Friday, 27 December 2013

Remember When?

There have been a lot of rookies who have come through the NHL as I proudly state that as Mr. Obvious. And will my skills of deduction are clearly on display, the reason this is important is because some players didn't always start as the numbers they made famous on their backs in the NHL. Lots of players have started their NHL careers under a certain number before donning the number they feel most comfortable with after that number comes available. Today, I want to point out a few of these numbers as we examine some of these "odd" numbers for players who became stars.

The first one I should point out is one that I am seriously considering for a jersey I own. Everyone knows who Jarome Iginla is thanks to his work in Calgary before being traded to Pittsburgh. Even as he's bounced between teams, Iginla has stuck with his familiar #12. In Calgary, though, he didn't start as #12. No, he originally suited up as #24 in his rookie campaign!

If you ask anyone who the most famous #19 on Detroit was, you'll get an instant answer of Steve Yzerman. Yzerman captained the Red Wings to multiple Stanley Cups as a player before retiring and moving into an executive role with the Red Wings. From there, though, he went to Tampa Bay where he assumed the general manager duties of the Lightning. However, if we go back to his initial days with Detroit, the Red Wings introduced him to the media in a #29 uniform!

The line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Dustin Penner has been pretty instrumental in pushing the Anaheim Ducks to the top of the NHL standings once again this year. The Ducks used this line with a ton of success in their Stanley Cup-winning season, and the magic has returned this season with Penner signing on as a free agent. Had they stuck with their original numbers, though, they could have had the highest-combined number totals for a line! Perry started his career as #61 before switching to #10, Getzlaf started out as #51 before interchanging the numbers to #15, and Penner wore #76 in his first season as opposed to his regular #26!

Everyone remembers Joe Sakic in his familiar #19 in Colorado. He is an icon in that city, and in Quebec City, while wearing this number. Joltin' Joe won an Olympic gold medal in #19 as well, so it is appropriate in seeing all those Sakic #19 jerseys across the world. But he didn't start in Quebec as #19. Instead, Joe Sakic broke into the NHL wearing #88!

Another player in Quebec also beat Eric Lindros to the punch in wearing #88. Owen Nolan was a force across a number of teams as #11, but he broke into the league with the Quebec Nordiques wearing #88 as well! It seems a couple of major stars started out their NHL careers while wearing #88 in Quebec, an neither of them were named Lindros!

Speaking of famous numbers, Jaromir Jagr broke into the league with the Penguins while wearing #68 as a way to honor his countrymen who battled the Russians in the "Prague Spring" when Russia invaded Czechoslovakia. He wasn't the only #68 during the 1990s, though, as a certain New York Islander decided he would wear #68 as well. Zigmund Palffy broke into the league as #68 before opting for #16 and, later in his career, #33.

Raymond Bourque was a fixture on the Bruins' blue line for a long time. He was a perennial all-star, and a great leader as the captain of the Bruins. He finally got his Stanley Cup ring with the Colorado Avalanche, and #77 retired after achieving his dream. However, he didn't start as #77 with the Bruins. He actually wore #7! He switched to the double-sevens after the Bruins retired Phil Esposito's number in honor of the Bruins' legend.

Doug Gilmour didn't start his career as a versatile centerman with a nose for the net, but the St. Louis Blues saw something in him to give him a shot. However, #93 wasn't his choice way back when, and he didn't wear #39 like he had in Calgary either. Instead, Gilmour broke into the league wearing #18 with the Blues before settling on #9 as he remained with the club!

Dominik Hasek was one of the best goaltenders of all-time after finding himself in Buffalo. #39 helped the Sabres to a Stanley Cup Final while winning multiple Hart, Vezina, and Jennings trophies before finally capturing a Stanley Cup as a member of the Detroit Red Wings. It was another Norris Division team in Chicago where he got his NHL break, and he actually broke into the league wearing #31 before settling on #34 with the 'Hawks!

Now there will probably be about a thousand other players who have started their career as one number before switching to the number where they gained fame. There will always be cases where this happens as the rookies come in and look to make a name for themselves. These rookies, however, made a name for themselves in a different number than what they started with, and left a lasting legacy on the game!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Francesco Pirillo said...

Out of all these greats, you forgot the greatest one of all.
Though I do not have photo evidence, Wayne Gretzky after having been acquired from Indianapolis once they folded, since they did not have time to prepare a #99 shirt for him, first suited up for the Oilers as a #20

Though it was not his pro debut (he debuted in the pros with Indianapolis and he wore #99) I thought it was still worth mentiONING