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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.

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. During the game, captains are expected to motivate their teams, particularly captains who are stars or so-called 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.


IIHF and NHL rules do not permit goaltenders to be designated as captains, 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.

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.

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. For instance, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke replaced Eric Lindros with Eric Desjardins as captain in 1999-2000 prior to an upcoming contract negotiation with Lindros, and Tampa Bay Lightning head coach John Tortorella replaced Vincent Lecavalier as captain. For Canada men's Olympic hockey team, general manager Clarke selected Lindros in 1998, and general manager Wayne Gretzky chose Mario Lemieux as team captain in 2002 and Joe Sakic in 2006. Captains are often chosen due to their seniority in the game, and years of service with their current club. However, so-called franchise players — current or emerging stars — have also been named captains.

Alternate captains

Teams may designate alternate captains, who are often 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. 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." 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.

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. 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).

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. 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 Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who became captain on May 31, 2007.

Youngest NHL captains
Name Team Birth date Captaincy
Age at
First game
as captain
Age at
first game
Minnesota North Stars Interim
Pittsburgh Penguins Permanent
Tampa Bay Lightning Permanent
Chicago Blackhawks Permanent
Detroit Red Wings Permanent
Buffalo Sabres 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.


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. Jarome Iginla, who became captain of the Calgary Flames in 2003, has been cited by ESPN as the first black captain in NHL history.

Goaltender captains

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

The Hockey Hall of Famemarker 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".

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


  1. "Daryl Sittler's longest year," Frank Orr, Toronto Star, March 16, 1980, p. C3.
  2. "Daryl Sittler's longest year," Frank Orr, Toronto Star, March 16, 1980, p. C3.
  3. [1]
  4. 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.

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