Goaltenders may be designated as captains, but they may not wear the 'C' because of the logistical challenges of having the goaltender relay rules discussions between referees and coaches and then return to the crease. Goaltender Roberto Luongo was named captain of the Vancouver Canucks on September 30, 2008, although he is not permitted to wear a 'C' on his jersey. See below for more.
Although the rules do not specify any other distinction between the captain and his teammates, in North American professional hockey the captain has numerous responsibilities to the team. The captain is expected to be a locker room leader and is often considered the primary representative of the team to the public. The captain also represents the players' concerns to management and sometimes is responsible for organizing the team's social functions.
Captains are selected by team management; some teams hold a vote among the players to choose the team's captain. Captains are usually veteran players, though on occasion younger players are chosen. The selection is often seen as an important moment for a team, and one that can affect the team's (and newly appointed captain's) performance.
NHL teams need not designate the same player as captain from game to game, though most teams do. 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 have never had a permanent captain, instead choosing to rotate captains every one or two months). During each NHL game, however, only one player can officially be designated as captain.
Teams may designate alternate captains, who are sometimes referred to erroneously 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. In the CHL, teams are allowed to have a captain with up to three alternate captains. International rules stipulate that "each team shall appoint a Captain and no more than two Alternate Captains." When the captain is off the ice, any alternate captain on the ice is responsible for fulfilling the captain's official role as liaison to the referees.
Teams need not appoint the same players as alternate captains from game to game, though they generally do. NHL alternate captains perform many of the same leadership and team building roles as the captain. The alternate captains are appointed before each game, that is why teams such as the Detroit Red Wings have three official alternate captains, Kris Draper, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg.
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. Charlie Gardiner was the first 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, while Nicklas Lidstrom was the first captain born and trained in Europe to lead his team to a Stanley Cup title (2008).
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 permanent NHL captain is Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who became captain on May 31, 2007.
|Name||Team||Birth date|| Captaincy|
| Age at|
| First game|
| Age at|
|Minnesota North Stars||†||Interim|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||Permanent|
|Detroit Red Wings||Permanent|
† An exact date for Brian Bellows' captaincy has not yet been determined. The previous captain, Craig Hartsburg, was injured on January 10 1984, and Bellows became interim captain shortly thereafter in January 1984.
Prior to the 1948-49 season, the NHL made a change to the rules prohibiting goalies from being captains. This was due to Bill Durnan leaving his crease to argue calls with the referees far too frequently. Opposing teams said this gave the Canadiens unscheduled timeouts during strategic points during games. This became known as the "Durnan Rule".
Because of this rule, goalies cannot wear the "C" on their sweater. While the Canucks have named Luongo the captain for the 2008-09 season, typical captain duties have been delegated to other players. Willie Mitchell will deal with the officials on a nightly basis and Mattias Ohlund will deal with any ceremonial aspects of the position such as pre-game faceoffs. However, Luongo has raised some controversy by adding the "C" to his goaltenders' mask, below the chin on the neck guard.