The captain’s ‘C’ is a symbol of leadership for any team. But what does it mean in the NHL?
The a on hockey jersey is a symbol that appears on the back of a hockey player’s jersey. It shows what level of captaincy they have, and it is usually placed in the center of the back of their jerseys.
Buffalo’s Jack Eichel story has been nothing short of a soap opera. But nothing in that story was more heinous and divisive than the Sabres’ decision to remove their franchise player’s captaincy.
“I believe the captain is the lifeblood of your club, from both our and my perspectives,” GM Kevyn Adams stated. “And we’re in a position where we thought we needed to address that, based on where we were in the past and where we are today.”
This was the most significant dividing line between Eichel and his teammates. The franchise’s pulse had slowed to a halt. The letter “C” had been unstitched. The ship continues to cruise despite the absence of its skipper.
It shouldn’t make a difference that he won’t play for the team again. Shea Weber is unlikely to play in the NHL again, according to the Montreal Canadiens, but he is still the captain since he is still with the team. The Sabres threw sand in Eichel’s face by publicly announcing that he had been stripped of his captaincy.
Captaincy in the NHL is a prestigious position. It’s crucial. There’s only one captain, whether it means a player performs a critical role behind closed doors or is just a sign of a player’s status. When a club decides to designate one — or to disparage one, as Buffalo did — it has ramifications across the organization and among the fans. Today, in particular.
“Because the world has evolved, the captain’s position has almost a larger responsibility now,” Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland told me this week. “The teams are being covered by more individuals. There’s also social media to consider. There’s also the pressure to do well in sports. There are greater expectations and scrutiny.”
Boone Jenner was appointed the new captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets, while Mark Giordano was chosen the inaugural captain of the Seattle Kraken, both before the season began. Both choices were intriguing in their own right.
Gustav Nyquist, a teammate, dubbed Jenner “the ideal leader.” He’s also under contract for two less seasons than defender Zach Werenski, who might have been asked to take over the leadership. Werenski stated, “I think anybody who has been here in this organization and been around Boone sort of knew it was going to happen at some time.”
Jenner, at the very least, has a contract that runs from 2025 to 2026. Depending on the outcome of the Kraken’s first season, Giordano may not even remain with them beyond the trade deadline. Despite this, he was given the captaincy.
The Kraken had the option of not naming a captain. The Vegas Golden Knights didn’t have a captain in their first season, and they didn’t have one until Mark Stone took over in January. In his first season with the New York Rangers, coach Gerard Gallant did the same thing, selecting six alternative captains for a team that hasn’t had one since defender Ryan McDonagh was sold to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018. They’re one of five teams without a captain to begin the season: the Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, and Giordano’s old club, the Calgary Flames.
The Flames are an odd team. Matthew Tkachuk seems to be a logical fit for captaincy: after all, he is the team’s “heartbeat.” However, as a prospective restricted free agent, his contract future is unclear. He’s also just 23, so there’s a case to be made that he still has some maturing to do.
Captaincy is, after all, a veteran’s title to wield. In the 2021-22 season, the average age of NHL captains is 31 years and 173 days. Nico Hischier (22), of the Devils, is the youngest, while Giordano is the oldest (38).
Over the last two decades, captains have only grown older. The average age of captains in 2010-11 was 30 years and 249 days, according to the NHL Stats & Information team. Captains were on average 30 years and 155 days old in 2000-01.
Of course, there are exceptions. When Edmonton selected Connor McDavid captain at the age of 19 years and 266 days in 2016, he became the NHL’s youngest captain.
“Obviously, someone here made the choice to name Connor the captain,” Holland said, referring to McDavid, who Holland took over as captain when he came in Edmonton in 2019. “A player who spans generations. Talent that spans generations. When do you make that choice, though? More pressure comes with that ‘C.’”
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The only time there was a tight competition for the leadership was when Lidstrom retired and either Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg was expected to take his place. Zetterberg would be the captain, but he and Datsyuk would be co-captains.
When Zetterberg retired, Holland decided not to choose a new captain for the Red Wings. When Yzerman took over as GM, he gave Dylan Larkin the “C” after a two-year wait.
Holland said, “We were obviously in a rebuilding cycle.” “You take a look at the squad and realize where you stand. Are we in the midst of a rebuilding process? Are we in the midst of a downturn? Is there a fantastic young player on whom we’ll bestow the ‘C,’ or will we have to wait a few years? Then there’s the question of whether he’s ready or whether we’re putting too much pressure on him.”
Captains in Holland have relieved strain by sharing duties with teammates during the last two decades.
“The captain is, after all, the captain. However, the captain now leads a leadership group. There had previously been leadership groups, but they had always deferred to the captain. Instead of one player, a group of four or five players would meet with the head coach “Holland remarked.
Perhaps it’s a nod to the occasions when the Lightning defied expectations by winning the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021. Rather than having captain Steven Stamkos make a solo journey to Gary Bettman to receive the chalice, the Lightning came as a group to do so.
However, Stamkos remains the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jenner, Giordano, and McDavid are captains for their respective teams, as were Yzerman and Zetterberg.
The Buffalo Sabres’ captain, Jack Eichel, was also a captain.
He was till he wasn’t.
Fouls in Jersey
This Seattle Kraken shirt comes from reader Kevin Wall:
Nashville, I’ve been waiting over 20 years to say this: your goal song is terrible, and your National Anthem singers are even worse. Kraken, go!! #SeaKraken #Smashville #Preds pic.twitter.com/SUKO1Cd6J3 #SeaKraken #Smashville #Preds
— Ron from Rush Hour (@RushHourRon) on October 14th, 2021
While pushing the boundaries of name-plate verbiage, this Protest Jersey strongly denounces Nashville Predators fans. But, in honor of fellow ex-Pred Calle Jarnkrok, shouldn’t this be No. 19?
There are three things to know about the PHF.
1. I recently got the opportunity to talk with Tyler Tumminia. She was named commissioner of the National Women’s Hockey League in August. The NWHL lost its identity in September when it was renamed the Premier Hockey Federation, a competition that would be broadcast exclusively on ESPN+.
“There was a lot of change in our lives. Not only am I [new to this position], but all of the teams are now privately held. We needed to develop a procedure and governance model that is now virtually identical to the NHL’s “she stated “We need constitutions and bylaws, which are the foundation of every company. When it came to transformation, we required a new age of “no labels, no limitations” and an inside that matched the outside.”
It’s a forceful rebranding. Gender identification is notably absent from the new nameplate. This cut, according to Tumminia, is intended to emphasize the athletes’ ability and skill — “It’s not like they’re all amazing women. Just incredible, “It allows the league to be more inclusive by respecting the gender identities of players, hockey operations personnel, and fans, she told The Associated Press — but it also allows the league to be more inclusive by respecting the gender identities of players, hockey operations personnel, and fans.
The connection between the rebranding and the league’s decision to modify its transgender and non-binary inclusiveness policy is difficult to overlook. According to ESPN’s Katie Barnes, transgender men can now medically transition while still being a member of the PHF, as the new policy states that they are still eligible if they take testosterone for medical transition purposes as long as they obtain a therapeutic use exemption from the federation. The PHF guideline is one of the first in the professional league to handle non-binary players’ eligibility.
The PHF collaborated on the policy with Athlete Ally, a nonprofit LGBTQ+ sports advocacy organization, according to Tumminia.
“Our policy is very progressive, and we are quite happy with it. Inside the locker room, our players are truly inclusive, and they want to be recognized for it. It was critical that we take the time to create that policy and educate ourselves. Making policy takes time. Hopefully, the fan base is pleased with it as well “Tumminia said.
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2. This PHF season occurs during an Olympic year, when women’s hockey is at the forefront in the United States after the national team’s gold medal performance in 2018. Tumminia anticipates an increase in interest in her league as a result of the increased attention given to the sport.
“That is always shown by the evidence. Historically, the sport receives a lot of attention during an Olympic year. That’s our hope, and it’s something we’re already witnessing. Going into an Olympic year, it’s just a bonus “she said
However, the players that will compete in Beijing will not be the same players who will compete in the PHF. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association was founded in May 2019 by national team players from the United States and Canada. That occurred after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League collapsed and a slew of big-name players departed the NWHL, expressing displeasure with the league’s management. Dani Rylan, the then-NWHL commissioner, accused those players of trying to “destroy the business” that she had helped them create.
Years later, the resentment remains. For years, one famous former Canadian national team player told ESPN that she “had been attempting to separate and dissociate herself from the league” alongside others. The PWHPA made buzz earlier this year about forming its own league.
What is the status of Tumminia’s connection with national team players?
“We continue to have open discussions with the PWHPA, and I believe we’re having more discussions than ever before,” she added.
It’s anyone’s guess if the ice can be melted between the sides. Tumminia, on the other hand, said that she wanted the emphasis to be on the PHF and its rights agreement, rather than on who isn’t playing for the federation.
“We’re getting our hands dirty and attempting to develop the sport itself. We’re trying to bring things forward “she said
3. When the subject of “going ahead” in women’s hockey comes up, the topic of expansion comes up as well.
Tumminia laughed and replied, “I know, I know.” “My five-year view… honestly, I’d prefer East Coast and West Coast divisions, as I keep saying. I’d really want to. And the West Coast puts a lot of strain on me.”
The PHF’s next expansion, according to Tumminia, will be in Canada, where the league’s most recent addition, the Toronto Six, is based. However, she said that there are many more places interested in joining the federation.
“I’ve been having discussions with prospective owners about various cities, such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, at least once a week. These seem to be the markets in which individuals are most interested “she said “Isn’t there, nevertheless, a risk? I want to expand very quickly, but we also need to make sure there’s [a league] out there for us to expand into. It’s a fine line to walk. However, economics plays a significant role in all of this.”
So, what factors will determine the future PHF expansion?
Tumminia described the pockets as “deep.” “Deep pockets,” says the narrator.
The week’s winners and losses
Squad goals were the winner.
How has the hockey so far this season been? More specifically, how has the team’s offensive play been thus far this season?
Teams have averaged 3.09 goals per game over 51 games. That’s due to a dreadful 22.2 percent conversion percentage on power plays. Nineteen teams score three or more goals each game, while ten teams score four or more goals per game. The St. Louis Blues, a noted offensive powerhouse, are the NHL’s second-best scoring club, averaging five goals per game! Please, more!
Strange rules for the loser
Matthew Tkachuk is just trying to protect the fans.
Despite this, he was given a two-minute penalty for the play. pic.twitter.com/IulMTDvK6w
19 October 2021 — Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight)
My favorite play of the season so far has been when the Calgary Flames’ Mikael Backlund cleared the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game penalty… but the ball never crossed the barrier, courtesy to Matthew Tkachuk knocking it down with his stick from the bench. This is fantastic, however it also seems to be a small source of interference. I’ll say it again: Every punishment should have an exemption for inventiveness and/or humor.
Marcus Foligno is the winner.
Wasn’t that a crazy game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night? All eyes were on Kyle Connor’s offside call on the Jets’ empty-netter, which allowed Joel Eriksson Ek to tie and win the game in OT. Marcus Foligno’s power-play goal in the third period, though, reduced the Jets’ advantage to one. And he said something touching about the late Tom Kurvers and how he was watching after the squad that night in one of the most moving postgame remarks of the year.
Missing Marcus is a loser.
Marcus Foligno throws a superman punch to Brenden Dillon to open their bout. twitter.com/qURWlEurtn
October 20, 2021 — Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett)
That being said, Superman’s fist totally missed its Brenden Dillon-sized target. You better not miss if you’re going to gimmick up your battle. Kevin Bieksa sobs as he watches the bad execution. More Roman Reigns, less Jimmy Uso next time, Foligno.
Buffalo Sabres are the winners.
Yes, I know: The Sabres would be a dynasty if the season were ten games long. For example, in 2019-20, they won eight of their first ten games. In 2018-19, Or scored in eight of the team’s twelve games. But they’re 3-0-0 to start the season, which is fantastic. The spectators are small, and their goalkeeper is in his forties, yet under coach Don Granato, they’re outhustling opponents.
It’s a wonderful thing to be able to indulge in the illusion that “maybe if the Sabres play well enough, Eichel will want to stay around!” even if only for a minute.
‘Ewing Theory’ is a loser.
The “Ewing Theory,” which claimed that Patrick Ewing’s teams “inexplicably performed better” while he wasn’t on the floor, was one of Bill Simmons’ biggest hits on Page 2. Some supporters have questioned whether Jack Eichel was the issue all along throughout the Sabres’ dreadful [checks schedule] three games.
While amusing, the notion does a disservice to the job that former coach Ralph Krueger did not complete during his time.
Lookin’ sharp is the winner.
“Welcome in style.”
That’s something Patrik Laine knows a lot about. #NHLFaceOff
pic.twitter.com/WNAy9SzjT6 (: @BlueJacketsNHL)
14 October 2021 — NHL (@NHL)
Patrik Laine showed up to a Columbus Blue Jackets game to inform Bill and Ted that they’ll create a song that will rescue the world one day. Or to play a henchman in a rip-off of the 1990s “Die Hard” film. Alternatively, he may continue his gradual transformation into the Dril avatar.
In any event, best of luck to the rest of the NHL players vying for the title of casual dress code champion.
Loser: You’re looking awful.
Like me in a run against Usain Bolt, the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens have gotten off to a fast start.
After it became clear that throwing Marc-Andre Fleury at a weak defensive scheme was like putting duct tape on a broken dam, Blackhawks supporters are demanding that coach Jeremy Colliton be fired. Meanwhile, the Canadiens are making more headlines about their general manager’s future destination than they are creating scoring opportunities.
Headlines by Puck
From your ESPN pals
Emily Kaplan and the design team deserve credit for this inside peek at the Seattle Kraken’s new home arena.
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