What Do the "A" and the "C" Stand for on Hockey Jerseys?
Many hockey fans have probably noticed the letter 'A' or 'C' on some hockey players' jerseys and wondered, what
do they mean? If you've followed sports for some time, you're probably familiar with the team captain concept,
and that's exactly what the C stands for. But that A is for 'alternate captain.'
The A's and the C's of Hockey
Hockey does things a little bit differently from other sports, in case you hadn't noticed. And the way hockey
designates its captains is also slightly different. In the National Hockey League, each team can have only one
captain. That player wears a C on his uniform, usually on the upper left side of the jersey. A team can also
designate up to two alternate captains. Or, if no captain is identified, a team can have three alternate
captains. But don't confuse the A for 'assistant' captain—the title is specifically known as the
'alternate' captain. Alternate captains wear the A on the upper left part of their jersey, or if space does not
allow for it there, on the upper right.
What is the Role of a Captain in Hockey?
The main role of a captain is to speak to the referees when they call penalties, or for interpretations of
rules. Then he carries those messages to the bench for the coaches to hear—the captain of the team is the
only player allowed to do this. The alternate captains serve the same role if the captain is on the bench,
injured, or serving a penalty. And that's the end of the captain's role according to the NHL rules. But the role
of a captain, and the alternate captains, goes deeper than the rule book.
The captain is much more of a team leader—someone respected and admired by fans, teammates, coaching
staff, and management. He is the leader of the locker room, is expected to behave as a role model, acts as the
conduit between players and coaches or management, and is often the face of the team at public events or
How Is a Hockey Team Captain Chosen?
There is no rule or standard for how a player becomes a team captain. On some teams, the captain is elected by
a vote of the team. Sometimes, the captain is appointed by the coach or management. Usually, a captain is a
veteran player who has earned the right. And usually, he is already a leader in the locker room, and his
selection is seen as an endorsement by the team of leadership qualities. More and more, the captain is a star
player—sometimes he's not the veteran so much as he is the leading scorer, even if that comes at a very
young age. Sidney Crosby was named the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins before he even turned 20, yet he's the
fourth youngest player to wear the C on his chest. Connor McDavid of Edmonton was a month younger than Crosby
when he first wore the C on his sweater for the Oilers in 2016, and is the second youngest player ever to earn
Goalies Can No Longer Serve as Captains
Bill Durnan of the Montreal Canadiens was the last goalie to wear the C on his sweater when he captained the
Habs in 1947–48. After that year, the NHL ruled that goalies could no longer serve as captains because it
was too disruptive to the game for a goalie to skate in for an official ruling, relay that to the bench, and
return to the crease. Neither can goaltenders serve as alternate captains. In all, six goalies were named
captains of their clubs before the rule change.
The Debate Over Hockey's C's and A's
Being named the captain of a hockey team is an honor that can draw fans into prolonged debates over the Cs and
the As. It's also not forever. Angry coaches have taken the C from players for poor performance on the ice, or
after a battle with a coach or team official. And some team captains have resigned over squabbles with the team
or in protest over a team decision. In 1980 Toronto Maple Leafs center Darryl Sittler infamously ripped the C
off his sweater and resigned the position after the team traded his best friend.
It's an exciting moment when your favorite player puts the C on his sweater for the team you've spent a
lifetime rooting for. The glory of being named captain is a nice cherry on top of a long, storied career, an
outward sign of the respect that player has earned on the ice and off.