Category Archives: NHL

Hockey Jerseys – A Play On Numbers

The Great One started off life wearing the number 9, in honour of his hockey hero, Gordie Howe. When he was drafted 3rd overall by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the 1977 OMJHL draft, the number 9 was already taken by Brian Gualazzi. Coach Muzz MacPherson made the suggestion that Wayne should wear number 99 instead. He agreed and the rest is history.

The first use of jersey numbers in ice hockey can officially be tracked back to the 1911/1912 season, where players in the National Hockey Association (the predecessor of the NHL!) required numbered armbands. The Patrick brothers who founded the PCHA put numbers on players’ backs so they could sell programs in which the players were listed by their numbers.

The first ever retired jersey was that of Ace Bailey, whose #6 was retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1934 following a career-ending fight with Eddie Shore during a game against the Boston Bruins in 1933. To make matters worse, the fight happened because Shore mistook Bailey for another player!

But why do players choose the numbers they do? Is there any meaning behind it?

Well, yes, for many there are, but it’s not as black and white as it was their hero’s number, or their birthday. We spoke to numerous players at all different levels and found out that it could be simply their first ever number or it could be to do with Greek mythology!

From NHL to EIHL to Rec to juniors – Here’s what the players themselves had to say:

39 ritt18-19rosterphoto

Evan Ritt (Guildford Flames): “Number 39 was just given to me. It was my first ice hockey number ever, I wore it from when I was 7 to when I went to play juniors”

Carter Hart

Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers): “My first development camp with the Flyers they gave me 79, just because the rookies get the higher numbers. Connor (a 7-year-old autistic boy) and Cavan (6-year-old) were there since Day One when I was in Everett. I remember those two kids ever since I started playing there.

“When I came back to Everett, Connor was there waiting for me, like he usually did, and he was yelling at me trying to show me his new jersey. He had a Flyers’ jersey with Hart No. 79 on the back. When I saw that, I decided I had to stick with No. 79, because there is a No. 79 out there.

“I probably would have stuck with No. 70, because that was my number in juniors. But because Connor had the Hart No. 79 Flyers’ jersey on, I realized I couldn’t change the jersey number now. I didn’t think Connor would have been too happy if I had the wrong jersey with the wrong number on the back. Because it was Connor, he was one of our biggest fans and it was really cool how much love Connor and Cavan gave us. To them, they’re 6, 7 years old, they look up to us. I couldn’t let them down.”

Patrick Killeen

Patrick Killeen (MK Lightining): “I have no real reason for wearing my current number. I’ve worn a couple other numbers but I’ve always enjoyed wearing number 1. Although, next season I would like to switch to number 32 because it’s my son’s birthday (March 2nd). I never really had a reason to care about which number I wore.  I just liked #1 and how traditional it was and how simple and clean it looked on a Jersey.  I was given #1 in the OHL because you had to wear a traditional goalie number (1, 30 or 31). I was given 1 because the other two were taken already. When I turned pro I didn’t really see any reason to change it. Although I wore #40 for a few months in Orlando. When I went to college I went back to #1 and then kept it so far throughout my pro career.”

Matt Ginn

Matt Ginn (Manchester Storm): “I don’t have any cool reason really. Wore it growing up playing minor hockey and that’s about it.”

08 ackered18-19rosterphoto

Calle Ackered (Guildford Flames): “15 was my first choice but when I saw that number was retired in Guildford, I had number 8 as my second choice because I had that number when I was very young playing football and had a lot of success. I really like number 8 now!”

Blaze Shields-Pettitt

Belfast Junior Giants netminder, Blaze Shields-Pettitt chose number 33 in homage to the ex-Edinburgh Caps netminder Kevin Forshall.

 

The junior system stateside is slightly different than the UK in regards to player numbers, as explained by Ashley, our resident Anaheim Ducks writer:

“I’m sat talking to my nephew – He originally wore number 23 as it’s his birthday but he was then moved to number 3 because he moved to top line and there’s a weird rule on junior jerseys and lines apparently. When he plays up for the U11’s he wears number 32 because it’s his birthday backwards.

“He moved from number 3 to number 9 for the u9’s…because he grew out of the number 3!”

Jaq Inglis

Our resident Dundee CTP writer, Jaq Inglis: “I wore 8 because it was my Maw’s field hockey number when she played. Hasn’t served me that well though!”

And Jaq isn’t alone in choosing a number in honour of his mother – He’s joined by NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin! Tatyana Ovechkina wore 8 as a point guard for the Russian women’s basketball team that won gold medals at the 1976 and 1980 Summer Olympics.

Ovi and Crosby

NHL superstar Sidney Crosby wears the number 87 because his birthday is on the 7th August 1987 (8/7/87 in American!)

Mhairi Dobbin

Mhairi Dobbin (Caledonia Steel Queens): “I wear 30 because I wanted a classic goalie number, but thought 1 was too intense – didn’t wanna give the impression I was any good!”

Sam Duggan

Sam Duggan (Cardiff Devils): “There’s no real reason I guess, it’s just always been my favourite number for some reason, and I’ve always worn it if I’ve been able too!”

Olli Hampson

IceTime TV commentator Olli Hampson: “I wore # 17 in juniors because my favourite player at the time was Russ Romaniuk, and currently where # 92 because I’m unoriginal and it helps me remember my year of birth better!”

Nate Schmidt

Nate Schmidt (Vegas Golden Knights): “I went to Washington for my first development camp as an unsigned free agent. All of us guys in that boat, we got high numbers. From 85 to like 98. They gave me 88 and, to be honest, it was a little high for my liking. But I wasn’t going to say anything. Then, when I signed with Washington and went to camp, it was there in my stall. So, I was 88. And now I’ve just always worn it. It’s funny but we get attached to numbers. Now it’s part of what defines me as a hockey player.

“Some of my buddies call me 8s. And my godson Clark, he only knows me as 8-8. He sees me on TV and says, ‘8-8.’ So, even if I wanted to change, I can’t now!”

 

Ex-NHL’er Steve Heinze wore number 57, purely because of the famous Heinze ketchup’s 57 varieties!

Steve Heinze

Then there’s Jordin TooToo… And yes, he did wear number 22!

 

And of course there’s the number reverse, which is exactly how Steve Stamkos decided to wear the number 91 jersey. His intention was to wear the number 19 jersey that his heroes Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman wore, but when he arrived at the Sarnia Sting and realised the number was taken, he flipped the numbers and it’s stuck ever since.

2pzlhj4

Only 1 player in the NHL has ever worn the number 0 – Hartford Whalers defenseman Neil Sheehy in 1988. When his family emigrated from Ireland, their name was O’Sheehy. Neil figured it was the best way to get the O’ back on his back.

jaromir jagr

There’s political reasons behind some numbers. The most famous of which would be Jaromir Jagr. The Czech winger donned the number 68 in honour of the “Prague Spring” in 1968, where democratic reform movement tried to free Czechoslovakia from Soviet domination.

Adam Goss

Adam Goss (MK Lightning): “Sure I’ll tell you the story but it’s kinda weird and long. In university I took a few electives in Greek and Norse history as part of the core curriculum (it was a liberal arts university) and through that I really became fascinated with the mythology part. So outside of class I took a deep dive into the stuff and kinda empathised with the people and loved their god culture where people would pay tribute to all these different gods.

“This led me to start doing it in hockey because some of them relate pretty well to sport and going to battle and that stuff. So now I pay tribute to 8 Greek (Olympian) gods and 4 Norse gods before a game, if I’m playing. Hence the number 84…. Could’ve been 48 though I guess!”

Miika Wiikman Coventry Blaze

Former Panthers, MK & Blaze netminder Miika Wiikman has always worn 20 and because it was Ed Belfours number.

Peterborough Phantoms Jordan Marr & Glasgow Clan’s Joel Rumpel both wear number 33 because it was Patrick Roy’s number

Brett Perlini Brit

Brett Perlini (Nottingham Panthers): “My Favourite number is actually 11 because my dad wore it in Guildford and had it retired. I would look up to the rafters every time I was on the ice as a kid, and see PERLINI 11 up there and I thought that was really cool. When 11 is unavailable I then go to number 9. A lot of hockey greats wore this number like Howe and Gretzky (before 99 obviously) so I think it represents a scorers number and that’s what I try to be”


So from paying homage to their favourite players or even parents – From having to choose a different number if their first pick was taken, to political reasons – From having a number chosen for you to choosing a number which sounds like your name – Most numbers do have a backstory.

And there are so many more stories out there. If you know of any good ones, let us know! And be sure to speak to your favourite players and ask them the next time you see them, because it’s a personal choice which they made and wear proudly in front of us each week.

 

 

 

Photo credits: Scott Wiggins Photography, John Uwins Photography, Guildford Flames, MK Lighting, IHUK, NHL.com

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Vasilevskiy Makes Franchise History as Bolts Break More Records

Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded his 18th career shutout as the Lightning beat the Canadiens 3-0 to close out the homestand in yet another dominating week in Tampa.

The Lightning kicked off the week with a 6-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday – A game which was dominated by Nikita Kucherov, who picked up 4 points.

Kuch Scores Vs Dallas - Mark LoMoglio
Credit: Mark LoMoglio

On Thursday, Kucherov set his own franchise record, as he became the fasted Bolt in history to hit 90 points in a season with yet another 4 points in the demolition of Dallas. But the talking point was Vasilevskiy, who tied the franchise record for most shutouts (17).

Then just 2 nights later, Vasilevskiy recorded the 6th ever consecutive team shutout against the Habs. The others?

  1. November 23rd – 25th 2001
  2. January 26th – 28th 2006
  3. January 18th – 19th 2008
  4. January 25th – February 1st 2011
  5. December 31st – January 2nd 2018
Vasy Win - Scott Audette
Credit: Scott Audette

The 3-0 shutout was the 6th of the season for Vasilevskiy, and his 18th in his Bolts career, moving him past Ben Bishop for the most shutouts in franchise history.

Speaking about the record after the game, Vasilevskiy said: “Yeah, its cool… Bish is an unbelievable goalie, and I’m pretty proud to be number one.”

Steve Stamkos: “I think he’s gotten better as the seasons gone on. I thought coming back from that injury, he wanted to get dialled in right away. You just see his work ethic in practice. You see his preparation for games, he’s just so competitive. He wants to make every single save. It’s obviously fun to be part of because it makes our job easier to go out and just have to get one.”

Vasy and Stmamer- Scott Audette
Credit – Scott Audette

But it doesn’t stop there – Stamoks picked up 2 assists in the game, which means that the Bolts are the first team since the 95/96 Pittsburgh Penguins to have 3 players score 70+ points within the first 60 games of a season: Stamkos (71), Point (75) & Kucherov (94).

For the Bolts, it’s 5 wins on the bounce, and points out of their last 9 games. Next up are back-to-back road games against the Blue Jackets & the Flyers.

 

 

Featured Image: Scott Audette

Coyotes 18/19 Season: What could have been!

It may seem an alarmist or even, a statement too early given there is a good third of the season left but, even now, this is a ‘What could have been season’ for the Coyotes. As of writing, the Coyotes are 3 points out the wildcard spots in the west which, given what has happened to the Coyotes is incredible.

In short, this has been a season decimated by injuries, I’ll let the handy graphic below explain:

Coyotes Injuries

Pic courtesy of Fox Sports Arizona
I should say, the picture above is about a week old when, Yep, that’s correct 9 players out the starting lineup, you could even add captain OEL to that list for a couple of games.  I think you could still count on two hands the number of games the Coyotes have played a full strength roster which is incredible. As of today, the Coyotes remain without:

Mario Kempe (C)

Brad Richards (C)

Nick Schmaltz (C)

Christian Dvorak (C)

Michael Grabner (LW)

Jason Demers (RD)

Antti Raanta (G)

On that list you have, the starting goalie, back up goalie, two top 6 defencemen and four top 8 forwards, at least 3 of which are centers. The Coyotes are not blessed with super depth at center so, losing three to injury has really messed up the lineup. One big shame was the youngster Dvorak who was really beginning to heat up!

A season of what could have been and frustration, with a full strength roster this team would easily be in the Wild Card hunt, even the regular playoff positions. Its potential clearly seen in demolitions of Tampa, St Louis and the Rangers. The young players and others who have stepped in have contributed hugely to maintaining the Coyotes playoff push. None more so than Conor Garland a diminutive forward drafted 123rd in the 5th round by the Coyotes. He has come into the lineup and, despite struggling initially, has carved out an important role as an aggressive, chippy forward. A forward who is more than happy to mix it up in the dirty zone around the blue paint of the goal. Scoring dirty goals, even using his face recently! The other high point has been the continuing development of Clayton Keller, we’ve had talented rookies on the Coyote roster before, see Domi and Duclair who, after breakout seasons tended to then struggle and have been traded away. Keller had that breakout season last year and is continuing that fine form.

As a Coyote fan watching from abroad it’s been both a frustrating and rewarding season. Seeing the young group of rookies, assisted by veterans defying odd’s and expectations to still be in the playoff hunt is amazing. The longer they remain in contention, the more frustrating it could be if they fall away or even, how further up the table they could have been! One thing that the Coyotes are likely to top this season, other than the penalty kill tables…….the games lost to player injuries! Now, if only that could be factored into the draft lottery computer!!

Washington Re-Capitals: Week Nineteen

It’s Nicklas Backstrom’s Number Week, and the Washington Capitals celebrated their favorite soothsaying garden gnome by winning two of their three games. They did not celebrate Andre Burakovsky’s birthday, on which they lost by one goal in overtime to the sixth in the Atlantic Division Florida Panthers. When will this team learn what middle ground means?

In games three, four, and five of the season-record six game homestand, the Capitals faced Vancouver, Colorado, and Florida, and won somewhat predictably and lost as they usually do – after coming back two to three times in unpredictable and unexplainable ways and then falling flat on their faces at the last possible moments. While the Capitals in February are a lot easier to stomach than they were in early November, the last time they were five games into a homestand, there’s always room for improvement.

Continue reading Washington Re-Capitals: Week Nineteen

Washington Re-Capitals: Week Eighteen

Going into the All Star Break, the Capitals were losing, and losing badly. In the two games they’ve played since coming out of the All Star Break, the Capitals are 1-1 as they begin their longest homestand of the year. Better late than never?

We left our chaotically terrible boys in the midst of a seven game free fall that many worried that a week off could not shake. But after eight days off, the Washington Capitals returned rested and ready to shake off their past troubles, beating the Pacific Division leading Calgary Flames by one goal. Despite falling to the Boston Bruins in their second and final game of the week, the Caps are looking better than they did before the break.

Continue reading Washington Re-Capitals: Week Eighteen

Islanders Mid Season Review

Just before the new season began, Deadspin ran a “preview of every team, from best to Islanders.” While no serious outfit had the Isles pegged as the 31st best team in Hockey, most Islanders fans would have expected the season to include a respectable tilt at a play-off spot, probably losing out.

What has happened so far is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

We’re slightly over halfway through the season, and the Islanders sit top of the Metropolitan, three points and a game in hand over the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. They are the best team in hockey since December 15th. And no one really knows how they’ve done it, not when Mat Barzal is the teams only bona fide star (okay, you could make a case for Anders Lee too); after John Tavares snaked off to Toronto in the summer; when the roster is mostly made up of reasonable but frankly unspectacular veterans; after last seasons defence was league worst and then lost Calvin De Haan.

With the league on a break for the all-star game, I’m taking a look at some of the key points of this remarkable season so far:

Lou and Barry

Last June, Lou Lamoriello, the Islanders President of Hockey Operations made himself the teams General Manager. The team had finished seventh in the Metropolitan and a long way outside of the playoffs. He lost Tavares in free agency and added veterans Valtteri Filppula, Tom Kuhnhackl and Leo Komarov. His only trade was bringing back fourth line forward Matt Martin. Everyone, everyone questioned his strategy, but Lamoriello stuck to his belief that individual players don’t win Championships, teams win championships. It’d be easy to point to where the Islanders sit now as vindication of his methods; but the key to his reign was getting the reigning Stanley Cup Champion coach Barry Trotz (pictured) to coach the team.

trotz

The Islanders defence last season stank,and getting a defensive minded coach to join the team was a must, but getting a coach of Trotz’s nous and experience was massive. The players have brought into his systems completely and have gone from worst to first in their own zone, currently having the fewest goals against in the league. They are giving up around seven fewer shots per-game than last season and are defending the slot much better. They’re denying entry to their zone much better too going from 27th to 4th in entry denial. For a team which is light on offensive firepower, stopping the goals going in at the other end is vital. Under Trotz the Islanders are supremely organised and excel at frustrating opponents, keeping them wide or against the boards, denying them many scoring chances and hoping to nick just enough at the other end to win games. And it’s working.

The goatenders have benefitted from Trotz’s defensive strategies too. In Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner, many believed the Islanders had two good but unspectacular goaltenders too, but both are doing well under Trotz, especially Lehner, who currently leads the league in Goals Against Average and Save %. Greiss is hovering around the top ten in both categories.

King of Coliseum

The return to the Islanders’ traditional home of 43 years at Nassau Coliseum on December 1st seems to have been the catalyst for their remarkable form over the past couple of months. As mentioned they have the league best record since the 15th and have some impressive victories in that timespan (see below). They’re still alternating home games between the Coliseum and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn; but returning part-time to the passion, energy and the volume of their original home seems to given everyone that extra spring in their skates; and most fans would now prefer to play playoff games – assuming the Isles make it – in Fort Never Lose, rather than the higher capacity Barclays.

Anthony Beauvillier New York Islanders

They Can Win Key Games

They handled the emotional return to Nassau and gave the fans a rousing come from behind victory, they showed they could handle the pressure of important games then, and they showed it once more with a huge 4-0 away win in Toronto at the end of December. Ever since Tavares went to the Leafs in the off-season the first game between the two teams was once Islanders fans were waiting for – and possibly slightly dreading – but instead they left with an emphatic victory and a hat-trick from Mat Barzal. The roster obviously badly wanted to win and played like it. Revenge was sweet.

But beating the Tampa Bay Lightning was a real statement win and showed that on their day, the Islanders can raise to anyone’s game. Tampa Bay boasted – still do, in fact – the best record in the NHL when they came to the Barclays Center on January 12th, and the Isles were 3-0 up inside five minutes before closing the game out superbly en-route to a 5-1 win. They killed penalties, were aggressive and disciplined – and what is more, it was the fourth line which did the damage…

That Fourth Line

Starting the game with Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin on the Islanders emotional return to the Coliseum was more than a statement of intent and a nod to the history of the building; it was an acknowledgement that the fourth line is the living, beating heart of this team. They are its identity, as much as Barzal is the face of the franchise. The Islanders continue to play a smash-mouth, hard-nosed, rough and tough brand of hockey, and the CCM line exemplify this more than any.

When Martin returned from his year in Toronto, fans were excited about the three reuniting, hoping for the excellent chemistry and the aggressive hits to return; but they’ve been productive in terms of scoring points too.

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders

Martin already has more goals than last year and is on pace to break his personal best for points in a season, Clutterbuck could break his points barrier too, while Cizikas already is on a career high season, goals wise. As a recent example of what the line can contribute they combined for two goals and four assists in the pounding 5-1 win over Tampa Bay.

Four seasons on from being crowned the ‘Best fourth line in Hockey,’ they could well be again.

Youth Finds a Way (kind of)

At the beginning of the year the roster full of industrious and experienced veterans like Valtteri Filppula, Andrew Ladd, Leo Komarov and Cal Clutterbuck. There didn’t seem to be room for the likes of Josh Ho-Sang, Devon Toews, Kieffer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle. However, while we’re still waiting to see Bellows in the NHL the other three have all featured significantly in the last couple of months.

Toews has fully taken advantage of an injury to Thomas Hickey and his partnership on the blue-line with Scott Mayfield looks solid already. He looks like he belongs, has done since his first shift, and he’s contributed points too (5 in 15 games, good enough for a rookie defenceman), including a rocket in that Tampa Bay win and his first ever NHL goal was an overtime winner. It’d be a shock if he gets sent back down to the AHL once Hickey returns to fitness.

ho sang
No love for Ho-Sang

But it wouldn’t be the first shock roster decision of the season. Josh Ho-Sang has been up and down between the NHL and AHL over the last couple of years, but the recent decision to send him down again was a real surprise. Ho-Sang only had one goal in his ten game stint; but he was good for the team. Each of the forwards he played with registered higher points per game averages with Ho-Sang as a line mate; he had quality puck possession and made space for his partners to flourish. You can argue with a relatively weak defensive game he has to be a top-six player and the Isles might not have had room but that’s questionable. It’s the one baffling decision of the Lamoriello/Trotz regime so far. The management team stuck with Anthony Beauvillier with a one point in 16 game start to the season, and were rewarded with a purple patch in late November/early December; with that and the fact that Ho-Sang is blatantly too good for the AHL and you begin to wonder if he will ever get a fair shot in New York.

Dal Colle has quietly become a solid contributor to the third line, and has his first NHL goal now. While turning a fifth overall pick into a solid third line forward is poor value and will be enough to label Dal Colle a flop of that is all he is; after five years you take what you can get; and Dal Colle, in credit has certainly taken his latest chance and has played himself onto the regular gameday roster.

Powerplay Issues

The Islanders power-play is horrible. It is currently the 24th in the NHL and the Isles go through long periods of games with no goals to show when they have a man advantage, at one point being 1/28 and 5/54 on Powerplay opportunities.

People have criticised giving solid fourth line forward Cal Clutterbuck so much ice time on the powerplay, but in reality their aren’t really many better options for his spot, certainly not when Josh Ho-Sang is down in the AHL. The Islanders lack of offensive play-making spark really shows when they have a two minute window to make something happen.

Can it last?

Honestly…probably not. At least not at this level. The Islanders’ detractors point to a team which has poor puck possession, always comes out low on expected chances per-game and has a roster which, whilst experienced and very hard-working and undeniably well coached is pretty average, talent wise. They don’t tend to score highly and if they get into a hole they may lack the firepower to get out of it. They’ve rode their luck at times and have gotten away with it, and that is something they can’t do forever. They do have a league high PDO, which people normally attribute to a sign of a lucky rather than a good team: their policy of filling a roster with solid veterans might sound Moneyballian; but for those who are into their metrics – and defensive improvements aside – the Islanders success doesn’t really make much sense at all, when you look at the numbers.

I’d be very surprised (but delighted) if the Isles still top the Metro at the end of the year. But they should make the play-offs now, barring a significant collapse. Once there, they might not have enough to worry an opponent in a best-of-seven; but getting there would be beyond the expectations of fans at the start of the year.

We beat the Maple Leafs 4-0 in Toronto
Enjoy that, John?

Washington Re-Capitals: Week Seventeen

All Star Game weekend meant that I was proud of my hometown for a multitude of reasons, but mostly, I was proud of a former Norris winner and a current Norris candidate. And their last names both are (or sound like) Karlsson. 

The Capitals have lost seven games in a row, but, when they return from a well-deserved break on February 1st, they should do it with a little more vim and vigor. After a few players only meetings failed to break the skid, hopefully a break will. Who knows? Everything’s made of chaos and we all have to eat garbage occasionally. That’s just the way life is.

Continue reading Washington Re-Capitals: Week Seventeen