalpe. "I'm a team-first guy. Obviously I like to score goals, and you look at your individual play that drives to help the team win. And when stuff like that as far as goal scoring and point production isn't there, you have to find a way to contribute. Being an older guy and sticking up for teammates and the fights and the hits and stuff - I don't mind doing it because I love every guy in that dressing room and I want to play for them. Is it something that I want to do moving forward, as far as being that guy - sure, but I also want to be looked upon for offense too. That's kind of where my head is at."

That mentality of doing whatever it takes to win goes hand-in-hand with the idea that Dalpe and his leadership are a big life force for the Checkers night in and night out.

"I thought he did a really, really good job with this group," said head coach Geordie Kinnear. "Regardless of the numbers and things like that - I thought he led the way and helped our group take a major step."

"He's a leader for a reason," said forward Justin Sourdif. "He cares a lot. He absolutely loves the game, and when you see a guy like that who loves the game and has loved it for a really long time, it gives you a hunger to go out there as a young guy and play just as hard as him. That's our captain. He's done a lot for our team. He's done a lot for me personally."

Talking to the players throughout the season, the impact that Dalpe has on all of them is more than evident. But the veteran remains locked on the desire to win.

"I think at the end of [Game 3] the other night they were all looking at me for something to say," said Dalpe. "I was like, "Listen guys, I've played 14 years and I haven't won anything. So I don't have the recipe either."

That mindset is something Kinnear understands.

"You get to the end of your career and you put a little more pressure on yourself to win in the end," said Kinnear.

Dalpe hit several milestones in year 14 - he logged his 700th pro game and became the franchise leader in both goals and games played. The 34-year-old has one year remaining on his current contract with Florida as he heads into the offseason with an eye on the future.

"This summer is probably the most important summer of my career," said Dalpe. "I know a lot of hockey players say that, but you factor in Father Time with the sport and where you're at in your contract. Mentally I don't want to stop playing. You have to look at that. The positive is that you have the summer here to get your body in check for another 72-game season and then playoffs."

A tough season took its toll on Dalpe, but it didn't dampen his desire and drive to win.

"I'm just disappointed in myself," said Dalpe. "Being a leader, I want to win something. That didn't happen, so I'll be training with a vengeance this summer."

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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