Practice ended at First Niagara Center and Ron Rolston gathered the Buffalo Sabres around him at center ice late Tuesday morning. But what’s normally a 5-minute chat might have lasted 30 seconds because Rolston ushered the players into the locker room for a meeting.

With jokes flying on Twitter and from the media waiting outside about Papal white smoke emerging some hoots and a couple rounds of loud applause instead emanated from behind the closed doors.

Then came the final verdict on a major decision from Rolston going forward with his team: Wingers Steve Ott and Thomas Vanek have been named co-captains and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is the alternate captain.

Ott will wear the ‘C’ on the road and Vanek gets the honor at home. Each player will join Ehrhoff with an ‘A’ on nights they’re not serving as captain.

“We just thought both guys represented what we wanted” Rolston said. “Nothing more nothing less than that. It’s all about the influence they have on the team. Those guys are big influences on the team. We thought that was the way to go.”

So Rolston’s system means first up wearing the top letter will be Ott who will be the captain for the season opener tonight in Joe Louis Arena as the Sabres meet the Detroit Red Wings.

“It’s a tremendous honor the ultimate honor to wear the C for this team” said Ott a trade acquisition from Dallas 15 months ago who has quickly become a main locker room voice.

“It’s an honor but as I’ve told the guys this letter doesn’t mean much if we don’t do anything as a group” added Vanek a member of the organization since he was taken with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft in 2003. “… To share it with Steve and Christian is a great honor.”

There were a lot of moving parts to Rolston’s decision which gives the Sabres co-captains for the first time since the glory days of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury from 2005 to 2007.

The biggest thing is that Ott and Vanek are in the final years of their contracts and teams generally pick their captains for the long term.

Ott has stated publicly his desire to re-sign while Vanek has openly taken a wait-and-see approach while evaluating the Sabres’ rebuild.

“That wasn’t a part of things at all. We wanted the best influence on our young players” Rolston said. “Thomas has been a big part of this organization for a long time. He knows how it ticks. He wants to have a great year and he also has been really good in camp in helping our young guys develop whether it’s on the bench or in the room.”