Congratulations to Roberto Luongo, who has just been named captain of the Vancouver Canucks.
There's just one problem.
NHL Rule 14D states that “[n]o playing Coach or playing Manager or goalkeeper shall be permitted to act as Captain or Alternate Captain.”
The Canucks have thought of a solution though. Willie Mitchell will handle all of the captain's duties on ice—things like those little chats with the referee.
Those little chats are exactly why Rule 14D was created.
Before Luongo, there were only five other goalies to captain a team. More on that in a moment.
Back in the 1920s, the NHL wanted to make games more time efficient. Therefore, the NHL decreed that each team must designate a single player to talk to referees. The only problem was that if the captain wasn't on the ice, his team couldn't talk to the referee. Obviously, that didn't make a lot of coaches happy.
Thus, the first goalie captain was born. In 1923, John Ross Roach, aka “Little Napoleon,” was appointed captain of the Toronto St. Patricks by coach Eddie Powers. Based on his nickname, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess Roach wasn't a really popular guy with anyone.
Four more goalies soon followed suit—Roy “Shrimp” Worters, George Hainsworth, Alec “Fireman” Connell, and Charlie Gardiner. Gardiner was Chicago's captain when they won the Stanley Cup in 1934, and was the only goalie-captain to do so.
The last goalie to become captain was Montreal goalie Bill Durnan. He became captain in 1947-48 and he's the reason for Rule 14D. He spent so much time talking to refs that games actually got longer!
Also, that was the only season in Durnan's career that he didn't lead the league in goals-against average, and the only time he wasn't chosen for the All-Star game. He didn't win the Vezina trophy either—and as the final insult, Montreal didn't make the playoffs (also the only time in his career).
Good thing Willie Mitchell will handle all on-ice duties, huh?
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