Now into its 93rd season of existence the NHL has seen hundreds of legendary players grace rinks throughout North America. Since those earliest days, fans have identified the players they cheer for by the numbers on the back of their sweater. Some players were so great their numbers ended up retired by their respective clubs and now hang in the rafters of the arenas they played in so new fans can share in a history they never got to witness personally. Coming up with this list was an interesting challenge. In certain cases choosing the greatest NHL player by a specific number was dead simple. Numbers 99 and 66 are two examples. Other numbers had only one or two potential candidates, so they were quick to check off the list. Certain numbers were a much greater challenge, however. Numbers 9 and 19 each had a plethora of candidates, and required much deliberation before I finally settled. I suspect there will be many who disagree with my decisions. In the end that is half the fun in creating these posts – for the debate they are certain to spark. Read on for my picks for the greatest NHL players by the numbers they wore:
0 - Neil Sheehy
Right off the bat I get an easy one. Yes, John Davidson and Martin Biron both wore 00 early in their careers, but I decided to go with the single digit for this selection. Neil Sheehy is the only player in history to wear 0, doing so as a member of the Hartford Whalers. Not exactly a household name, but hey, with no competition what can you do?
1 – Jacques Plante
Only on my second selection and already I had my first challenge. Many people would have taken former shutout king Terry Sawchuk, and would certainly have a compelling reason for doing so. For my money, Plante got the nod (barely). Not only did he popularize the goalie mask he also won 7 Vezina Trophies (including 5 straight), a Hart Trophy (a rare feat for a goalie), and helped the Montreal Canadiens win an NHL record 5 straight Stanley Cups from 1956-1960.
2 - Doug Harvey
Three selections in and I’ve already got two Habs legends. Well, they are the most successful franchise in NHL history so it really shouldn’t be a big surprise. Before a guy named Bobby Orr came along, Harvey held the record for the most Norris Trophies with 7 and was widely considered the greatest defenseman to ever play the game.
3 - Pierre Pilote
Sandwiched right between the respective primes of Harvey and Orr came this Chicago Blackhawks all-star. Pilote was a key component of the powerful Blackhawks team that won the Stanley Cup in 1961 and he won three consecutive Norris Trophies between 1963 and 1965. While his 498 career points might pale against the totals of some of the other superstar defensemen on this list you have to remember that Pilote played in an era where d-men didn’t rack up a lot of points.
4 - Bobby Orr
Much like 66 and 99, the greatest player to ever wear #4 in the NHL isn’t in doubt. Bobby Orr dominated the game from the back end like no player before or since. He shattered numerous NHL records, many of which stand today. He helped his Boston Bruins win two Stanley Cups in the 1970s, scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal both times. He won 8 Norris Trophies and 3 Hart Trophies. The list of his amazing achievements go on and on, but perhaps the most incredible feat of Orr’s career was winning the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer, not once, but twice! It is a tragedy that chronically bad knees forced him from the game he loved so early, otherwise it is quite likely that Orr’s name, not Gretzky’s would be the first mentioned when discussing the greatest players of all time.
Honorable Mention: Jean Beliveau - Yes 10 Stanley Cups, 2 Hart Trophies and 1,219 points are only good enough to merit HM status when matched up against Orr.
5 – Nicklas Lidstrom
Up until a few years ago, Denis Potvin would have been an easy choice for best NHL player to wear #5. However, one simply cannot ignore what Lidstrom has done during his tenure with the Detroit Red Wings. His 6 Norris Trophies are the third most in history, behind only Orr and Harvey, and he has been a key part of the powerful Red Wings squad that has won 4 cups between 1997 and today, including in 2008 when he made NHL history by becoming the first European-born player to captain his team to a Stanley Cup.
6 - Larry Aurie
The Detroit Red Wings have seen many superstars grace their roster. From Gordie Howe and Terry Sawchuk to Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom this “Original Six” franchise has been a home to some of the biggest NHL legends past and present. Gordie Howe might be the team’s most famous star, but he wasn’t the first. The #6 hanging from the rafters of the Joe Louis Arena belongs to a player that donned a Wings jersey well before Howe’s time. Larry Aurie was a star two-way forward for the club, and helped the franchise win their first two Stanley Cups. Despite being a defensive standout, Aurie had no trouble putting the puck in the net, and his 23 goals were the most in the NHL during the 1936-37 season.
Honorable Mention: Phil Housley - One of the greatest offensive defensemen of all time, with more than 1,200 career points. Only Housley’s questionable defensive game kept him from this spot.
7 - Howie Morenz
He’s been called “the best ice hockey player of the first half of the 20th century”, and the “Babe Ruth of hockey”. He was dubbed the “Stratford Streak” for his incredible speed and his dazzling rushes up the ice. In many minds he was the first true NHL superstar, and it is little surprise to find this Montreal Canadiens’ legend listed as the best player to ever wear #7. He played during an era where forward passing was illegal and so end to end rushes were much more common. No one could rush the puck like Morenz, and much like Rocket Richard and Pavel Bure he could pull fans right out of their seats with his electrifying play. In 550 career games he scored 271 goals, including 40 in 44 games in 1929-30, and when the Hockey Hall of Fame opened in 1945 he was one of the original 12 inductees.
Honorable Mention: Phil Esposito - With 717 goals, 1,590 points and as one of only a handful of players to score 70+ goals and 150+ points in a single season Espo certainly gives Morenz a run for the money as the greatest #7 of all time.
8 - Teemu Selänne
#8 was another tough decision for me, but ultimately the “Finnish Flash” earned the nod. Selanne annihilated the record book when he burst on the NHL scene in 1992-93. In his rookie year with the Winnipeg Jets he potted a jaw-dropping 76 goals, smashing Mike Bossy’s record for goals by a rookie by 23. His 132 points were also 23 more than Peter Stastny’s previous mark for points by a rookie. Selanne would earn the Calder Trophy in a landslide. Though he has never duplicated that remarkable first season, Selanne has continued to put up impressive numbers throughout his career, twice more topping 50 goals and twice more eclipsing 100 points as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. With 613 career goals and counting Selanne has more goals than any other Finnish-born player in NHL history, including legend Jari Kurri.
Honorable Mention: Cam Neely, Alexander Ovechkin - As great as Selanne is this choice wasn’t a slam dunk. Neely is a Hall of Famer, one of the greatest power forwards of all time, and one of just a handful of players to score 50 goals in 50 games or less. Ovechkin’s career is only in its infancy, yet already he’s established his legend. With a pair of Hart Trophies, a Calder Trophy and an Art Ross Trophy already under his belt, this Russian superstar will quite likely one day be considered “The Greatest 8”.
9 – Gordie Howe
No shortage of competition for this number, but “Mr. Hockey” takes the title of best player to ever wear #9. Howe is not only one of the most skilled players of all time, he is also one of its most feared. Unlike other stars Howe needed no one to protect him. His left and right elbows took care of that quite well. Howe was the dominant player of his era, nabbing 6 NHL scoring titles and adding 6 Hart Trophies for good measure. At the time of his retirement he was the all time leader in goals (801), assists (1,049) and points (1,850) despite spending two years in retirement and another 6 years in the WHA.
Honorable Mention: Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, Bobby Hull - What can you say about these two legends? The Rocket was as determined a goal scorer as the NHL has ever seen, and was the first player to score 50 goals in a season (doing so in 50 games), 500 goals in a career, and is to this day the Montreal Canadiens’ all time leading goal scorer with 544. Hull was another pure scorer, whose combination of speed, strength and unparalleled shot made him nearly unstoppable. He scored even more goals than Richard (610) despite spending 7 years with the Winnipeg Jets of the WHA.
10 - Guy LaFleur
There might be some Ron Francis and even a few Pavel Bure fans that might disagree, but for me “The Flower” is a no-brainer. LaFleur was the most exciting player of his era, and the image of him streaking down the right wing, blonde hair flying, is one of the most memorable in all of hockey. Francis enjoyed a long career and was productive throughout most of it, but at his prime he couldn’t compare to LaFleur at his best. With 6 straight 50+ goal and 100+ point seasons, 3 Art Ross Trophies, 2 Hart Trophies, a Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, and 5 Stanley Cup rings Guy is in a class of his own at Numeraux Dix.
11 - Mark Messier
This one was a relatively easy selection. Perhaps the greatest leader in NHL history, Mark Messier is the only player to captain two different teams to Stanley Cup glory. With 1,887 career points he is second all time behind only former teammate Wayne Gretzky. He eclipsed the 100 point mark on 5 separate occasions, has 6 Stanley Cup rings, 2 Hart Trophies, and a Conn Smythe. “The Moose” is not only the greatest #11, but one of the greatest of all time, period.
Honorable Mention: Gilbert Perreault - With 512 goals and 1,326 points this slick French Canadian superstar definitely did enough to be counted among the all time greats. It’s not his fault Messier chose to wear 11.
12 - Jarome Iginla
As the numbers get higher the competition (in most cases) starts to get a little weaker. That’s not to say that Iginla isn’t as a deserving as other candidates on this list, but he doesn’t have to compete with guys named Richard, Hull, Beliveau or Esposito. With 443 goals and 928 points and still only 33 years old, Iggy is certain to finish well north of 500 goals and 1,000 points for his career. His offensive prowess, combined with his leadership and his ability to dominate physically, make him my choice for the greatest #12.
Honorable Mention: Yvon Cournoyer - The Roadrunner might not have been as famous as guys like Richard, Beliveau and LaFleur, but this diminutive speedster was more than an auxiliary piece on the star-laden Habs’ rosters of the 60s and 70s. 428 goals and 863 points in just 968 career games give mute testimony to how good Cournoyer was.
13 - Mats Sundin
Due to its “unlucky” stature there isn’t a lot of competition at #13. Teemu Selanne wore the number on the back of his sweater for a time during his career, but I’ve already got him at #8, so I’ll eliminate him from consideration here. However, even if there were more candidates Mats Sundin would certainly be a force to be reckoned with. No, the big Swede was unable to win a Stanley Cup during his career, but he did plenty to merit this selection. With 564 goals, 1,349 points in 1,346 games, Sundin was a model of consistency throughout his career, and in the minds of many he is the greatest player in Toronto Maple Leafs history.
14 - Dave Keon
Though many of the selections on this list will boast impressive offensive stats, it is this man’s play without the puck that earns him his spot. Had the Selke Trophy been around during the prime of his career, Keon would no doubt have had a stranglehold on it. That’s not to say he wasn’t an offensive threat. He most certainly was, as his 986 career points can attest to.
Honorable Mention: Brendan Shanahan, Theo Fleury - Shanny racked up 656 goals and 1,354 points during his career, and was a key component of three Stanley Cup winning teams with the Detroit Red Wings. Fleury, despite his off-ice trouble, was a star on it. Despite his small stature, Fleury played the game fearlessly, and his legendary grit, his speed and his deft hands helped him pot 1,088 points in 1,084 career games.
15 - Milt Schmidt
A member of one of the most dominant lines of any era – The Kraut Line – Schmidt was one of the greatest players of his era, starring in the 30s and 40s for the Boston Bruins. He helped the Bruins win the 1939 Stanley Cup, and earned the Hart Trophy in 1946 after a three year layoff during his prime as he went to fight overseas for Canada in World War II.
16 – Bobby Clarke
Once again I am showing my bias for multi-dimensional players over pure offensive stars. Bobby Clarke was the heart and soul of the powerful Philadelphia Flyers teams of the 1970s. Despite dealing with diabetes, an affliction that saw many teams pass him over in the 1969 NHL Entry Draft, Clarke quickly rose to superstardom. An agitator and a defensive specialist, Clarke had no problem putting points on the board, potting 1,210 points in 1,144 career games. Despite playing in an era of superstars like Guy LaFleur, Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr, Clarke managed to get his name on 3 Hart Trophies during the 70s.
Honorable Mention: Henri Richard, Brett Hull, Marcel Dionne - The Pocket Rocket, The Golden Brett and The Little Beaver - How’s that for a star-studded lineup of runners-up? Hull and Dionne are both members of the exclusive 700 goal club and Richard owns more Stanley Cup rings (11) than any other player in NHL history. Still not good enough to trump Clarke in my opinion though.
17 - Jari Kurri
Though some cynics would assert that this Finnish superstar’s stats are grossly inflated due to the fact he skated alongside Wayne Gretzky for much of his career, I would heartily disagree. Gretzky certainly had the ability to make any player better, but not many wingers would have been able to finish as consistently as Kurri did during those dominant Oilers years. Still doubt it? Look at Kurri’s stats in the year following Gretzky’s trade to the Los Angeles Kings. His 102 points were actually 6 more than the previous season with Gretzky. With 1,398 career points he is one of the highest scoring European-born players of all time and was an easy choice as the greatest player to ever wear #17 on his hockey jersey.
Honorable Mention: Wendel Clark - One of the greatest power forwards of his era scored, hit and fought in equal measures, and is one of the most popular players ever to don a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey.
18 - Serge Savard
When choosing #18 I knew one thing for sure: The player’s last name would be Savard. That established I agonized over whether or not I would choose Serge or Denis. Denis Savard made a compelling case. He notched 1,338 career points and was one of the most electrifying stick-handlers I’ve ever seen dangle with the puck. In the end I went, by a whisker’s-breadth, for the towering d-man who patrolled the blueline for the dominant Habs’ teams of the 1970s. A member of the “Big Three”, along with Larry Robinson and Guy LaPointe, Savard rarely seemed to be off the ice, playing in all key situations for his team. Many people think it was Denis Savard for whom the term “Savardian Spin-o-Rama” was coined, but it was actually Serge Savard’s signature move, and his escapability using the move was legendary. He helped the Habs win 8 Stanley Cups during his tenure there, including in 1969 when he won the Conn Smythe.
19 - Steve Yzerman
This choice was every bit as tough as number 16 was. Plenty of NHL legends have worn this number on the back of their jersey, especially in the last 30-40 years. Larry Robinson, Bryan Trottier and Joe Sakic all would have been slam dunks if they’d worn almost any other number, but in my mind Stevie Y is the cream of a very impressive crop and got the nod. Ironically, Yzerman chose to wear #19 to honor his boyhood hero, six time Stanley Cup winner, Bryan Trottier. In my mind by the time the dust had settled on his career, Yzerman had trumped Trottier as the greatest #19 of all time. Yzerman’s offensive achievements are mind-numbing. Six times he broke 100 points, including 1988-89 when he tallied a whopping 155 points. He twice scored more than 60 goals, and finished his career with 692 goals and 1,755 points. He captained the Wings to three Stanley Cups, including in 2002 when he did so while playing on one leg.
20 – Luc Robitaille
Most coaches, players and fans will tell you that skating is the most important element in any hockey player’s game. Luc Robitaille proved that isn’t necessarily the case during his remarkable career. Robitaille’s poor skating saw him passed by until the 9th round of the 1984 entry draft. When he got his shot in the NHL in 1986-87 he wasted no time proving his critics wrong, scoring 45 goals that year and earning the Calder Trophy. He would be a scoring machine throughout his career, proving that hockey sense and a nose for the net were traits every bit as valuable as skating speed. Robitaille would go on to score 668 career goals, more than any other left winger in history.
Honorable Mention: Ed Belfour - 484 wins, 2 Vezina Trophies and 76 career shutouts.
21 – Stan Mikita
This was another choice I agonized over, but in the end decided to take legendary Slovak star Stan Mikita over Peter Forsberg. At his peak, Forsberg could do things comparable to legends like Gretzky, Lemieux and Orr, and had he enjoyed a long, healthy career would have undoubtedly put up huge numbers. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to just 706 career games. That said, Forsberg still would have had his work cut out for him topping Mikita’s impressive resume. With 541 goals, 1,467 points, 4 Art Ross Trophies, 2 Hart Trophies and a Stanley Cup ring he is one of the greatest European-born players of all time, and certainly deserves his due as the greatest player to wear #21.
22 - Mike Bossy
Daniel Sedin is currently tearing up the league with 22 on his back. Brad Park and Steve Shutt are two former superstars who sported the number. As great as all three are, none can hold a candle to Bossy in my mind. With all due respect to guys like Brett Hull and Alexander Ovechkin, Bossy is (again, in my opinion) the greatest pure shooter to ever play the game. He set an NHL rookie record with 53 goals in his inaugural year, and only got better from there. He scored 60+ four times, including in 1980-81 when he became the first player since Maurice Richard to score 50 in 50. He scored 50+ in nine straight seasons (an NHL record) and his 573 goals in just 752 career games gives him the highest goals per game ratio in NHL history.
23 - Bob Gainey
Bob Gainey’s offensive numbers aren’t in the same stratosphere of most forwards on this list, but his value to the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s and 80s cannot be denied. A Swiss Army knife, Gainey could be used in any situation, and excelled in whatever role he played. He was the league’s most effective shutdown man throughout most of his career, and when the Selke Trophy was introduced to honor the league’s best defensive forward Gainey took home the hardware the first four years it was available. He helped the Habs win 5 Stanley Cups during his tenure and was the playoff MVP in 1979, trumping stars like Guy LaFleur, Larry Robinson and Ken Dryden to earn the award.
24 - Chris Chelios
Gordie Howe can breathe a sigh of relief; Chris Chelios has finally called it a career. Though he didn’t play to the ripe old age of 52 like Mr. Hockey did Chelios certainly accomplished enough to carve his name into the annals of hockey history over more than a quarter century of professional hockey. Chelios played 1,651 NHL games for the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Atlanta Thrashers, winning 3 Norris Trophies and 3 Stanley Cups along the way. He was a fierce competitor that every opposing forward hating playing against, and every goalie wished he had in front of him.
25 – Joe Nieuwendyk
This one was a three horse race featuring Nieuwendyk, Jacques Lemaire and Dave Andreychuk. All three were gifted offensive players, and all three put up phenomenal numbers throughout their distinguished careers, but in my opinion, Nieuwendyk won this race by a nose. Nieuwendyk wasted no time establishing himself as a star, coming with a hair of Mike Bossy’s rookie goal scoring record when he notched 51 in his inaugural campaign in 1987-88. He would show he put no stock in the “sophomore jinx” scoring 51 again the following year, then scoring 10 more in the playoffs to help his team, the Calgary Flames, secure the franchise’s only Stanley Cup. He was a key component in the trade with the Dallas Stars that saw Jarome Iginla come the other way. Some might claim the Flames got the better of the deal, but Nieuwendyk had several productive years with Dallas and his scoring ability and his experience were huge factors in Dallas’ 1999 Stanley Cup run. With 564 goals and 1,126 points it is only a matter of time before he makes it into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
26 - Peter Stastny
Peter Stastny had no shortage of impressive statistical achievements during his career. He scored 109 points in his rookie year – an NHL record until Teemu Selanne broke it in 1992-93. He once scored 8 points in a single game – most by a European-born player. He scored over 100 points on 7 different occasions during his career and finished with 1,239 in just 977 games. All notable achievements, but the one that really blows my mind? No other player besides Wayne Gretzky scored more points during the 80s than Peter Stastny. Not Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri or Mario Lemieux. That is an impressive stat.
27 - Frank Mahovlich
“The Big M” gets the nod for jersey #27 on the list of the greatest NHL players by the numbers they wore. Though best known as a superstar for the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 50s and 60s, Mahovlich also starred for both the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens during his NHL playing days, enjoying 40+ goal seasons with all three teams during his career. He won 4 Stanley Cups with the Leafs, and 2 more with the Montreal Canadiens. The Leafs have never returned to the finals since the fateful day they traded Mahovlich away.
Honorable Mention - Darryl Sittler, Scott Niedermayer - Mahovlich had plenty of competition for best #27. Sittler once scored an NHL record 10 points in a single game and racked up 1,121 points in his career. Niedermayer won four Stanley Cups with the Devils and Ducks and earned both a Norris Trophy and a Conn Smythe during his amazing career.
28 – Steve Larmer
Though there was admittedly very little competition for the best #28 Steve Larmer certainly was a star player during his playing days with the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. Paired first with Denis Savard and later with Jeremy Roenick he shot the lights out for years in Chicago, routinely scoring 40+ goals a year, including in 1990-91 when he notched a career high 44 goals and 101 points. Larmer was one of the most durable players to ever pick up a hockey stick, once going an incredible 11 straight seasons without missing a single game. His other calling card was his consistency, and Larmer’s ability to put up good point totals even into the twilight of his career saw him finish with 1,012 points in 1,006 career games.
29 - Ken Dryden
This one was a slam dunk. Ken Dryden only played 7 full seasons in the NHL, but his stats during that time defy belief. He played in 397 contests in his career. How many of those 397 games did he lose? 57! He won 5 Vezina Trophies and 6 Stanley Cups before he decided to leave hockey for a different career. One is forced to wonder just how many records he would hold if he’d played a full 20 year career.
30 - Martin Brodeur
Speaking of legendary goalies, this man’s name certainly belongs in the conversation of the greatest of all time. With more wins and shutouts than any goalie in NHL history Brodeur is establishing marks that may never be broken. He has been a workhouse for the New Jersey Devils for the better part of two decades now, helping the club win 3 Stanley Cups and nabbing himself 4 Vezina Trophies along the way. A couple of fellow number 30s in Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist have established themselves as stars in the league, but they’ve really got their work cut out for them over the next decade or so if they want to challenge Brodeur for the title of greatest NHL player to wear #30.
31 - Grant Fuhr
This one was a dead heat between Fuhr and former New York Islanders star netminder Billy Smith. It was so close I actually contemplated declaring a tie at #31, but eventually decided that “there could be only one” as thus settled on Fuhr. Neither boasted particularly impressive statistics, though their relatively high respective averages were largely a byproduct of the era they played in and of the offensive system their teams employed. Both won a Vezina Trophy, and Smith has a Vezina in his trophy case. Both won multiple Stanley Cups with dynastic clubs. In my mind it was Fuhr’s penchant for making clutch, miraculous saves late in games that got him the nod. Unlike the more responsible Islanders, the free-wheeling Oilers all but forgot about their defensive zone at times, and Fuhr was constantly being forced to make one of his patented glove saves to preserve victory for his team.
32 - Claude Lemieux
It was the battle of the agitators for the title of best #32. Both Dale Hunter and Claude Lemieux made a living out of bugging the hell out of their opponents. Both were legendary cheapshot artists. Just ask Kris Draper or Pierre Turgeon. However, they both possessed more than one dimension to their games. Both Lemieux and Hunter were gifted scorers and both had well over 300 goals. Hunter was also an underrated passer, and his 697 career helpers helped him break the 1,000 point barrier during his career. As great a player as Hunter was I was ultimately forced to give Lemieux the title. Few players in NHL history have been able to elevate their game come playoff time like Lemieux did. He won 4 Stanley Cups with 3 separate teams in his career, winning the 1995 Conn Smythe Trophy as a member of the Devils in 1995.
33 - Patrick Roy
Sorry, Vancouver Canucks fans, Henrik Sedin might someday get into the conversation of the greatest #33 of all time, but despite his recent Art Ross and Hart Trophies he’s got a lot of work to do to challenge this gentleman. There are many who feel Patrick Roy is the greatest goaltender of all time, and his resume gives them plenty of ammo to make that assertion. He won 4 Stanley Cups during his career, 2 win the Canadiens and 2 with the Colorado Avalanche, and in 3 of those 4 cup-winning years he won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP (an NHL record). Though his mark for the most regular season wins has since been eclipsed, his record for career playoff wins (151) might well stand for all time.
34 – Miikka Kiprusoff
Though I’m sure there are some muttering, “What about John Vanbiesbrouck?” right now I’m giving Kipper the edge as the greatest #34. Vanbriesbrouck had some stellar years during his career, but he had some stinkers too. Yes, he has a Vezina in his trophy collection but so does Kiprusoff. In fact, had he played a few more games in 2003-04 he would have had a second Vezina. Between 2003-04 and 2005-06 he was almost impossible to beat, and reminded me of Dominik Hasek during his peak years in Buffalo. Despite the fact that he’s slipped some from his peak in the mid-2000s he still remains one of the NHL’s best goalies.
35 - Tony Esposito
As great as Teemu Selanne’s rookie season was in 1992-93, this gentleman’s inaugural campaign may have been ever more impressive. In his first full NHL season Tony O set an NHL record by posting an incredible 15 shutouts. Not only was this the highest single season total for a rookie, but it was the highest single season shutout total of the modern era! Not too shabby. Though he would never duplicate that feat he was one of the stingiest goalies in the league during the 70s, posting a miniscule GAA year after year, including in 1971-72 when he posted a ridiculously low 1.77 goals against. Over his Hall of Fame career he captured not only the Calder, but also 3 Vezina Trophies, and racked up an impressive 423 career victories and 76 shutouts.
Honorable Mention: Mike Richter, Tom Barrasso - Though not in the class of Esposito these two star goalies acquitted themselves well for their respective teams. Both won Stanley Cups, and Barrasso was both a Calder and Vezina Trophy winner during his career.
36 – Jussi Jokinen
Well, as you can see, this is one of those numbers that just didn’t have much competition. In fact, in doing my research the only two reasonable choices I came up with were Jokinen, and former super-pest turned hockey analyst, Matthew Barnaby. Barnaby put up decent offensive numbers, and was certainly an effective agitator, but I wound up giving the nod to Jokinen based on his superior offensive stats and his title as the NHL’s “best shootout specialist”.
37 - Eric Desjardins
Once again a number with little competition, but this time the choice was at least considered a star. Desjardins played more than 1,100 NHL games as a member of the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers. He put up respectable numbers, notching 575 points over that span. He famously scored a hat trick, including the overtime winner in the 1993 Stanley Cup finals against the Los Angeles Kings, his 2nd goal coming while Marty McSorley was sitting in the penalty box feeling shame after being caught with an illegal stick, and his third coming in overtime to hand the Habs victory and swing the momentum of the series.
38 - Pavol Demitra
Though his career has fizzled in the last couple of years in his prime this Slovakian star was one of the deadliest threats in the NHL. His best years came as a member of the St. Louis Blues, where he consistently averaged over a point a game and once put up 93 points in a single year.
39 - Dominik Hasek
“The Dominator” dominates other players who wore #39. In his prime Hasek was as unbeatable as any netminder in NHL history. Between 1993-94 and 2000-01 he won 6 Vezina Trophies and 2 Hart Trophies, and brought the otherwise mediocre Buffalo Sabres to within a whisper of winning the 1999 Stanley Cup. He would go on to finish his career with the Detroit Red Wings, and was a key reason why the Wings captured the 2002 Stanley Cup.
40 - Henrik Zetterberg
One of the best two-way forwards in the league today Henrik Zetterberg was an absolute steal for the Red Wings when they selected him 210th overall in the 1999 NHL entry draft. He enjoyed a couple of decent seasons early on in his career, but really blossomed following the lockout of 2004-05. Since that point he has averaged better than a point game, and he, along with linemate Pavel Datsyuk have become one of the deadliest duos in the league. In 2008 he captured the Conn Smythe in helping the Wings win the Stanley Cup, and had 24 points in 2009 during that year’s Stanley Cup playoff run as the Wings made it all the way to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
41 – Jocelyn Thibault
Though Habs fans probably remember Thibault with some bitterness, considering he was the primary component in a deal with the Colorado Avalanche that saw favorite son “Saint” Patrick Roy go the other way, he actually went on to enjoy a respectable career. He would go on to win 238 career games with 6 different teams before calling it a career.
42 - Sergei Makarov
If you had the privilege of watching this magician play during the 1987 Canada Cup you know just how talented he was. He spent the prime of his playing days playing in the former Soviet Republic, but eventually made his way to the NHL, joining the Calgary Flames in 1989-90 at the age of 31. He had no problem adjusting to the North American game, scoring 86 points in 80 games and winning the Calder Trophy. His NHL career was relatively brief – only 424 games – but he averaged almost a point a game during that span and finished with an amazing 22% shooting percentage.
43 - Patrice Brisebois
Though he was never a top pair defenseman during his career, Patrice Brisebois was good enough to stick around for over 1,000 NHL games, and though not particular known for his offensive ability, he managed to put up 420 points over that span.
44 - Chris Pronger
Though Flyers fans will recognize him by the #20 that he wears now, for years this towering blueliner actually wore #44 as a member of the Hartford Whalers, St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers. With his combination of skill, size and nastiness Pronger has been one of the most dominant defensemen in the league. He has a Norris Trophy and even a Hart Trophy under his belt, and was a major reason why the Anaheim Ducks won the 2007 Stanley Cup.
Honorable Mention: Stephane Richer - A two time 50 goal scorer for the Montreal Canadiens (the most recent Hab to hit 50) Richer lit the lamp 421 times in his career, and was a member of Stanley Cup winning teams with both the Habs and the New Jersey Devils.
45 - Gilbert Dionne
The little brother of Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne, Gilbert didn’t enjoy nearly the success his more famous sibling did. He did put up respectable numbers during his brief NHL career, tallying 140 points in 223 games before moving on to various minor league clubs.
46 – Andrei Kostitsyn
With speed, skill and a tremendous shot this Belarusian should be a point a game player. Unfortunately for Habs fans Kostitsyn has yet to live up to his potential. He has shown flashes of brilliance and has a couple of 20+ goal seasons under his belt, but to be honest, the main reason I can cite for choosing him at this spot is the decided lack of competition.
47 – Stephan Lebeau
Speaking of lack of competition, there really was a dearth of good choices for #47 on the list. For some reason there seems to be a lot of Montreal Canadiens with numbers in the 40s. This was a two horse race between a pair of ex Habs. Marc-Andre Bergeron was in the mix, but his horrible play in his own end kept him from making it. Lebeau was actually a pretty slick player, and even scored 80 points one year playing for the Habs.
48 – Daniel Briere
Though not quite superstar caliber, Daniel Briere is certainly a higher class of player than my #45, 46 and 47 entries. Though small in stature, Briere’s speed, skill and hockey sense have made him a deadly threat over the last decade. He had a career best 95 points in 2006-07 as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, and has racked up 538 points in just 679 career NHL games.
49 - Brian Savage
If only the NHL season only lasted the month of October this quick starter might be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Much like Reggie Jackson in baseball, Savage did his best work in the early fall. Unfortunately, while Jackson was thriving in the playoffs, Savage’s best days were coming in the opening month of the regular season – not exactly clutch time. Still he managed to put together 3 consecutive 20+ goal seasons and potted 359 points during his career.
50 - Antoine Vermette
Bearing a striking resemblance to Ashton Kutcher may be this Columbus Blue Jackets’ center’s biggest claim to fame, but he is actually a pretty good hockey player too, and has been a nice fit with the Jackets since coming over from the Ottawa Senators. He scored a career high 65 points last season, and is establishing himself as one of the better two-way centers in the league.
51 – Brian Campbell
Though certainly not worth the $7 million a season he earns, Brian Campbell is a talented, puck-moving defenseman who would probably be the Blackhawks #1 d-man if not for a couple of guys by the name of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
52 - Adam Foote
Though he certainly doesn’t make the highlight reel very often, forwards who have played against him can tell you just how good he is. A rugged, in-your-face defender, Foote was a huge part of the Colorado Avalanche teams that won the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001. He has played in over 1,100 NHL games, and though far from an offensive defenseman, he’s managed to put up a respectable 302 points to date.
53 - Derek Morris
Though he may have fallen a little short of the hype that surrounded him early in his career, Derek Morris has been a solid blueliner for nearly 900 NHL games. He’s registered at least 20 points in every one of his 12 NHL seasons to date, and at just 32 years of age should still have several good years ahead of him.
54 - Dave Chyzowski
No explanation needed, other than the complete lack of guys that have worn #54 in the NHL. If you haven’t heard of Dave Chyzowski you are definitely not alone. He did manage to appear in over 100 NHL games, most of them with the New York Islanders, notching a whopping 15 goals in an unmemorable career.
55 - Larry Murphy
One of the highest scoring defensemen in NHL history with 1,216 career points, Larry Murphy was an unsung hero throughout most of his career. He played in a whopping 1,615 NHL games and played on 4 Stanley Cup winning teams (‘91 & ‘92 Pittsburgh Penguins and ’97 & ’98 Detroit Red Wings).
Honorable Mention: Sergei Gonchar - One of the best offensive defensemen of his era, Gonchar has rifled home more than 200 goals during his time with Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh and Washington.
56 – Sergei Zubov
Though his defensive partner Brian Leetch got most of the press (among team defensemen) during the 1993-94 season, Sergei Zubov was certainly no slouch. He recorded an impressive 89 points that year, and added another 19 assists in the playoffs, helping the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years. He would move on to a brief stint in Pittsburgh before joining the Dallas Stars, where he would play a crucial role in helping that team win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history in 1999. Zubov has now moved on to play in the KHL after playing more than 1,000 NHL games and racking up 771 points.
57 – Benoit Pouliot
Marcel Goc or Benoit Pouliot? Neither one really stands out, but those were the two choices I found myself with. Ultimately, I chose Pouliot as he seems to have the bigger upside, and his points-per-game average is significantly higher.
58 - Robert Kron
Another guy that many readers probably don’t even remember, Robert Kron was actually a pretty slick stickhandler and though he didn’t score a ton of goals, many of the ones he did were of the highlight reel variety. In 771 career games he lit the lamp 144 times and notched 338 total points.
59 – Chad LaRose
Small, but fast and determined, Chad LaRose seems to be improving with each passing year. He’s been an underrated asset for the Carolina Hurricanes and has a penchant for making exciting plays. His stats might seem a little weak to make the list, but he really didn’t have much competition.
60 - Jose Theodore
No, Theodore didn’t have much competition at #60, but his Hart and Vezina Trophies give him a little more authority that many other “high numbered” players on this list. Despite a career plagued with off ice issues and personal tragedy Theodore has continued to persevere and to date has 245 NHL wins under his belt.
61 - Rick Nash
When I watch Rick Nash play I find it hard to believe this towering winger’s best offensive season was his 79 point campaign in 2008-09. I’ve seen him score highlight reel goals with players draped all over him on multiple occasions, and he is all but impossible to knock off the puck. A big part of his relatively low scoring output is undoubtedly the team he plays on. The Blue Jackets lack much in the way of offensive help for Nash and the defensive system they employ doesn’t lend itself to a lot of scoring. Despite that, Nash has twice hit the 40 goal mark, including scoring 41 in his sophomore season when he shared the Rocket Richard Trophy (most goals) with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk.
62 – Olli Jokinen
Watching Olli Jokinen play these days it is hard to believe this guy was bordering on superstardom just a few short years ago. He scored 30+ goals in 4 separate seasons with the Florida Panthers, and put up 251 points over a 3 year span with the club. He actually only wore #62 for a single season (with the New York Islanders) but due to a complete lack of competition gets the nod at #62.
63 – Mike Ribeiro
Though he wore #71 during his time with the Montreal Canadiens, Mike Ribeiro switched to #63 upon joining the Dallas Stars, and that decision ensured he would make this list. One of the more clever stickhandlers in the league, Ribeiro has scored some truly ridiculous goals over his career. He’s put up good numbers, particularly since joining Dallas, and currently has 440 points in just 595 career games.
64 – Jamie McGinn
Seriously, this was the best option for #64. With just 14 goals and 20 points over 3 partial NHL seasons there really isn’t anything to say about this guy. Apparently 64 is not a popular choice among NHL stars.
65 – Mark Napier
Once again, a player that is the only logical choice for this particular jersey number. Napier had a long NHL career and wore several different numbers. He had #65 for 3 seasons in the late 1980s. Napier finished his NHL career with 541 points, and twice hit the 40 goal mark in the early 80s.
66 - Mario Lemieux
Only 5 different players have worn this jersey number, including Gino Odjick, but none can hold a candle to Mario the Magnificent. Just when it looked like there would never be a player as good as Wayne Gretzky, Lemieux came along and challenged “The Great One” for the title of best player in the game. The rangy Penguins superstar once score 199 points in a single season, and if not for battles with a chronic back and with cancer, may very well have eclipsed some of Gretzky’s single season and even career marks. Despite only playing in 915 career games, Mario racked up 690 goals and 1,723 points, winning 2 Stanley Cups, 2 Conn Smythe Trophies, 3 Hart Trophies, 6 Art Ross Trophies, and the Calder Trophy along the way.
67 – Michael Frolik
I was tempted to give this one to Robert Svehla, but he only had the number for a single season, so instead deferred to this young Florida Panthers star. In only his third season Frolik is starting to come into his own. In each of his first two seasons he eclipsed 40 points, and is off to close to a point a game clip to start 2010-11.
68 - Jaromir Jagr
Though he was an enigmatic, moody superstar who had the moniker of “coach killer” hung on him throughout his career, Jaromir was undeniably one of the most talented players ever to suit up for an NHL game. With 1,599 career points he is the all time leader in NHL history among European-born players. His incredible skills earned him 5 Art Ross Trophies over his career, and he even took home the Hart Trophy in the 1998-99 season.
69 - Mel Angelstad
This one is simply selection by default. No other player in NHL history has deigned to don this jersey. Do you think it might have something to do with the associated sexual position? Nah, couldn’t be. Angelstad played exactly 2 NHL games for the Washington Capitals, registering precisely 1 shot and no points.
70 – Tim Thomas
Though he has worn #30 throughout most of his career, in his first season with the Boston Bruins he wore #70. Sure he only played 4 games in that sweater, but he posted a 3-1 record. He has since gone on to become one of the best goalies in the NHL and even captured the 2009 Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie.
71 – Evgeni Malkin
Because this number is the opposite of #17 it is often adopted by players coming from other teams and find their sweater number is already taken. Thus there are a few more famous players attached to this one that other numbers in this range. Guys like Wendel Clark, Jiri Slegr, Marc Savard, Mike Ribeiro and Lubomir Visnovsky have all worn this number. However, it is hard to choose any of them over towering Russian superstar Evgeni Malkin. At just 24 years of age Malkin already has a Stanley Cup ring, a Conn Smythe Trophy, an Art Ross Trophy and almost 400 career points.
72 – Mathieu Schneider
Much like #71, several decent players have donned this jersey when they couldn’t wear their familiar #27. Not only was Mathieu Schneider might not be quite as good as John Tonelli or Ron Hextall, but he wore the number much longer than those guys so he gets the nod.
73 - Michael Ryder
The pride of Newfoundland, Michael Ryder is one of the league’s most underrated shooters throughout his career. Though his best regular season total was 30 goals opposing goalies will tell you this guy has a wicked release, and he never needs more than a half second to unload his deadly wrist shot.
74 – Jay McKee
Though T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues may one day own this slot, right now I’ve got to give the nod to the hard-hitting veteran blueliner Jay McKee. Not known for his offensive prowess, McKee’s numbers might pale to most others on this list, but opposing forwards who’ve played against him know just how valuable this guy was to his respective teams over his career.
75 - Walt Poddubny
To date no NHL player has worn this number for more than 2 seasons, so despite the fact that Poddubny only wore #75 for a single campaign I am going to award the title to him. Poddubny was close to a point a game player during his relatively brief career, tallying 184 goals and 422 points in just 468 career games.
76 - Radek Bonk
Being a diehard Habs fan I was sorely tempted to give this spot to P.K. Subban. The rookie d-man is off to an electrifying start to his NHL career, and in my opinion may be a Norris Trophy threat within a few years. However, with just a handful of games played I can’t, in good conscience, give him the belt. Instead, Radek Bonk (admittedly a former Hab) gets it. Though he never came close to living up to his #3 overall draft selection, Bonk eventually did find his niche as a two-way forward and enjoyed a decent NHL career, scoring nearly 500 points in almost 1,000 games.
77 - Ray Bourque
No shortage of superstars have worn this number. Among the contenders are Paul Coffey, Phil Esposito, Adam Oates, and Pierre Turgeon. However, as tight a race as it was I ultimately had to go with Bourque – the highest scoring defenseman (goals and points) in NHL history. Ironically, Bourque originally wore #7, but surrendered it when the Bruins retired the number to honor form Bruins superstar Phil Esposito. Bourque played at a high level for his entire 22 season NHL career, and finished with a whopping 410 goals and 1,579 points in 1,612 games. He won 5 Norris Trophies as the NHL’s best defenseman, a Calder Trophy and a well-deserved Stanley Cup ring over his Hall of Fame career.
78 - Marc Pouliot
Pouliot gets this spot by default as he is the only player to wear this number for any significant amount of time. The only bona fide “star” to wear the number is Pavol Demitra and since he already has a spot at #38 Pouliot gets it.
79 – Andrei Markov
Only two players have ever worn this number and both are, coincidentally, Russian stars. Alexei Yashin finishes as runner-up in this particular showdown. Yes he twice had 40+ goals, and scored 781 points in the NHL before moving back to Russia, but he was also a well documented floater who rarely lived up to the incredible potential he possessed. Markov, on the other hand, has quietly been the Canadiens’ best player for several years now, quarterbacking their powerplay, and challenging the NHL’s best offensive defensemen for most points.
80 - Nik Antropov
Only two players (Antropov and Kevin Weekes) have worn this number for more than a single season, so it is really a two horse race. Though Toronto Maple Leafs fans would grumble that this hulking Russian never lived up to his potential he has put up some decent numbers over his career (160 goals and 378 points in 618 games) and had his best year to date last season, scoring 67 points with the Atlanta Thrashers.
81 – Marian Hossa
Though Miroslav Satan wore it longer, and Phil Kessel deserves an honorable mention I’m going to award this one to Slovakian star Marian Hossa. Hossa has racked up 781 points over his career, has hit the 40 goal mark 3 separate times and once scored 100 points in a season. With many years left on a long term deal with the Chicago Blackhawks look for Hossa to extend his stranglehold as the best hockey player to ever wear #81.
82 - Martin Straka
Had Marian Hossa worn this number for more than a single season he might have thrown his hat in the ring for this one. Straka wore the number his entire 954 game NHL career, scoring 717 points, including 95 in 2000-01.
83 - Ales Hemsky
This one was a slam dunk. With competition from such household names as Jay Beagle, Eric Bertrand, Domenic Pittis and Patrick Leahy, Hemsky wins this in a cake walk. To be fair to Hemsky he could certainly hold his own against stiffer competition as his 364 points in just 457 career games can attest to.
84 – Mikhail Grabovski
Stamp Grabovski’s face on one side of a coin and Guillaume Latendresse’s mug on the other, flip the coin and make a choice. I came up with Grabovski. Both are good young players with plenty of potential but Grabovski’s points-per-game average is a little better to this point.
85 - Petr Klima
Of the 3 other players that have worn the number 85 none have worn it nearly as long as Petr Klima, nor can they come close to 313 career goals and 573 career points.
86 – Wojtek Wolski
Another non-traditional hockey number this one has only been worn a total of 4 seasons by 3 different players. Wolski adopted the number after being traded from the Colorado Avalanche to the Phoenix Coyotes and has since potted 26 points in 29 games with #86 on his back.
87 – Sidney Crosby
Good thing Sidney Crosby chose this number, otherwise I may have had to put Donald Brashear at this spot. Sid the Kid is one of three players to wear the number, and might well be the last. At just 23 years of age Crosby has already done more in his career than most players dream of, including winning an Art Ross, Hart and becoming the youngest player in NHL history to captain a team to Stanley Cup victory. If he can enjoy a long career and remain relatively injury free he has the potential to become the second player in history to reach the 2,000 career point mark. Yes, he’s that good.
88 - Eric Lindros
One of the most hyped prospects in the history of the NHL draft, Eric Lindros was so coveted he was basically allowed to call his own shots before he even played a single NHL game. After refusing to report to the Quebec Nordiques – the team that drafted him first over all – Lindros’ rights were traded to both the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. He would eventually wind up in Philadelphia and for a handful of years was one of the most dominant power forwards the game had ever seen. Ultimately, concussion problems would derail his career, but not before he’d tallied an impressive 865 points in only 760 games and won a Hart Trophy. Who knows what kind of astronomical numbers he could have put up had his physical style not shortened his career.
Honorable Mention: Patrick Kane - Though he only has a few years under his belt Patrick Kane is certainly making a case for best #88 of all time. He already has one more Stanley Cup ring than Lindros ever got and scored the Stanley Cup winning goal to boot.
89 - Alexander Mogilny
Though he may have driven coaches and fans alike nuts with his habit of playing up to his potential only in contract years, no one can deny that Alexander Mogilny had world-class talent. In 1992-93 he had a jaw-dropping 76 goals, making him a member of the very exclusive 70 goal club. He never came close to matching that total again, though he did have a 55 goal, 107 point campaign as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. He finished his NHL career with 473 goals and 1,032 points in just 990 games.
90 - Joe Juneau
This guy had one of the greatest rookie seasons in NHL history. He is one of just a handful of players in history to score 100 points or more in his inaugural campaign. Strangely, his statistics went the opposite way most players do over a career. Instead of improving year over year Juneau’s offensive numbers slowly sank. He never hit the 100 point mark again and finished with 572 points in 816 career games.
91 - Sergei Fedorov
Though any one of current stars like Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Marc Savard and Brad Richards might one day hold the coveted title of best hockey player to ever wear #91, as of right now that honor still goes to Russian superstar Sergei Fedorov. In the prime of his career Fedorov was the best two-way forward in the league, winning two Selke Trophies and a Hart Trophy all while putting up stellar offensive numbers. In 1993-94 he scored 56 goals and totaled a whopping 120 points. He was a huge part of the mighty Detroit Red Wings teams that won 3 Stanley Cups between 1997 and 2002, and is considered one of the greatest Russian-born players to ever suit up in the NHL.
92 - Rick Tocchet
Yes, you can argue that Rick Tocchet’s preferred number was actually #29, and that Michael Nylander, who wore the number throughout his career, should get this spot. I considered that, but in the end decided to go with Tocchet. He did, after all, wear the number for 4 seasons and in my opinion is one of the best power forwards to ever play the game. In the 1992-93 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins he scored 48 goals and 109 points, despite spending 252 minutes in the penalty box! Fearless and skilled, Tocchet finished his career with 440 goals, 952 points and a staggering 2,972 penalty minutes.
93 - Doug Gilmour
Though a lot of good players, including Petr Nedved, Doug Weight and Johan Franzen have worn this number, this selection was dead simple for me. Though much smaller than most of his peers, Gilmour had the heart of a lion, combining incredible skill and hockey sense with fierce determination and fearless competitiveness. Though he’d already enjoyed some great seasons with the St. Louis Blues and the Calgary Flames, Gilmour really made the leap to superstardom as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was there he had one of the greatest seasons in Leafs history, scoring 127 points and helping the Leafs reach game 7 of the Stanley Cup semi-finals in 1992-93. In all he broke the 100 point mark 3 times in his career and finished with a whopping 1,414 points in 1,474 career games.
94 – Ryan Smyth
It is still a mystery to me how the Edmonton Oilers ever let the heart and soul of their team slip away as a result of a petty contract dispute. The Oilers have never been the same since their inspirational leader left town. Smyth broke the 30 goal mark 5 times with the Oilers and continues to be an effective player with the Los Angeles Kings.
95 - Aleksey Morozov
Not much competition at #95. Only 4 different players have ever worn the number, and Morozov is the only one to don it for more than a single season. That being said, he did have a decent (if brief) NHL career, putting up 219 points in 451 career games.
96 - Pavel Bure
As great as Bure was he didn’t have a chance against Guy LaFleur for the #10 spot, but he gets a second chance at #96, which he wore for a pair of seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. Bure was one of the most exciting players to ever play the game. 5 times he broke 50 goals, including back-to-back 60 goal campaigns in his second and third seasons in the NHL. Bad knees would force him to call it a career after just 702 games, but in that time he scored an incredible 437 goals, giving him one of the highest goals-per-game career averages in NHL history.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Holmstrom - Some would argue that this spot should go to Holmstrom based on the fact he’s worn the number for much longer than Bure ever did. Holmstrom’s been a key component of the Detroit Red Wings dynasty and has been there for all 4 Stanley Cups they’ve won since 1997.
97 - Jeremy Roenick
Though he began his career wearing #27, Roenick changed to jersey #97 while with the Phoenix Coyotes, and though his prime years were behind him, he enjoyed some good years with that number on his back. Over his career Roenick twice scored 50+ goals and reached 100+ points on 3 separate occasions. He remained a consistent offensive force (and a consistent character) throughout his career, finishing with 513 goals and 1,216 points in 1,363 career games.
98 - Brian Lawton
I remember hearing buzz that this guy was going to be the next Wayne Gretzky when he was drafted 1st overall by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. Perhaps he believed his own hype because he initially elected to wear jersey #98, the only player in NHL history to do so. After 31 and 11 points respectively in his first 2 campaigns he apparently decided to change his number to one not so close to Gretzky’s. His stats improved somewhat after the move, but he ultimately finished with 266 career points, almost 2,600 shy of #99’s career total.
99 - Wayne Gretzky
Who were you expecting, Wilf Paiement? This one is obviously no mystery to anyone. During his career Gretzky set every significant single season and career scoring record there was, and to date, no one, with the exception of Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull, has come anywhere near to eclipsing Gretzky’s totals. Worn to honor Gordie Howe, who wore #9 and was Gretzky’s boyhood hero, #99 will forever be associated with Gretzky. Though there might one day be a greater player than Gretzky, there will never be a greater player in jersey #99 as the number has been retired throughout the entire NHL to honor Gretzky’s amazing career.