Why NHL Goalies Can’t Wear the Captain’s C? (Durnan Rule)

Hey, did you know that NHL goalies can’t wear the coveted Captain’s C on their jerseys? If you didn’t know, well, this blog is for you! I wanted to let fans know why this happens. You might think it’s just a matter of tradition, but there’s actually a rule called the Durnan Rule that says goaltenders can’t be team captains. Let’s dive into it more, so keep reading!

The Role of a Captain in the NHL

Before we dive into the Durnan Rule, let’s first understand the role of a team captain in the NHL.

The captain is the on-ice leader of the team, responsible for representing the team during discussions with the referees, making important decisions, and providing motivation and guidance to the players.

The captaincy is a position of immense honor and responsibility, often given to a player with exceptional leadership qualities, experience, and a deep connection to the team.

The Emergence of the Durnan Rule

The Durnan Rule gets its name from Bill Durnan, a legendary goaltender who played for the Montreal Canadiens in the 1940s.

Durnan was not only known for his exceptional skills between the pipes but also for his leadership and influence in the locker room. He was seen as a natural choice for the captaincy, and this idea sparked a debate in the NHL.

Goaltenders and the Captain’s C

Prior to Bill Durnan’s era, there were no explicit rules preventing goaltenders from being team captains. However, there was a growing concern that having a goaltender as captain could create a unique set of challenges.

Unlike other players, goaltenders are stationed at the far end of the ice, often isolated from the rest of the team during stoppages in play. This physical distance could make it difficult for the captain to effectively communicate with referees, coaches, and teammates.

The Durnan Rule Takes Shape

In response to these concerns, the NHL’s general managers decided to address the issue by introducing a rule that explicitly barred goaltenders from being team captains.

This rule became known as the Durnan Rule, named after the exceptional goalie whose potential captaincy had prompted the discussion.

Enforcing the Durnan Rule

The Durnan Rule has remained a part of the NHL rulebook since its inception. It states that only skaters – forwards and defensemen – are eligible to be team captains.

Goaltenders are expressly excluded from holding the captaincy, regardless of their leadership abilities or contributions to the team.

The Debate Surrounding the Durnan Rule

Over the years, the Durnan Rule has sparked various debates within the hockey community. Some argue that the rule is outdated and should be repealed, especially given the evolution of the game and the increasing role of goaltenders as leaders on and off the ice. Others believe that the rule is essential to maintaining the traditional structure of the sport.

The Evolution of Goaltender Leadership

While the Durnan Rule has remained in place, there’s no denying that goaltenders have continued to play crucial leadership roles on their teams. In fact, many successful NHL teams have had goaltenders who were de facto leaders, despite not wearing the Captain’s C.

Goaltenders often serve as the backbone of their teams, facing immense pressure and responsibility. Their performance can single-handedly impact the outcome of games and playoff series.

As a result, they are frequently called upon to provide guidance and inspiration to their teammates.

Notable Goaltender Leaders

Several goaltenders throughout NHL history have demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities:

Patrick Roy: Roy, a Hall of Famer, is known not only for his goaltending prowess but also for his fiery leadership on the ice. He played a significant role in leading both the Montreal Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche to multiple Stanley Cup victories.

Martin Brodeur: Brodeur nicknamed Brody, another Hall of Famer, had a storied career with the New Jersey Devils. He was not only an exceptional netminder but also a calming presence for his teammates, earning their respect and admiration.

Roberto Luongo: Luongo served as captain for the Vancouver Canucks, although not officially due to the Durnan Rule. His leadership and dedication to the team were evident both on and off the ice.

Given the continued influence of goaltenders in the NHL, the debate over whether the Durnan Rule should be revisited remains ongoing. Some argue that the rule should be adapted to modern times to acknowledge the significant roles that goaltenders play in their teams’ success.

The Durnan Rule in Other Leagues

It’s important to note that the Durnan Rule is specific to the NHL. In other hockey leagues, such as international competitions or minor leagues, goaltenders can and have served as team captains without issue. This highlights the NHL’s unique stance on the matter.


Can NHL goalies be a captain?

No, NHL goalies cannot be named team captains due to a rule implemented in 1948.

When did the NHL ban goalies from being captain?

The NHL banned goalies from being team captains in 1948.

Can goalies be assistant captains in the NHL?

Yes, NHL goalies can serve as assistant captains, wearing the “A” on their jersey.

What does C mean in hockey?

In hockey, the “C” stands for captain, designating the player as the team leader and primary on-ice representative.

What does G mean in hockey?

In hockey, “G” typically refers to the goaltender or goalie, the player responsible for defending the net.

Final Thoughts

As the NHL evolves, the debate over the Durnan Rule persists. Should the league consider revisiting this rule to better reflect the changing dynamics of the game? It’s a question that divides hockey enthusiasts, and only time will tell if the Durnan Rule will stand the test of time or undergo a transformation to embrace the evolving role of goaltenders in the sport.

Regardless of the outcome, one thing is clear: the position of goaltender in the NHL will always be one of immense responsibility and influence, with or without the Captain’s C.

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