The veteran forward was selected captain during a team meeting on the eve of the tournament Thursday night.
"It was a nice honour to be named that," said Getzlaf. "It's always something that you kind of strive for. I look forward to the challenge of the tournament."
Getzlaf missed the mini-training camp Canada held in Switzerland last week and joined the team directly in Helsinki on Wednesday. He was still feeling the effects of the time change during his first practice with the group at Hartwall Arena a day later.
The 26-year-old is one of three members of the Canadian team that won gold at the 2010 Olympics. He also serves as captain of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.
Getzlaf believes the job description is a little different at a short international event like the world championship.
"In these tournaments, there's honestly not a whole lot (to do)," said Getzlaf. "We've got a whole group of leaders and you've just got to kind of lead by example and make sure we're doing the right things. When you're on a team where there's so many leaders and then you don't have to do a whole lot.
"It makes my job pretty easy."
Dion Phaneuf and Patrick Sharp will serve as alternate captains.
Canada opens the tournament Friday against Slovakia, which will also serve as the start of a unique quest for Getzlaf. He has the opportunity to become the first player ever to win the Stanley Cup and gold at every major international tournament — the Olympics, world championship, world junior championship and world under-18 championship.
Asked by a Finnish reporter on Thursday what a reasonable expectation was for Canada at the tournament, Getzlaf replied flatly: "Gold."
"That's why we're here," he added. "I haven't played in one of these events where my goal wasn't to win a gold medal. Since under-17s, I've played for Canada at every different level.
"Every level that's what we strive for."