Introducing The Hockey Writers’ Countdown to Puck Drop series. From now until the puck drops on the 2019-20 NHL’s regular season on Oct. 2 when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Ottawa Senators, we’ll be producing content that’s connected to the number of days remaining on that particular day. Some posts may be associated with a player’s number, while others will be connected to a year or length of time. We’re really excited about this series as we take you through the remainder of summer in anticipation of the return of NHL hockey.
The Anaheim Ducks are heading into their 26th season of existence. During that time, Ducks players have made a few of those jersey numbers more than just a digit sewn onto fabric. Paul Kariya’s No. 9, Teemu Selanne’s No. 8 Scott Niedermayer’s No. 27 mean far more now to Ducks fans than they did before those players wore them. Corey Perry’s No. 10 and Ryan Getzlaf’s No. 15 are sure to join those other retired numbers once their careers end. With 61 days remaining until the opening of the NHL schedule, let’s look at another jersey number that hasn’t been retired and won’t be anytime soon, but has an interesting place in Ducks history – No. 61.
No. 61: The Past Number of Future Stars
Only two players in Ducks history have worn No. 61, Perry and Troy Terry. Perry wore the number during his rookie season in 2005-06 before switching to No. 10, the one he would make legendary.
He scored his first NHL goal with 61 below his nameplate, Oct. 10, 2005.
The goal came in just Perry’s third career NHL game, a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
Though Perry started his career with a bang, the Mighty Ducks sent him down to their AHL affiliate for nearly two months before calling him up again for good. Perry finished the season with 25 points in 56 games — a strong rookie campaign — before switching to the No. 10 the following season.
From Perry to Terry
Twelve seasons after Perry last wore No. 61, the Ducks gave Terry the same number. Perhaps the Ducks hoped No. 61 would still carry some of that Perry mojo.
Aside from their playing styles, the two players differed in expectations when they arrived in Anaheim. Perry was a high draft pick, going No. 28 overall in the legendary 2003 NHL Draft that also saw the Ducks pick Getzlaf in the first round.
The expectations for Terry weren’t quite as high. The Ducks drafted him as more of a project, in the fifth round, No. 148 overall in 2015, but after he became Ducks property, that changed in a hurry.At the University of Denver, he lit up his NCAA opponents for 115 points in exactly 115 games over three seasons.
Terry Shines on the International Stage
At the 2017 World Junior Championship, Terry’s showcased T.J. Oshie-like shootout ability. He carried Team USA to a gold medal after scoring three goals on three attempts in a semifinal shootout against Russia. He then scored the game-winning shootout goal to clinch the gold medal against rival Canada.
A year later, he notched five assists in five games for Team USA at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
Since Terry debuted in 2018, (wearing No. 61) his play has trended steadily upward. He struggled in his first two stints with the Ducks but showed a lot of improvement starting with his most recent promotion in January, including back-to-back three-point games in March.
Though his season ended early due to a broken leg, expectations continue to rise as he enters the 2019-20 season.
Will No. 61 Return to Obscurity? Hopefully!
So, what does all of this have to do with Terry’s time wearing No. 61 compared to Perry? Like Perry, Terry scored his first NHL goal wearing the number.
In a more abstract sense, No. 61 and the question of how much longer Terry will wear it, is a microcosm of the Ducks situation as a team.
Like Terry, will the rest of the Ducks’ young players make the transition to full-time NHL players ready to make their mark on the league and advance the Ducks rebuild?
Often, young players just breaking into the league wear a number the team assigns them until they are established enough to pick a number they actually want, if it is available.
Whether or not Terry continues to wear No. 61 this season may be a sign of both how he feels he has taken to playing in the NHL and how the team feels he has.
If Ducks management and Terry believe he’s ready to be a full-time NHL player, he may change his number as well. After all, he wore No. 19 at Denver and with the San Diego Gulls and No. 20 for Team USA at the Olympics, and No. 61 is 19 rotated clockwise 180 degrees.
Perry moved on from No. 61 after just one season, a season that demonstrated that he was ready to be a full-time NHL player, and one before contributed 44 points in a full 82 games for the Stanley Cup Champion Ducks.
Now that Perry has been bought out, will Terry be the next great Duck to have worn No. 61 at one point? Even more broadly, will the other Ducks youngsters break out and make the impact that Perry and Getzlaf once did?
The No. 61 may be the most, least important number in Ducks franchise history, but for the Ducks, it’s better that it stays that way. Perhaps, if Terry transitions to No. 19 — which is not currently being worn by another Ducks player and was last worn by Patrick Maroon — and thrives it will become the next legendary Ducks jersey number, while No. 61 awaits the next up and comer.
All Stats from Hockey-Reference