Not So Lucky Numbers

In the era of free agency, player movement and the salary cap, we’re accustomed to seeing players in different sweaters. Sometimes, even an oddball combination between player and team. A random pairing in the career of a player. So too is the case when it comes to a uniform number. Beyond the logo crest, sometimes the number doesn’t quite add up.

Much in the same spirit of Bill Schoeninger’s piece on familiar faces in not so familiar spaces, I give you a selection of players wearing numbers that one may not be accustomed to seeing.

  • John Davidson (00) – Flipping between 30 and 35 with the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers, in 1977-78, Davidson with the Broadway Blueshirts, became the first player to wear 00.
  • Martin Biron (00) – One may recall that Biron wore 43 throughout his four-team, 508-game career. Yet, in 1995-96, Biron, a netminder with the Buffalo Sabres, at the time, was the last player to wear 00, before the NHL banned it in 1998.
Martin Biron.
Martin Biron.
  • Gordie Howe (17) – Mr. Hockey donned number nine for 33-years. However, it didn’t start out that way. From 1946-48, the young Howe was designated with number 17.
  • Marcel Dionne (5, 12) – Fans of the Los Angeles Kings and later the Rangers, remember Dionne and his number 16, from 1975-1989. However, like Mr. Hockey, Dionne started out with five and 12 with the Detroit Red Wings.
Marcel Dionne. (Wikipedia)
Marcel Dionne. (Wikipedia)
  • Phil Esposito (12, 5, 77) – When Espo began his career with Chicago and Boston, spanning from 1963-1976, he sported number seven. His time with New York was a little different. Upon being traded, Phil switched between 12 and five, before settling on 77 from 1976-1981.
  • Teemu Selanne (13) – Number eight may be retired in Anaheim but Selanne also wore 13. Who says 13 is unlucky? Selanne donned it from 1992-1994 with the old Winnipeg Jets and once more in 2005-06 with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. In that Calder Trophy winning season of 1992-93, Selanne tallied a league best 76 goals and 132 points overall. OK, maybe not that lucky, with 54 points in 51 games the next season but still.
  • Joe Sakic (88) – Eric Lindros never wore 88 for the old Quebec Nordiques but Sakic did for one season. In his rookie campaign, Sakic wore 88 in 1988-89, scoring 23 goals. After that, it was 19, from Quebec to Colorado and eventually to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Joe Sakic
Joe Sakic.
  • Jarome Iginla (24) – From Calgary to Colorado and everywhere in between, Iginla has been known for wearing number 12. From  1996 to 2015, such has been the standard. Except for two games in the 1995-96 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he notched a goal and an assist with 24.
  • Joe Nieuwendyk (18) – Sticking in Calgary with a young Nieuwendyk. In 1986-87, Nieuwendyk wore 18 for a short while. Following his rookie campaign, it was 25 for Nieuwendyk, from Calgary to Florida and everywhere in between, until he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. So rare, I couldn’t find a photo of him wearing it.
  • Mike Modano (90) – There’s a very good reason for this one. From 1988-2010, Modano was known for his signature number nine with the Minnesota North Stars and Dallas Stars. Moving to Detroit for his final season, in 2010-11, Modano opted for 90. The number nine of course retired for the aforementioned Howe.
Mike Modano Red Wings
Mike Modano. (Icon SMI)
  • Guy Lafleur (44) – Best known for wearing number ten with the Montreal Canadiens, when he came out of retirement, Lafleur wore 44 for a short time with the Rangers. Lafleur would go back to ten with New York and later finishing with Quebec.
  • Johnny Bucyk (20) – Another Red Wing. Boston fans recognize the Hall of Fame left winger Bucyk and his number nine. Yet, at the start of his career in Detroit, Bucyk was given 20.
  • Maurice Richard (15) – For 17-years, Rocket Richard would wear number nine in his Hall of Fame career. However, from 1942-1944, Richard would sport number 15 for the Canadiens.
Maurice Richard is a big fan of Bobby Hull
Maurice Richard.
  • Keith Tkachuk (8) – Most of his career came up seven’s for Tkachuk. All except for 18 regular season games and four more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the old Atlanta Thrashers.
  • Dale Hawerchuk (12, 18) – Between Winnipeg and Buffalo, Hawerchuk wore number ten, from 1981-1995. Yet, he sported 12 for St. Louis and 18 with Philadelphia.
  • Pierre Turgeon (87) – Beginning in 1987 with Buffalo, Turgeon always donned 77, with four other clubs and until 2005. When Turgeon went to Colorado, he went with 87.
  • Peter Bondra (10) – For years on end, fans in Washington and even Atlanta and Chicago have known Bondra as number 12. All except for Ottawa, where Bondra was number ten, for 23 regular season games and seven more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, in 2003-04.
  • Joe Mullen (11) – Much like the aforementioned Tkachuk, Mullen sported number seven with three teams in his Hall of Fame career. Yet for 37 games with Boston, in 1995-96, Mullen went with number eleven. Of course seven had been retired with the B’s, for Esposito.
  • Patrik Elias (24, 22) – Although known for his number 26 with the New Jersey Devils, Elias would first sport his AHL Albany River Rats number 24, for one game in 1995-96 and then 22 for 17 regular season games and an additional eight Stanley Cup Playoff games in 1996-97. Finally, Elias would decide on 26 for the better part of two decades.
  • Ron Hextall (72) – In 12 years between Philadelphia and Quebec, Hextall was 27. Yet, in his one season with the New York Islanders, he reversed course and went with 72 in 1993-94.