Throughout the history of the Buffalo Sabres, jersey numbers in the 20s have been popular among players on the roster. Sabres jerseys numbered 20 through 29 have each been worn by at least 10 different players during the club’s history.
Buffalo signed unrestricted free agent Kyle Okposo this summer. The forward wore No. 21 for the New York Islanders and he will also wear sweater No. 21 for the Blue and Gold. In doing so, Okposo will become the 21st member of the team to wear No. 21 in the history of the Sabres.
The No. 21 jersey is one of the most popular numbers to be worn by members of Buffalo’s hockey club. The most popular jersey is No. 23, which was worn by 24 different members of the Sabres. The story of jersey No. 21 for the Blue and Gold spans across 20 former players and a new chapter will be written this season by Okposo.
The data for this article was compiled using Hockey-Reference.com.
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The early history of the No. 21 sweater for the Sabres is one of frequent change. Defenseman Jean-Guy Lagace played in just three games for the Sabres during the 1970-71 season in which he wore the No. 21. Lagace was selected by Buffalo in the 1970 Expansion Draft from the Minnesota North Stars. The club traded Lagace in January 1971 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Paul Andrea also wore No. 21 for the Sabres during the 1970-71 season. Buffalo claimed Andrea off waivers from the California Golden Seals in November 1970. The forward appeared in 47 games for the Sabres, where he tallied 11 goals and 32 points.
Forward Larry Keenan played for the Sabres beginning in the 1970-71 season until the 1971-72 season. Keenan wore No. 26 during his first season in Buffalo and later switched to No. 21 in the 1971-72 season. In 65 games for Buffalo, Keenan scored nine goals and 29 points. In November 1971, the Sabres traded Keenan to the Philadelphia Flyers for Larry Mickey.
After being acquired from the Flyers, Mickey wore No. 21 for the remainder of the 1971-72 season with Buffalo. However, Mickey switched to No. 12 the following season. He wore No. 12 for the remainder of his time with the Sabres, which lasted through the 1974-75 season. During his career, Mickey scored 39 goals and 92 points in 292 NHL games.
Ball appeared in just 12 games in two seasons for Buffalo. The Sabres acquired Ball from the Penguins for Jean-Guy Lagace. Ball wore No. 28 for two games during the 1970-71 season. He played in 10 games during the 1971-72 season for Buffalo and wore No. 21 during that span. In 74 career NHL games, Ball scored seven goals and tallied 26 points.
Center Hugh Harris spent one season in the NHL and he wore No. 21 for the Sabres. In 60 games during the 1972-73 season, Harris notched 12 goals and 38 points. Harris played for several more years in the WHA where he spent the majority of his hockey career.
John Gould wore a variety of numbers as a member of the Blue and Gold. He wore jersey Nos. 17, 21, 23, 24. During parts of four seasons with the Sabres, Gould played in 92 games where he scored 14 goals and 26 points.
Forward Ron Busniuk wore No. 24 when he joined the Blue and Gold during the 1972-73 season. The following season, Busniuk traded in his No. 24 jersey for the No. 21 jersey. While he wore No. 24 and 21 for the Sabres, Busniuk played in just six games for the team and tallied three assists. Busniuk spent the majority of his hockey career playing in the WHA.
In March 1974, Buffalo acquired forward Brian Spencer from the New York Islanders. Spencer also spent time with the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining the Sabres. Spencer wore jersey No. 21 from his arrival in Buffalo in 1974 until his departure in September 1977. Known as a skilled skater, Spencer was a popular member of the team, who played in 240 games netting 42 goals and 114 points with Buffalo. He finished his NHL career in Pittsburgh.
37 years ago, Pens sent Ron Schock to Sabres for Brian Spencer but both were out of NHL by early the next season. pic.twitter.com/uXzs7AXO9F
— O-Pee-Chee Stars (@opeecheestars) September 20, 2014
Buffalo sent Brian Spencer to the Penguins in September 1977 for center Ron Schock. Schock wore No. 21 during the 1977-78 season for the Sabres, which was his last stop in a long NHL career. In addition to Pittsburgh, Schock played for the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues before joining Buffalo. In 909 career NHL games, Schock scored 166 goals and 517 points.
The Sabres acquired forward Dave Schultz from the Penguins in February 1979. Schultz played an enforcer role throughout his career. According to QuantHockey.com, Schultz still holds the record for the most penalty minutes in a single season (472). He set this record during the 1974-75 season while playing for Philadelphia. Schultz wore No. 21 and he played in parts of two seasons in Buffalo.
Center J.F. Sauve wore No. 9 and No. 21 as a member of the Sabres. Sauve signed with Buffalo as a free agent in November 1979. In three seasons, Sauve appeared in 98 games with 24 goals and 73 points. He later played for the Quebec Nordiques.
Claude Verret joined the Sabres during the 1983-84 season. Buffalo selected Verret with their eighth-round pick in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. He wore No. 21 for two seasons with Buffalo, but he played in just 14 games with the team.
Defenseman Richie Dunn wore No. 21 for Buffalo only during the 1985-86 season. He also wore sweater Nos. 3, 26 and 29 for the Blue and Gold. Dunn was a long-time member of the team playing in Buffalo during nine seasons. Dunn also spent time with the Hartford Whalers and Calgary Flames. Dunn’s career spanned 483 games and he tallied 36 goals and 176 points. He spent 327 of those games with the Sabres.
Center Christian Ruuttu wore No. 21 for the Sabres for six seasons. A native of Finland, Ruuttu was selected by Buffalo in the seventh round of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. He worked hard to become a productive NHL player. Ruuttu was named to the 1988 NHL All-Star Team and in 621 career NHL games, he scored 134 goals and 432 points. Ruuttu also played for the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks.
Buffalo selected forward Scott Thomas in the third round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. A Buffalo native, Thomas wore No. 21 for the Sabres and appeared in 39 games. He later signed with the Los Angeles Kings and appeared in 24 games for the Kings during the 2000-01 season.
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Defenseman Mark Astley was drafted in the 10th round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo. Astley wore No. 21 and No. 33 for the Sabres. He played for the team during parts of three NHL seasons. In 75 career NHL games, Astley scored four goals and 23 points.
Defenseman Mike Hurlbut played for the New York Rangers and the Nordiques before signing with Buffalo in September 1997. He wore No. 21 and played in just five games for the Sabres in their Black and Red uniforms.
Buffalo drafted defenseman Radoslav Hecl in the seventh round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Hecl wore No. 21 and played in 14 career NHL games — all with the Sabres.
To date, Drew Stafford stuck with sweater No. 21 for the longest amount of time in team history. He wore this number from the 2006-07 season through the 2014-15 season when he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets. In 563 games with the Blue and Gold, Stafford notched 145 goals and 322 points. He also scored three goals and seven points in 20 playoff games with Buffalo.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW