Alternate or Assistant Captain: The Meaning Of The “A” On The Jersey


I am going to briefly discuss one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to hockey – the meaning of the “A” on the jersey (you thought I was going to say Samuelsson, didn’t you?).  I would say that when watching games, 50% of the time the announcers use the wrong term when discussing the A; even Ken Daniels screws it up quite a bit.  Let’s not even get started with the NBC Sports announcers (hate you so much Pierre McGuire) as that might cause my head to literally explode.

So, what is the accurate term for the A?  Let’s go to the NHL rulebook:

"6.2 Alternate Captains – If the permanent Captain is not on the ice, Alternate Captains (not more than two) shall be accorded the privileges of the Captain. Alternate Captains shall wear the letter “A” approximately three inches (3”) in height and in contrasting color, in a conspicuous position on the front of their sweaters.Only when the Captain is not in uniform, the Coach shall have the right to designate three Alternate Captains. This must be done prior to the start of the game."

There you have it, folks.  The correct term is ALTERNATE Captain.  I completely understand why fans (both casual and hardcore) use Assistant – we hear it so much that we actually think it’s right – the whole Kleenex/Tissue debate.  Let’s clarify what the official role of the Captain is, in case you are wondering:

"6.1 Captain – One Captain shall be appointed by each team, and he alone shall have the privilege of discussing with the Referee any questions relating to interpretation of rules which may arise during the progress of a game. He shall wear the letter “C,” approximately three inches (3”) in height and in contrasting color, in a conspicuous position on the front of his sweater. No co-Captains are permitted. Either one Captain and no more than two Alternate Captains, or no Captain an no more than three Alternate Captains are permitted (see 6.2).Only the Captain, when invited to do so by the Referee, shall have the privilege of discussing any point relating to the interpretation of rules. Any Captain, Alternate Captain or any player who comes off the bench and makes any protest or intervention with the officials for any purpose shall be assessed a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct under Rule 40 – Abuse of Officials. Should this protest continue, he may be assessed a misconduct penalty, and if it further continues, a game misconduct penalty shall be warranted.A complaint about a penalty is NOT a matter “relating to the interpretation of the rules” and a minor penalty shall be imposed against any Captain, Alternate Captain or any other player making such a complaint.The Referee and Official Scorer shall be advised, prior to the start of each game, the name of the Captain and the Alternate Captains of both teams.No playing Coach or playing Manager or goalkeeper shall be permitted to act as Captain or Alternate Captain."

In the locker room, the role of the Captain changes.  He’s the leader of the team.  He has to know when to give big rah-rah speeches to fire up the team or when to not say anything.  I know that Babcock uses his Captains as the buffer between him and the rest of the players on certain topics such as amount of practice, off days, travel situations, etc.  Now, the Alternate Captains might “Assist” the Captain in this regard on for other things, depending on the team.  But since this isn’t an official role, I believe we should always call them by their proper title:  Alternate Captain.  Boom.

Aren’t you glad we solved this?  The next time you hear someone use the phrase “Assistant Captain” you have my permission to punch them in the face.  If you do this, make sure you tell me about it on the Twitter device since that would completely make my day.

Thanks for reading!  Until next time…GO WINGS!!