The Handshake Line

The Handshake Line

Last week was the final game of the NHL season.  As is the custom in the NHL, both teams, the Capitals and the Golden Knights, formed a line a shook hands at center ice.  I think this is one of the coolest traditions in sport.

What is at the core of this over 100 year tradition in the National Hockey League?


Respect for your opponents; respect for their team; respect for the game.

  • Opponent – You have battled through four stressful series of hockey over two months. You know that’s tough, and you know your opponent, win or lose, has done the same.  You respect the effort it takes to endure and give your best every game.
  • Team – The other team, like yours, has done whatever it takes to put together a team worthy of playing in the final series of the season. You know how hard it is to be consistent and hard-working during the playoffs.  It takes a special team.
  • Game – You love your sport. You have dreamed your entire life of an opportunity to play in the finals.  You know this is the best of the game of hockey.  You respect the traditions of your game and you are proud to wear your uniform every game.  The handshake line is a way to show everyone how you respect the game of hockey.

The handshake line is also a tradition in CYC sports.  After each game, teams line up and shake hands with their opponents.  Sometimes we forget the reason why we are performing this important ritual.  Just like everything in sports, if we are going to do it, we should do it right.  Here are Do’s and Don’ts of the handshake line.


  • Race through the line. It is not a timed event.
  • Look down at the floor/ground.
  • Slap or fingertip the hand of your opponent.
  • Be sarcastic or make a disrespectful remark or say nothing.
  • Skip a player/coach.
  • Sit on the bench or avoid the line because you lost.


  • Walk slowly.
  • Make eye contact. You have to walk slowly to make this happen.
  • Shake their hand.
  • Say, “Nice game”, “Good Luck”; something respectful.
  • Include every player. Pay special attention to the player who performed the best, made the big play at the end, and to the coach.
  • Participate regardless of the outcome of the game.

The handshake line is a great teaching opportunity for all CYC coaches.  Please take the time to discuss this with your team before the season starts.  Always address improper behavior in the handshake line immediately after it happens.  Discuss with your player and their parents the proper and accepted way to behave in the handshake line.  As a coach, you need to be the example for the expected behavior.  Win or lose, be sure to model respect as you address the other team; both players and coaches.

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