Jersey numbers hold great significance for hockey players while providing a strong sense of history. Some players may pick their number to pay homage to their childhood hero. Other players choose a lucky number, a number that represents someone in their family, a number for the year they were born or the year they were drafted. In other cases, players are assigned a number that sticks with them throughout their careers.
Throughout the history of the Buffalo Sabres, it has been a rare occurrence for a member of the club to wear a number in the 90s. In fact, according to Hockey-Reference.com, 90 and 93 are the only two numbers in the 90s that have been worn by members of the Sabres.
Only three players have worn the number 90 in Sabres’ history. However, this number is quickly becoming a very important one in Buffalo this season. Here is a look back at the number 90 throughout Buffalo Sabres history.
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Clark Gillies had a very successful NHL career that was largely spent with the New York Islanders where he wore the number nine. Gillies played in Long Island from 1974-75 through the 1985-86 season and won four consecutive Stanley Cup championships. Per NHL.com, Gillies scored 319 goals and 697 points during his career in the NHL.
According to Gillies’ official website, he arrived in Buffalo for the 1986-87 season after the Sabres claimed him in a waiver draft. He spent parts of two seasons playing for Buffalo before retiring. Gillies was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.
Although Gillies began his tenure in Buffalo wearing number 39, he later switched to number 90 for the 1987-88 season. In doing so, he became the first member of the Sabres to wear number 90. Gillies appeared in 86 games for Buffalo scoring 15 goals and 34 points. While his time in Buffalo was short, Gillies left an impression with his teammates and fans.
The second player in Sabres’ history to wear number 90 on his sweater was forward Joe Juneau. Juneau is a native of Pont-Rouge, Qué. An original draft pick of the Boston Bruins, Juneau played in the NHL from 1991-92 through the 2003-04 season.
According to NHL.com, Juneau appeared in 828 career games scoring 156 goals and 572 total points. He played for the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes (now the Arizona Coyotes), Montreal Canadiens, and of course, the Buffalo Sabres.
The Sabres acquired Juneau from the Washington Capitals during the 1998-99 season. Buffalo sent defenseman Alexei Tezikov and a fourth round pick to the Capitals in exchange for Juneau and a third round pick.
Juneau notched just two points in nine regular season games with the Sabres according to Hockey-Reference.com. He then scored three goals and 11 points in 20 playoff games helping the Sabres reach the finals before falling to the Dallas Stars. The veteran later signed with the Ottawa Senators as an unrestricted free agent.
The latest player to wear number 90 on his Sabres uniform is proving to be quite valuable for Buffalo. Some argued that the Sabres gave up too much when the club acquired Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn from the Colorado Avalanche. However, as the season has progressed the deal has slanted in Buffalo’s favor.
Through 36 games in a Sabres’ jersey, O’Reilly has scored 14 goals and 32 points. He leads the team in goals, assists, and total points among other statistics. The forward has played an important role on special teams, is relied upon in key situations, has scored clutch goals for Buffalo, and is logging big minutes.
The 24-year-old is currently notching more than a point per game in the month of December. Despite his club’s struggles, O’Reilly is on pace to set career highs in goals, assists, and total points. O’Reilly’s offensive production and work ethic have helped the Sabres improve this season but the club still has a long way to go to earn a playoff berth. Buffalo’s record of 15-17-4 and 34 points has the club currently eight points out of a wild card position.
O’Reilly’s contribution to Buffalo Sabres history will continue to unfold in the coming years. In the early stages, O’Reilly is carving out an important role as the new number 90. His skill set and intangibles are helping the Sabres to continue to grow as a team and move closer to a return to playoff contention.
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