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Friday, 3 June 2011

TBC: By The Numbers

While hockey prepares for Game Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tomorrow, Teebz's Book Club checks back in with a book that I feel has avoided my bookshelf for far too long. I love when players make cameos for teams that they don't normally play with, but it's when they change numbers that make for interesting conversation. Today, TBC is proud to present By The Numbers, written by Scott Morrison and published by Key Porter Books Limited. This book polls all of the major hockey personalities and intellectuals featured on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada about who was the best player to represent each number from 00 to 99, and gives a top-ten of each of the numbers as well as a definitive best player to wear the number as of 2007. This book will certainly spark some some conversation over who was better than whom, but the top-ten list for each number represent the vast majority of the NHL's best players.

Scott Morrison may be best recognized for his work on the HNIC's iDesk with Jeff Marek, but he has been around the game of hockey for a quarter of a century! According to his CBC bio, Morrison "began his career at the Toronto Sun in 1979. After spending more than 11 years as a hockey writer and columnist at the paper, Morrison became Sports Editor in 1991 and led the section to being named one of North America's top-ten sports sections in 1999 - the first sports section in Canada to receive the AP Sports Editors North American Award. In 2001 Morrison joined Rogers Sportsnet as Managing Editor, Hockey". The Toronto native is an accomplished author, and he currently resides in Don Mills, Ontario with his wife, Kathy, and his son, Mark.

The panel that looked at all the numbers worn in the NHL included Mr. Morrison, Ron MacLean, Cassie Campbell, Scott Oake, Dick Irvin, Bob Cole, Kelly Hrudey, Jim Hughson, Greg Millen, Elliotte Friedman, Pierre LeBrun, Eric Duhatschek, Scotty Bowman, Don Cherry, Cliff Fletcher, Jim Robson, and Harry Neale. Needless to say, that's an impressive panel of hockey minds, so you know there were a lot of opinions on which player was the best to wear a certain number. Between Bob Cole, Dick Irvin, and Scotty Bowman alone, those three could educate the world on hockey!

There are a pile of players that are covered in By The Numbers who wore a variety of different numbers. While I can agree with a vast number of the players that landed as the top player for the number they wore, the top-ten lists left me questioning a lot of the choices. For example, can you name the top player in your mind to wear to #36?

The panel chose Glenn Anderson - he wore #36 as a member of the New York Rangers when they won the Stanley Cup. I'd say that's fair, but would you rank Alexei Zhamnov's time with the Chicago Blackhawks as #36 ahead of Grant Ledyard's time with the Bruins as #36? Brian Propp was voted as the third-best man to wear #36 when he wore that number for a mere 14 games as a Bruin. Really? 14 games as a Bruin makes Propp the third-best #36 in history and better than Grant Ledyard's time? Or Mike Eagles' time as a Jet? Wow.

There are four numbers that have only one player representing them: #69, #84, #86, and #98. Guillaume Latendresse is the most famous #84, and he wore that number in 2007 as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. He's probably the easiest remembered of this one-number club due to his familiarity with fans. Who are the other three? I'll let you think about those players for a few moments.

Overall, By The Numbers is an excellent look at the great players who have made certain numbers famous. Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, and Wayne Gretzky all get special mention for their numbers as they made they are fondly remembered for their numbers of 4, 66, and 99, respectively. While there are no doubts that these three men made their numbers immortal, By The Numbers helps to bring forth other players who should be remembered for their contributions to hockey while wearing a certain number. Mr. Morrison's work, along with the panel, is exemplary in bringing to light the vast number of players who have worn every number from 00 to 99, and By The Numbers deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval for its excellent presentation of the material!

The answers to the question above? #69 was made famous by Washington's Mel Angelstad for two games in April 2004. #86 was worn by Montreal's Jonathan Ferland for seven games in 2006, and scored his only NHL goal on Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury. #98 was worn by Minnesota's Brian Lawton, and earned him the nickname "Notch", as in being one notch below Gretzky!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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