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Joe Sakic wearing the "C" on his jersey as captain of the Colorado Avalanche.

In ice hockey, each team can designate an official captain for each game. The player serving as captain during the game wears a "C" on his or her jersey.


Responsibilities and importance

According to International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and National Hockey League (NHL) rules, the only player allowed to speak with referees about rule interpretations is the captain, or, if the captain is not on the ice, an alternate captain.[1][2]

Although the rules do not specify any other distinction between the captain and his teammates, the captain has numerous responsibilities to the team, particularly in North American professional hockey. The captain is a locker room leader, and also represents the players' concerns to management.[3] During the game, captains are expected to motivate their teams, particularly captains who are stars or franchise players.

The captain is often considered the primary representative of the team to the public, sometimes is responsible for organizing the team's social functions, and performing ceremonial on-ice functions such as award presentations or ceremonial faceoffs.[4]


IIHF and NHL rules do not permit goaltenders to be designated as captains,[1][2] because of the logistical challenge of having the goaltender relay rules discussions between referees and coaches and then return to the crease. The Vancouver Canucks named goaltender Roberto Luongo as its captain starting on September 30, 2008; due to the rule restriction, he cannot serve as the official team captain during games. In the NCAA, there is no position-based restriction on the team captain.[5] Luongo is the first goaltender to serve as captain of an NHL team since Bill Durnan had done so sixty years prior for the Montreal Canadiens.

NHL teams need not designate the same player as captain from game to game, though most teams do. For instance in 1985, upon the retirement of Boston Bruins' captain Terry O'Reilly, Ray Bourque and Rick Middleton were named as co-captains of the team, Middleton wore the "C" during home games and Bourque for road games, until Middleton retired in 1988 and Bourque became the sole captain. Some teams name two (such as the Buffalo Sabres during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 NHL seasons) or three (such as the Vancouver Canucks during the 1990–91 NHL season) captains for a season. Some teams rotate captains rather than keep one for an extended period of time (the Minnesota Wild rotated captaincy every one or two months until the 2009-10 season, when Mikko Koivu was named the first permanent captain since the franchise began). During each NHL game, however, only one player can officially be designated as captain.[2]

Captains are selected by different means: in some instances, teams have held votes among their players to choose a team captain; on other occasions, the choice was made by team management. Captains are often chosen due to their seniority in the game, and years of service with their current club. However, franchise players — current or emerging stars — have also been named captains.[6]

Alternate captains

Luc Robitaille, 2005: the "A" is commonly on the left side of the jersey

Teams may designate alternate captains, who are often incorrectly referred to as "assistant captains". Alternate captains wear the letter A on their jerseys in the same manner that team captains wear the C.

In the NHL, teams may appoint two alternate captains if they have a captain, or they may appoint three alternate captains and no captain.[7] This is often the case when a team's captain is injured for only a short amount of time or when a team has not appointed an official captain. International rules stipulate that "each team shall appoint a Captain and no more than two Alternate Captains."[1] In the CHL, teams are allowed to have a captain with up to three alternate captains. When the captain is off the ice or unavailable for the game, any alternate captain on the ice is responsible for fulfilling the captain's official role as liaison to the referees.

NHL teams may choose alternate captains from game to game or appoint regular alternate captains for the season. In North America, alternate captains perform many of the same leadership and team building roles as the captain. In the 1969-70 NHL season, the Boston Bruins had three alternate captains (Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito, and Ed Westfall) instead of a captain sporting the "C". However, as Bucyk was the most senior of the alternate captains, he was first one to be presented the Stanley Cup when the team won the championship in 1970 and 1972.

In the NCAA, a team can designate a single alternate captain to assume the role of captain, should the captain be unavailable due to injury or penalty.[5]

Designation on uniform

The letter "C" or "A" is sewn on the jersey of the team captain and alternate captains. The designation is traditionally placed on the left side of the jersey, though the IIHF, NHL, and NCAA rules specify only that it must be in a "conspicuous location on the front" of the player's jersey.[1][2][5] Two teams in the NHL have jerseys with the designation on the right side, as the positioning of the crest on the front leaves insufficient space on the left for the letter: the Detroit Red Wings (regular jersey), and the Phoenix Coyotes (third jersey).[8]

NHL captains



Steve Yzerman served as the captain of the Detroit Red Wings for twenty seasons (1986–87 season to 2005–06 season), the longest term in the history of the NHL. Mats Sundin (retired) holds the record as the longest serving European captain with 13 years (1997 - 2008)[9] The Boston Bruins' Ray Bourque was previously the longest-tenured captain in NHL history from 1985-86 to 1999-2000, being co-captain for the first three seasons. Brian Bellows was the youngest captain in NHL history, serving as the interim captain of the Minnesota North Stars from January 1984 until May 1984. The youngest current permanent NHL captain is Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, who became captain on July 18, 2008.[10]

Youngest NHL captains
Name Team Birth date Captaincy
Age at
First game
as captain
Age at
first game
Bellows, BrianBrian Bellows Minnesota North Stars 01964-09-01 September 1, 1964 01984-01-10 January 10, 1984 &0000000000000019.00000019 years, &0000000000000131.000000131 days Interim
Crosby, SidneySidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins 01987-08-07 August 7, 1987 02007-05-31 May 31, 2007[11] &0000000000000019.00000019 years, &0000000000000297.000000297 days 02007-10-05 October 5, 2007[12] &0000000000000020.00000020 years, &0000000000000059.00000059 days Permanent
Lecavalier, VincentVincent Lecavalier Tampa Bay Lightning 01980-04-21 April 21, 1980 02000-03-01 March 1, 2000[13] &0000000000000019.00000019 years, &0000000000000315.000000315 days 02000-03-01 March 1, 2000[14] &0000000000000019.00000019 years, &0000000000000315.000000315 days Permanent
Toews, JonathanJonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks 01988-04-29 April 29, 1988 02008-07-18 July 18, 2008[15] &0000000000000020.00000020 years, &0000000000000080.00000080 days 02008-10-10 October 10, 2008[16][17][18] &0000000000000020.00000020 years, &0000000000000164.000000164 days Permanent
Yzerman, SteveSteve Yzerman Detroit Red Wings 01965-05-09 May 9, 1965 01986-10-07 October 7, 1986[19] &0000000000000021.00000021 years, &0000000000000151.000000151 days 01986-10-09 October 9, 1986[20] &0000000000000021.00000021 years, &0000000000000153.000000153 days Permanent
Schoenfeld, JimJim Schoenfeld Buffalo Sabres 01952-09-04 September 4, 1952 01974-09-01 September 1, 1974[21] &0000000000000021.00000021 years, &0000000000000362.000000362 days 01974-10-14 October 14, 1974[22] &0000000000000022.00000022 years, &0000000000000040.00000040 days Permanent

Table Notes:

An exact date for Brian Bellows' captaincy has not yet been determined. The previous captain, Craig Hartsburg, was injured on January 3 1984, and Bellows became interim captain shortly thereafter in January 1984.[23]


Stanley Cup Finals

Charlie Gardiner was the first NHL captain born in Europe to lead his team to a Stanley Cup title (1934), Lars-Erik Sjoberg was the first NHL captain born and trained in Europe. Derian Hatcher became the first American-born captain to win the Stanley Cup in 1999. Daniel Alfredsson was the first European-born and trained captain to lead an NHL team to the Stanley Cup Final, while Nicklas Lidstrom was the first captain born and trained in Europe to lead an NHL team to a Stanley Cup title (2008). Mark Messier is so far the only NHL player to win the Stanley Cup as Captain of two different teams. Sidney Crosby, the youngest permanent captain in NHL history, also became the youngest captain to win the Stanley Cup on 12 June 2009.

Minority Captains

Dirk Graham became the first NHL captain of African descent when he was named captain of the Chicago Blackhawks.[24] Jarome Iginla, who became captain of the Calgary Flames in 2003, has been cited by ESPN as the first black captain in NHL history.[25]

Goaltender captains

In NHL history, there have been seven goaltenders who served as team captains:

The Hockey Hall of Fame displays a picture of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Turk Broda wearing the Captain's "C", but he never actually served in that capacity, and he was actually wearing Toronto team Captain Syl Apps' sweater.

Prior to the 1948–49 season, the NHL made a change to the rules, prohibiting goalies from being captains or alternate captains. This was in response to complaints from opponents of the Montreal Canadiens, who complained that Durnan left his crease to argue with the referee at strategic points during games, resulting in unscheduled timeouts. This rule is sometimes referred to as the "Durnan Rule".[27]

While the Canucks have appointed Luongo as its captain for the 2008–09 season, he cannot serve as the official captain during games so on-ice captain duties have been delegated to other players. Willie Mitchell is the in-game liaison with the officials and he also performs any ceremonial aspects of the position such as pre-game faceoffs. To symbolize his off-ice captaincy, Luongo has a "C" on the chin area of his helmet.

See also

Positions on the Hockey Rink
Forwards: HockeyRink.png
Left winger | Centre | Right winger
Left defenceman | Right defenceman
Power forward | Enforcer | Captain | Head coach | Referee & linesman


  1. ^ a b c d International Ice Hockey Federation. "IIHF Rule Book" (PDF). International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved 2008-10-18.  
  2. ^ a b c d National Hockey League (2007). "National Hockey League Official Rules" (PDF). Triumph Books. Retrieved 2007-10-20.  
  3. ^ "Daryl Sittler's longest year," Frank Orr, Toronto Star, March 16, 1980, p. C3.
  4. ^ "Daryl Sittler's longest year," Frank Orr, Toronto Star, March 16, 1980, p. C3.
  5. ^ a b c National Collegiate Athletic Association (2008-08). 2008–10 NCAA Men's and Women's Ice Hockey Rules and Interpretations. Indianapolis, Indiana: National Collegiate Athletic Association. pp. 178. ISSN 0735-9195.  
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "Rule 14 Captain of Team". Retrieved 2007-09-15.  
  8. ^ Phoenix Coyotes (2008-11-22). "2008-09 3rd Jersey Debut" (Adobe Flash). Retrieved 2008-11-30.  
  9. ^ "Steve Yzerman". Retrieved 2007-09-16.  
  10. ^ Molinari, Dave (2007-05-31). "Crosby to be youngest team captain in NHL". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved 2007-09-15.  
  11. ^ "CROSBY BECOMES YOUNGEST CAPTAIN IN NHL HISTORY". 2007-05-31. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  12. ^ "Pittsburgh Penguins - Recap: Pittsburgh @ Carolina - 10/05/2007". 2007-10-05. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  13. ^ "Tampa Bay Lightning History 1999-2000". Retrieved 2008-10-21.  
  14. ^ " Game Summary, Game 0888, Wednesday, March 1, 2000, Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning". Retrieved 2009-04-15.  
  15. ^ (2008-07-18). "Toews Named 34th Captain In Team History". Press release. Retrieved 2008-10-18.  
  16. ^ Burnside, Scott (2008-10-10). "Too young to lead the Blackhawks? Toews says: Bring it on" (HTML). Retrieved 2008-10-18.  
  17. ^ Ziehm, Len (2008-10-10). "5 things Hawks must do on ice to make changes count" (HTML). Chicago Sun-Times.,CST-SPT-hawk10.article. Retrieved 2008-10-18.  
  18. ^ (2008-10-10). "Box Score: Chicago vs. New York Rangers, October 10, 2008" (HTML). Retrieved 2008-10-18.  
  19. ^ Detroit Free Press (2006). "Captain, My Captain". The Captain. Detroit Free Press. pp. 25. ISBN 978-1572439351. "Red Wings coach Jacques Demers named Steve Yzerman team captain on October 7, 1986."  
  20. ^ 1986-87 Detroit Red Wings season showing their first game played on October 9, 1986 at the Quebec Nordiques and Steve Yzerman's career stats showing he played in all 80 games that season.
  21. ^ "Class of 1996, Jim Schoenfeld, Buffalo Sabres Defenseman". 2009-04-15. "In September 1974, at age 22, Schoenfeld became the NHL's youngest captain..."  
  22. ^ "1963 NHL DRAFT PICK, Gerry Meehan". 2009-04-15. "Buffalo Captain: October 1971 to Oct. 14, 1974"  
  23. ^ "Brian Bellows, 1982 NHL DRAFT PICK". Retrieved 2008-07-18. "Became youngest team captain in Minnesota history as a 19-year-old when he filled in for injured Craig Hartsburg after Hartsburg was injured on Jan. 10, 1984. Bellows continued to wear the "C" through the end of 1983–84 season."  
  24. ^ "1979 draft pick – Dirk Graham". Retrieved 2008-12-10.  
  25. ^ "Iginla becomes first black captain in NHL history". Retrieved 2009-02-23.  
  26. ^ "Next captain of the Canucks is Luongo". 2008-09-30. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  27. ^ TSN.CA STAFF (2008-09-30). "CANUCKS NAME GOALTENDER LUONGO AS TEAM CAPTAIN". Retrieved 2009-02-23. "The Montreal Canadiens' Bill Durnan was the last goaltender to serve as captain in the 1947–48 season. Prior to 1948–49, the NHL passed a rule prohibiting goalies to act as captain or assistants in what could be called the 'Durnan Rule.' The Canadiens keeper left his crease so much to argue calls that opponents protested saying that Durnan's actions gave the Canadiens unscheduled timeouts during strategic points in games."  


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