What Is An Alternate Captain In Hockey? Discover The Role Of This Vital Team Member

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Hockey is a fast and intense sport that requires teamwork, communication, and leadership on the ice. Every team has several key members who are responsible for different aspects of the game, but have you ever wondered what an alternate captain does?

An alternate captain in hockey plays a crucial role in the team’s success. This player wears an “A” on their jersey instead of the traditional “C” that the team captain wears.

While the team captain is typically the player who leads the pre-game warm-up, participates in the coin toss, and communicates with the officials, the alternate captain also supports these responsibilities. However, they also act as a liaison between the players and coaches during games, take charge in locker room discussions, and serve as a mentor to younger or newer players on the team.

Beyond these tasks, however, the alternate captain holds significant influence over the team’s morale and dynamics. They provide stability and support to both their fellow players and coaches, while acting as a mediator in conflicts both on and off the ice. Ultimately, the role of the alternate captain is crucial to the overall culture and success of any hockey team.

“You can’t win hockey games without captains and guys stepping up and playing important roles.” – Brendan Gallagher

So next time you’re watching a hockey game, pay attention to the player wearing the “A” on their jersey and appreciate the vital role they play in their team’s success.

Alternate Captains: Who Are They?

Definition of Alternate Captains

An alternate captain, also known as an assistant captain or a “A” on their jersey, is a designated player who assists the team’s captain in leadership and communication with referees. The National Hockey League (NHL) allows teams to have up to two alternate captains.

The role of an alternate captain may vary depending on the team, but generally, they are responsible for leading the team when the captain is not on the ice or unable to perform their duties. They are also expected to provide guidance and support to younger players, set a good example both on and off the ice, and act as liaisons between the team and coaching staff.

Why Teams Have Alternate Captains

One reason why teams have alternate captains is that it provides additional leadership throughout the organization. A team can have several veteran players who demonstrate strong leadership qualities, and naming them as alternate captains allows them to assume more responsibility on and off the ice.

In addition, NHL rules require each team to designate one captain at all times during a game. However, there may be situations where the captain cannot fulfill their duties due to injury, ejection from a game, or other circumstances. In such cases, the alternate captains can step up and take over as leaders of the team.

According to former Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, having multiple leaders within the team helps create a positive atmosphere and promotes healthy competition:

“Having guys assuming different roles and responsibilities – being accountable for one another – I think it’s important,” Quenneville said. “It creates more accountability and gives us more attitude across the board.”

Another reason why teams appoint alternate captains is to recognize players who have shown loyalty, dedication, and passion for the team. These players may not necessarily be in an official leadership role, but they are highly respected by both their teammates and coaching staff.

For example, former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cullen was named alternate captain during the 2017-18 season as a tribute to his longevity and work ethic over his long career:

“He’s such a knowledgeable guy,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. “His experience is invaluable, and he’s one of those guys that everybody in that locker room has so much respect for. He’s just been such a consistent player throughout his career.”

The Importance of Alternate Captains in Hockey

Alternate captains play a key role in promoting teamwork and cohesion within a hockey team. As veteran players who have played in countless games, they can provide guidance and support to younger players who are still learning the ropes.

In addition, alternate captains serve as diplomatic liaisons between players and coaching staff. They can communicate any issues or concerns that players may have with the coaching staff and work together to find solutions that benefit everyone involved.

Furthermore, having multiple leaders on a team prevents all responsibility from falling on the captain’s shoulders. If the captain is struggling during a game or dealing with personal issues off the ice, the alternate captains can step up and take over some of their responsibilities, ensuring that the team continues to function smoothly.

The importance of alternate captains lies in their ability to unite the team towards a shared goal. As New York Rangers alternate captain Marc Staal put it:

“At the end of the day, we’re playing for each other in here,” Staal said. “We’re trying to do what’s best for our group – whether that’s individuals sacrificing their own games for the success of the team, or guys who aren’t wearing letters speaking up and being just as important to our success.”

Alternate captains are a vital part of any NHL hockey team. By providing additional leadership, promoting teamwork and cohesion among players, liaising with coaching staff, and stepping up when needed, they help ensure that their teams perform at their best both on and off the ice.

What Makes An Alternate Captain Different From A Regular Captain?


The difference between an alternate captain and a regular captain lies in their authority. While both are respected leaders, the team captain has the ultimate authority on the ice. They can talk to and plead with the officials about calls or discuss strategy with the coach more frequently. The alternate captains, on the other hand, have less officiating power than the team captain.

Alternate captains can represent their team before and after games though they do not perform tosses at the start of each game like traditional team captains. In general, the alternate captain’s role is limited to providing support to the team captain on and off the field.

Role on the Ice

An alternate captain plays a crucial role in lead-by-example situations on the ice. Teams see alternates as a positive influence who know what it means to be great teammates and competitors. They also work hard as seen by some coaches speaking of designating a newer youth player based on achievements outside of the rink so that the younger hockey players understand they can get there too.

In many cases, NHL teams name two or three alternate captains for reasons such as longevity and respect from his teammates (the Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg wore an “A” throughout this career) and skill level on the ice. Four alternates may be named on behalf of possessing great leadership skills and being effective communicators on and off the ice.

“For myself and my style playing the game, I view myself as a leader,” said New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk during an interview with Newsday.

Boychuk is just one example of how modern-day alternate captains strive to lead by example instead of directly leading the team through direct authority. In essence, an alternate captain’s leadership will be noticed based on their actions on the ice rather than through words and assertive behavior off of it.

While both team captains and alternate captains are leaders, a typical team captain has more responsibility on and off the ice. However, without the direction and support of alternates, teams would miss some critical contributions from unsung heroes working hard behind the scenes for the betterment of the team overall.

The Responsibilities Of An Alternate Captain

Alternate captains, also known as assistant captains, serve a vital role in hockey teams. They are appointed to assist the team captain with leadership responsibilities on and off the ice. The alternate captain wears an “A” on their jersey to signify their position. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the responsibilities of an alternate captain.

Representing the Team

An alternate captain serves as the team’s representative during discussions with referees, other teams, or league officials. When the team captain isn’t present, it is up to the alternate captain to fill in those important roles while still reflecting positively on the team as a whole.

In addition to being a spokesperson for the team, alternate captains must set a good example for their teammates both on and off the ice. This means following the rules of the game, showing sportsmanship towards opponents, and remaining composed under pressure.

“You can be a leader in your own way,” said former NHL player and alternate captain Ryan Smyth. “It’s all about demanding respect by how you carry yourself and respecting others.”

Leading by Example

Alternate captains are expected to lead by example, setting the tone for the rest of the team. Whether it’s through hard work, dedication, or teamwork, alternate captains must demonstrate the values that the team stands for.

This type of leadership requires a deep understanding of the game and its players. It’s not just about issuing orders but identifying individual strengths and weaknesses and using them to help the entire team perform better. By doing so, alternate captains create a culture of accountability where everybody is striving towards excellence.

“I was always someone who led by my play,” said retired NHL forward Martin St. Louis. “You can’t just talk; you have to do it and show the way.”

Communicating with Coaches

Alternate captains also serve as intermediaries between the players and the coaching staff. They help identify issues that need to be addressed, such as poor team performance or conflicts within the locker room. With their experience and insight, alternate captains provide valuable feedback to coaches on how strategies could be improved or adjusted.

In some cases, the alternate captain may even make suggestions or take on additional responsibilities during game situations. This is especially true in high-pressure situations when communication breaks down, and quick decisions must be made.

“One of the biggest roles of an assistant captain is to communicate with the coaches,” said former NHL defenseman Willie Mitchell. “Assistant captains should go into detail and ask questions about what they’re trying to accomplish, standings-wise, stuff like that.”

Motivating Teammates

Finally, one of the most critical responsibilities of an alternate captain is motivating their teammates. This role requires a balance of empathy and assertiveness because every player responds differently to different types of motivation.

Some players may draw inspiration from words of encouragement, while others benefit from constructive criticism. Alternate captains must be skilled at identifying which approach works better for each individual and tailor their leadership style accordingly.

“I think (it’s) important having guys who are approachable, who understand, play the game hard, play the game right, motivate people around them, know when things need to be tough and know when things need to be soft,” said current NHL forward Sidney Crosby, who has held both captain & alternate captain positions throughout his career in Pittsburgh.

The role of an alternate captain is crucial not only to the success of individuals but to the entire hockey team. By representing the team, leading by example, communicating with coaches, and motivating teammates, alternate captains play a vital role in creating an effective and victorious hockey team. The skills required to serve as an alternate captain help individuals develop leadership qualities that can be utilized both on and off the ice.

How Are Alternate Captains Chosen?

Coach’s Decision

In hockey, the coach has the final say in choosing who will be the alternate captains for the team. Coaches take a variety of factors into account when selecting their alternate captains.

One common criterion that coaches look at is a player’s on-ice performance. Players who consistently demonstrate skill, intelligence, and determination are often top choices for alternate captaincy.

Another factor that coaches consider is a player’s off-ice conduct. They want individuals who have strong leadership qualities and who represent the team well both on and off the ice. Responsibility, accountability, and respect are all important traits in an alternate captain candidate.

“We choose our alternate captains based on a combination of on-ice ability and off-ice character,” says former NHL coach Bob Hartley. “It’s important to us that these players lead by example in every aspect of their game.”

Team Vote

While coaches ultimately make the decision about which players will serve as alternate captains, they sometimes solicit input from their team members through a vote. This approach allows players to have a voice in the selection process and can help build camaraderie within the group.

Voting typically takes place before the season begins or during training camp. Each player is asked to nominate candidates who they think would make good leaders. The coaching staff then evaluates the nominees and makes the final decisions regarding the alternates.

“Giving the players some input into who serves as an alternate captain can be a great way to build trust and confidence among teammates,” says former NHL player Mark Messier. “Players feel valued and recognized for their contributions to the team.”

Leadership Qualities

Alternate captains are chosen for their ability to inspire and motivate their teammates. They must be leaders both on and off the ice, setting a positive example through their actions and words.

Some key leadership qualities that coaches look for in alternate captains include:

  • Responsibility: The player can handle pressure and make sound decisions under difficult circumstances.
  • Lead by example: The player consistently demonstrates hard work, commitment, and discipline.
  • Good communicator: The player is able to effectively communicate with teammates and coaches, both on and off the ice.
  • Motivator: The player inspires others to give their best effort and to work together as a team.
“A good alternate captain is someone who leads by example,” says NHL veteran Brad Richards. “That means putting in maximum effort every day and having a positive attitude no matter the situation.”

Seniority and Experience

In some cases, coaches may choose an alternate captain based on their experience and seniority within the team. This approach recognizes the contributions that players have made over time and underscores their importance to the group as a whole.

Since alternate captains need to understand the dynamics of the team and help guide newer players, those with more experience are often valuable choices for this role. Their familiarity with the game, their positions, and the opposing teams can also be beneficial in providing strategic guidance during games.

“It’s important to have alternate captains who know what it takes to win in our league,” says former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau. “Veteran players bring a wealth of knowledge and experience that younger guys can learn from.”
In conclusion, choosing an alternate captain in hockey requires careful consideration of several factors. Coaches may make the final decision, but they often seek input from team members and take various criteria into account, including on-ice performance, off-ice conduct, leadership qualities, and experience. The ultimate goal is to select players who can inspire and motivate their teammates, both through example and direct communication, thus supporting the success of the team as a whole.

The Importance Of Alternate Captains In The Team Dynamic

Alternate captains play a crucial role in the success of a hockey team. They are an extension of the captain, providing support, maintaining team unity, and offering leadership in the locker room.

Supporting the Captain

While the captain is typically the face of the team, the alternate captains share some of the responsibilities. They act as sounding boards for the captain, helping to make decisions both on and off the ice.

“As an alternate captain, you’re there to help the captain out and make his job easier,” said former NHL player Jamal Mayers. “You need to be someone he can trust and rely on.”

In addition to supporting the captain, alternate captains may also take over the duties of the captain if they are injured or unable to play.

Maintaining Team Unity

Team unity is essential to the success of any hockey team. Alternate captains must ensure that everyone on the team is working towards the same goal and that no one feels left out or excluded.

“The alternate captain’s responsibility is to provide continuity and stability within the group,” said Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault. “They have to communicate well with the coaching staff and keep everyone accountable.”

Alternate captains are often chosen because they possess strong communication skills. They can speak up when necessary and have the ability to rally the troops when the team needs it most.

Providing Leadership in the Locker Room

The locker room is where the team comes together to prepare for games, discuss strategy, and bond as a unit. It’s also where important team dynamics are established.

“An alternate captain must be a leader on and off the ice,” said former NHL player Dave Poulin. “They set the tone in the locker room and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal.”

Alternate captains often take charge of team meetings, ensuring that everyone is engaged and focused. They also act as role models for younger players, showing them how to conduct themselves both on and off the ice.

Alternate captains are an integral part of any successful hockey team. They provide support to the captain, maintain team unity, and offer leadership in the locker room. Their contributions may not always be visible on the ice, but their impact can be felt throughout the entire organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of an alternate captain in hockey?

The role of an alternate captain in hockey is to assist the team captain in leading the team. They act as a liaison between the players and the coaching staff, making sure that everyone is on the same page. They also have the authority to speak with the officials and make decisions on the ice, such as whether to challenge a call. The alternate captain is a vital part of the team’s leadership structure and helps to maintain a positive team culture.

How is an alternate captain chosen in hockey?

An alternate captain is chosen by the team’s coaching staff and/or the players. Typically, the team captain is chosen first, and then the alternate captains are selected based on their leadership and experience. The coaching staff may also consider factors such as a player’s work ethic, attitude, and communication skills. It is an honor to be chosen as an alternate captain, and it shows that the player is respected and trusted by their teammates and coaches.

What are the responsibilities of an alternate captain in hockey?

The responsibilities of an alternate captain in hockey include assisting the team captain in leading the team, communicating with the coaching staff and officials, and maintaining a positive team culture. They are also responsible for setting an example for their teammates both on and off the ice. This includes leading by example, being a role model for younger players, and helping to maintain a positive team dynamic. The alternate captain is an integral part of the team’s leadership structure and plays a vital role in the team’s success.

Can an alternate captain become the team captain in hockey?

Yes, an alternate captain can become the team captain in hockey. This can happen if the current captain is traded, injured, or retires. The coaching staff and/or players will then choose a new captain, and one of the alternate captains may be chosen for the role. This is a great honor and responsibility, as the team captain is the face of the team and represents the players both on and off the ice.

How many alternate captains can a hockey team have?

A hockey team can have up to two alternate captains. The team captain is typically chosen first, and then one or two alternate captains may be chosen based on the team’s leadership structure. The alternate captains work closely with the team captain to lead the team and maintain a positive team culture. They are an essential part of the team’s leadership structure and help to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

What distinguishes an alternate captain from a regular player in hockey?

An alternate captain is distinguished from a regular player in hockey by their leadership role on the team. They have the authority to speak with the officials and make decisions on the ice, and they work closely with the team captain to lead the team. They also have additional responsibilities off the ice, such as representing the team at community events and helping to maintain a positive team culture. The alternate captain is highly respected by their teammates and coaches, and they play a vital role in the team’s success.

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