Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Best Hockey Players By Uniform Number

Part 4 of a series. It's their NHL number that counts, not their Olympic number.

0 Neil Sheehy. Wore it with the 1988 Whalers.

00 John Davidson. Wore it only in the 1977-78 season, before switching back to the more traditional goaltender number of 30.

1 Terry Sawchuk. Ahead of Georges Vezina, Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall. There have been nongoalies who've worn it, but not many. The best was probably Hall of Fame 1930s defenseman Albert "Babe" Siebert.

2 Eddie Shore. Ahead of Doug Harvey and Viacheslav Fetisov.

3 Pierre Pilote. Ahead of Emile "Butch" Bouchard.

4 Bobby Orr. That's how great you have to be to take this number ahead of Red Kelly, Jean Beliveau and Scott Stevens.

5 Denis Potvin. Ahead of Dit Clapper, Bernie "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion and Nicklas Lidstrom.

6 Larry Aurie? Toe Blake wore it very well, but his 8 Stanley Cups as a head coach do him no good here.

7 Howie Morenz. Ahead of King Clancy, Ted Lindsay, Phil Esposito, Tim Horton and Rod Gilbert.

8 Teemu Selanne. Ahead of Igor Larionov and Alexander Ovechkin.

9 Gordie Howe. Ahead of Maurice Richard, Bobby Hull and many other greats.

10 Guy Lafleur. Ahead of Syl Apps, George Armstrong, Alex Delvecchio and Ron Francis.

11 Mark Messier

12 Yvan Cournoyer. Ahead of Sid Abel and Jarome Iginla.

13 Mats Sundin. Ahead of Pavel Datsyuk.

14 Dave Keon. If Brendan Shanahan had worn it most of his career, I might have put him here.

15 Milt Schmidt

16 Bobby Clarke. Although Henri Richard won a record 11 Stanley Cups, he never meant more to the Canadiens than Clarke meant to the Flyers. Also ahead of Brett Hull.

17 Jari Kurri

18 Serge Savard. Ahead of his cousin Denis Savard.

19 Steve Yzerman. Ahead of Bryan Trottier.

20 Luc Robitaille. I can't put Vladislav Tretiak here, since, unlike Fetisov and a few other Soviet stars, we have only a few games to go on. He may have been great in a few games against NHL-caliber competition, but he wasn't facing NHL-quality teams game in, game out, 70 or 80 games a year. Next-best is Ed Belfour, who wore it with the Stars, after wearing the more familiar goalie number 30 for the Blackhawks.

21 Stan Mikita. Ahead of Guy Carbonneau and Peter Forsberg.

22 Mike Bossy

23 Bob Gainey. Ahead of Bob Nystrom.

24 Chris Chelios. Wore it with the Canadiens at the beginning and the Red Wings at the end, around wearing 7 for the Blackhawks. Ahead of Bernie Federko.

25 Jacques Lemaire. And that's due to his scoring and assisting on 8 Cup winners with the Canadiens, not his coaching the Devils to the '95 Cup. Ahead of Joe Nieuwendyk and Dave Andreychuk.

26 Peter Stastny. Ahead of Mats Naslund and Patrik Elias.

27 Frank Mahovlich. Ahead of Darryl Sittler, Teppo Numminen and Scott Niedermayer. Way ahead of Ron Hextall.

28 Steve Larmer. Ahead of Brian Rafalski.

29 Ken Dryden

30 Martin Brodeur. Ahead of any other goalie who wore the number. Including Sawhcuk, who wore 30 with the Leafs behind the more senior Johnny Bower. Don't even think of putting Henrik Lundqvist here: He's, maybe, the 4th-best goalie just in Ranger history.

31 Billy Smith. Ahead of Grant Fuhr.

32 Claude Lemieux. Wore it with the Canadiens. Wore 22 the rest of his career. Ahead of Dale Hunter.

33 Patrick Roy

34 John Vanbiesbrouck. Ahead of Al Iafrate.

35 Mike Richter. Ahead of Tony Esposito.

36 Dmitri Yushkevich. Ahead of that cheap-ass punk Matthew Barnaby, who made Hunter look like a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

37 Eric Desjardins. Wore it with the Flyers, after wearing 28 with the Canadiens. Ahead of Olaf Kolzig.

38 Pavol Demitra

39 Dominik Hasek

40 Henrik Zetterberg

41 Jocelyn Thibault

42 Sergei Makarov. Along with Fetisov and Tretiak, the only player from the Soviet national teams I thought worthy of mentioning for their NHL achievements, and the only one to actually "win a number." (Number 89 on this list didn't have his best years in Russia.)

43 Martin Biron. As a rookie with the Sabres, was one of the few players ever to wear 00.

44 Stephane Richer. On merit, not just because his overtime goal past Vanbiesbrouck won the 1st live game I ever saw -- or because he was the only mentioned scorer in the Devils-Rangers game on the Seinfeld episode "The Face Painter." Next-best would be Rob Niedermayer. (Speaking of brothers: Although all 6 Sutter brothers were good, and Brian got his Number 11 retired by the Blues, I didn't think any of them was good enough to come in 1st with any number.

45 Arron Asham

46 Andrei Kostitsyn

47 Rich Pilon

48 Danny Briere. Ahead of Jean-Jacques "J.J." Daignault.

49 Brian Savage

50 Chris Mason. Anthony Brodeur is wearing it in the minors, so if he ever makes it to the Devils, expect him to wear that, instead of his father's 30, regardless of whether it's already retired by that point (as now seems likely).

51 Brian Campbell

52 Adam Foote

53 Derek Morris

54 Paul Ranger. Wore it for the Lightning. Meaning he was a Ranger wearing a blue shirt and didn't suck.

55 Larry Murphy

56 Sergei Zubov

57 Blake Comeau

58 Kris Letang

59 Ed Jovanovski. "Jovocop" wore it as a Panthers rookie before switching to his more familiar 55, but he can't take that away from Murphy.

60 Jose Theodore

61 Rick Nash

62 Paul Stastny. Started out wearing his father's 26, then reversed it.

63 Mike Ribeiro

64 Jamie McGinn

65 Mark Napier. Wore it with the Oilers and Sabres, after wearing 31 with the Cup-winning late Seventies Canadiens.

66 Mario Lemieux. Milan Novy of the 1982-83 Capitals was the only player to wear it in the NHL before him, and only 3 players have worn it after him.

67 Michael Frolik

68 Jaromir Jagr. Wore it in honor of the 1968 Prague Spring, Czechoslovakia's rebellion against Soviet rule, which didn't end well.

69 Melvin Angelstad. The only NHL player to wear it, with the '04 Capitals.

70 Oleg Tverdovsky. Wore 10 on the Devils' '03 Cup win, and wore 70 only in the '06 season, winning another Cup with the Hurricanes.

71 Evgeni Malkin. Ahead of Nick Foligno, who wears it to reverse his father Mike's 17.

72 John Tonelli. Wore it toward the end of his career, with the '92 Blackhawks, reversing the 27 he starred in for the Cup-winning early Eighties Islanders. Ahead of Mathieu Schneider, who wore 11 different numbers, including 27 with the Cup-winning '93 Canadiens, before reversing it with the Isles and Leafs.

73 Michael Ryder

74 Jay McKee. Ahead of T.J. Oshie, at least for the time being.

75 Walt Poddubny. The former Ranger star wore it with the '89 Nordiques.

76 Patrick "P.K." Subban

77 Ray Bourque. Famously accepted it after the Bruins retired 7 for Phil Esposito, who infamously asked for 7 when traded to the Rangers, but Rod Gilbert wouldn't give it up, so Phil took 77 there.

78 Marc Pouliot

79 Alexei Yashin. One of the great busts in NHL history, he never quite panned out while wearing 19 for the Senators. Switched to 79 upon reaching the Isles, because it was retired for Trottier.

80 Nik Antropov

81 Miroslav Satan. Had worn 18 in his native Czech Republic, and 32 with the Oilers, but reversed 18 to 81 with the Sabres. When 18 became available, he wore it, but went back to 81 with the Isles, Penguins and Bruins. In spite of his name -- pronounced Sha-TANN, not SAY-tin -- he not only never played for the Devils, but always seemed to play well against them.

82 Martin Straka

83 Ales Hemsky

84 Guillaume Latendresse. Arrived in the NHL with the '07 Canadiens, and his wearing of 84 made that the last unused uniform number in the league's history -- unless a team wants to one day use a triple-digit number. Reversed it to 48 with the Wild, and switched to 73 with the Senators.

85 Petr Klima

86 Wojtek Wolski. Today is the Pole's 29th birthday. He wore 8 with the Avalanche, but when it wasn't available with the Coyotes, he switched to honor the year of his birth, 1986. He last played with the Capitals in 2013, wearing 17.

87 Sidney Crosby. Wore it to match his birthdate: August 7, 1987, or 8/7/87.

88 Eric Lindros. Wore it in tribute to Number 99 and Number 66, but wasn't the 1st player to wear it in the NHL. Ken Hodge, who'd worn 8 with the Bruins, wore 88 with the '77 and '78 Rangers. Garry Howatt wore it with the expansion Devils of 1982-83. Rocky Trottier, Bryan's considerably less talented younger brother, wore it with the Devils the next season. Joe Sakic wore it as a rookie with the '89 Nordiques, before switching to 19. And Owen Nolan wore it with the Nords in '91. At any rate, Patrick Kane may go on to surpass him.

89 Alexander Mogilny. Wore it to celebrate the year he defected from the Soviet Union, 1989.

90 Joe Juneau

91 Sergei Fedorov

92 Jeff O'Neill

93 Doug Gilmour. Ahead of Petr Nedved.

94 Ryan Smyth

95 Aleksey Morozov

96 Tomas Holmstrom. Pavel Bure, usually 10, wore it for 3 seasons; Phil Housley wore it for 1 game for the Leafs (who'd retired his usual 6 for Ace Bailey).

97 Jeremy Roenick. Wore it with the Coyotes, Flyers and Kings, after wearing 27 with the Blackhawks. Went back to 27 to close his career with the Sharks.

98 Brian Lawton. The only player ever to wear it, with the North Stars, before switching to 8, which the Stars later retired for Bill Goldsworthy.

99 Wayne Gretzky. Believe it or not, he wasn't the 1st NHL player to wear it. Wilf Paiement wore it with the Leafs from 1979 to 1982. Rick Dudley wore it with the '81 Jets. But neither of them was the 1st to wear it in an NHL game, either. In fact, it goes back a lot further than you might think.

In the 1934-35 season, 3 brief callups to the Canadiens wore it: Joe Lamb, Des Roche and Leo Bourgeault. Apparently, it was a number given out in practice as an extra, but it got into games. Those '34-'35 Habs also had a 55, Jack McGill; a 64, Armand Mondou; a 75, Jack Portland; and an 88, Roger Jenkins. For those of you who are admirers of Patrick Roy, they also had a 33: Jack Riley, as seen in the photo above, with Lamb (who did score 3 goals that season) wearing 99. Bourgeault also wore 5, 11, 12 and 15 in his NHL career, all with the Habs. Portland also wore 3, 15 and 17. Mondou usually wore 5. Jenkins usually wore 8 with the Habs, and it was also one of the numbers he wore with the Hawks. Lamb wore 9 with the Wings (years before Gordie Howe did). McGill usually wore 11 with the Habs. Riley wore 11 with the Wings. Portland wore 11 with the Hawks. Riley usually wore 14 with the Habs. Roche also wore 75 with the Habs, and wore 14 with the Wings.

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