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A sled hockey player with Team Canada.

Wearing the C

09/18/2015, 6:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Who's going to be the captain?

 

I remember every captain I’ve ever had in my hockey youth. Some were appointed by the coach, some were voted in by teammates, some just mysteriously showed up with the C sewn onto their jersey, giving quizzical looks as their Dad (also the coach) patted them on the back and said “way to go, son!”

The process by which the Captain’s C is handed out varies greatly considering the team, the level and the personnel involved. It’s an honour to be counted on to wear the C, but is it really that important to a player’s performance?

First, let’s demystify the process by which a captain is selected.

The Eligible Candidates

The captain is the person who improves the team bond just by acting naturally. They’re naturally hard-working and follow the team’s mission statement closely. 

The Team Perspective. When players are asked to vote on captains, they usually stick with someone they know well and respect. It’s tough to define those emotions at the younger ages, so often a popularity contest ensues (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

The Coach Perspective. This comes into play moreso in Midget and Junior hockey - the coach wants a leader they can turn to for input on how the team is operating, what the dynamic is like in the dressing room and how the coach can effectively implement a game plan while considering personalities in the room.

Every team is different. Have you ever read Lord of the Flies? 

Skill Does Not Equate to Leadership (Unless It Does)

One time a dad told me his son would play much better if he was wearing the C. I immediately told him that because of this discussion I would never ask his son to be the captain, because it was clearly an indicator of the pressure his parents were placing on him to attain status within the group.

When players change who they are and how they play because of the C-shaped carrot dangling in front of their face, they’re shifting focus from what they can control to what they can’t. Captains should lead by example, and if that example is set by proficient play, by leading the team on the ice as well as off, then it’s an easy decision. 

But this doesn’t exclude candidates who don’t score a lot of goals or play on the powerplay. Again, it’s whatever helps the team function to its potential. Heck, a goalie could be the captain, unless it’s an absurd attempt to convince that player to play for you. [Cough, cough].

The Natural Captain

In two years of coaching the atom A1 team at the North Shore Winter Club I didn’t name captains. For me, it’s too young to place that pressure on one player in an artificial manner. Plus, by the time I figured out who the leaders were, the season was half over. 

However, that didn’t prevent natural leadership from emerging. I still refer to a player from one of those teams as my captain, even though this player hardly ever talked in the dressing room. And he still hardly talks to me, he just smiles and says hello. 

What a beauty. 

Words help some situations, but often it’s the action you take in lieu of an inspiring speech that creates the greatest impact amongst your peers. 

But for me, all I’ve got is my words. And I’m using them to let my captains choose themselves. 

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