September 30, 2008

Captain Puckstopper

So the Vancouver Canucks are doing the unconventional thing and naming goaltender Roberto Luongo as team captain.

But wait a minute. NHL Rule 14-D reads: No playing Coach or playing Manager or goalkeeper shall be permitted to act as Captain or Alternate Captain.

That's alright. Apparently the Canucks will get around this by designating Willie Mitchell to perform on-ice captainly duties, such as discussing situations with the referees.

So why does NHL Rule 14-D exist anyways? Here's a brief history of goaltender captains.

In the early 1920s the NHL tried to speed up delays between whistles by legislating that only one player per team would be allowed to converse with the referee during the game. The on-ice captain was born.

If the captain happened to be on the bench, well tough luck. That team could not talk to the referee until he was on the ice.

In 1923 Toronto St. Pats' coach Eddie Powers figured out a way around this by naming his goaltender, John Ross Roach, as the team captain. He was a fiery little bugger nicknamed "Little Napolean," and probably did not win over a lot of friends in the striped shirts.

By 1933 four goaltenders were serving as captains - George Hainsworth, Roy Worters, Alex Connell and Charlie Gardiner. In 1934 Chicago's Gardiner, the all star pictured to the right, became the only goaltender to captain a Stanley Cup winning team.

In 1947-48 a 5th goalie was named as team captain - Bill Durnan in Montreal. He was a very talkative fellow. Too talkative. The NHL implemented Rule 14-D in order to eliminate Durnan's and future goalies incessent yapping at the officials.

The rule remains today. Some may say the captain's "C" is largely ceremonial, but realistically do you want your goalie losing focus while debating an illegal line change or the location of a faceoff?

1 comment:

vdkhanna said...

I was very surprised when I heard this news, especially since the history of the NHL is not replete with many cases of goalie captains. I think this is purely a stunt by the Canucks.