Tomas Vokoun and the 10 NHL Players to Wear the Strangest Numbers
When you think of the number 92 as a number for a professional athlete to sport, an NHL goaltender is not the first, second, or even twelfth position to probably come to your head. Well it has been confirmed that Tomas Vokoun, who was recently traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, will indeed be wearing number 92.
The reasoning behind this is quite simple.
Vokoun usually rocks the number 29 between the pipes, and because that number is already occupied by starting netminder Marc-Andre Fluery, Vokoun decided to reverse the digits and appear to be a defensive lineman in the net.
Only one other player has rocked the number 92 for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that man was Rick Tocchet in the year 1992 (oh, the irony).
So in honor of Vokoun, let's take a look at some of the other men who donned the strangest numbers in NHL history.
10. Alexei Yashin Goes With...79?
Alexei Yashin was a superstar in the NHL.
He compiled 781 points in 850 games during his time in the league, and was known for wearing the infamous number 19, although he wasn't the only big name in the league wearing that number at the time (Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, etc.)
However, when he was traded to the New York Islanders for the 2001-02 season, he couldn't wear number 19, as it had already been retired in honor of Bryan Trottier's illustrious career. Many thought he would just reverse the digits, but Yashin decided to go with the number 79.
The number 79 has only been worn by six players in NHL history, and the only other household name to wear it is Andrei Markov.
9. John Davidson Bets on Green...Takes Number 00
The number 00 has only been worn twice in NHL history. Martin Biron wore 00 for the 1996 season with the Buffalo Sabres, but only appeared in three games and had an 0-2 record.
The only other time the number appeared on an NHL surface was by goaltender John Davidson in his 1977-78 campaign with the New York Rangers. Davidson went 14-13-4 with a 3.18 GAA, which are far from fantastic numbers, but that season was the only time the number 00 was around for a substantial amount of time.
Fun Fact: Hall of Famer Bernie Parent wore number 00, but in the WHA, not the NHL.
8. Kevyn Adams Enjoys Sci-Fi Comedy...Chooses Number 42
A lot of NHL players have wore the number 42, but I think the story behind Kevyn Adams's choice to wear 42 could quite possibly be one of the most bizarre reasons to pick a number.
Here's Sports Illustrated's explanation:
"The Maple Leafs center was a fan of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy sci-fi comedy multi-media series in which 42 was said to be the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything."
7. Tomas Vokoun Wants to Play D-Line...Chooses 92
I understand why Tomas Vokoun is choosing to wear the number 92 this year, but that doesn't mean that it makes it any less strange. My guestimation is that around 95% of goaltenders in the history of the NHL have wore either number 1, 29, 30, 31, or 35.
Sure there have been some outliers throughout history, but when Pittsburgh fans think of number 92 in the black and gold, I'm pretty sure they'll be thinking of James Harrison well before Tomas Vokoun.
6. Jeremy Roenick Makes Number 97 Famous
Before Jeremy Roenick decided to wear the number 97 in 1996, the number had never been worn in the NHL. He wore the number 27 during his time with the Blackhawks from 1989-1996, but on August 16, 1996, Roenick was traded to the Pheonix Coyotes for Alexei Zhamnov and Craig Mills.
Teppo Numminen already had the number 27, so Roenick decided to go with 97 and the rest is history.
Since 1996, only Matt Gilroy, Rostislav Klesla, Per Ledin, and Esa Tikkanen have worn the number. But don't be surprised to see the number 97 worn more and more as time progresses due to the impact J.R. had on the NHL.
Fun Fact: In all-star games and international competition, Joe Thornton wears the number 97 as a tribute to Jeremy Roenick, as his own number,19, is usually taken.
5. Mario Lemieux Rivals Gretzky...Chooses 66
It's common knowledge to NHL fans that Wayne Gretzky's number 99 was retired by the entire NHL, but it is also almost an unwritten rule not to wear the number 66 in homage to Marvelous Mario.
When Lemieux entered into the NHL, it was expected that he would rival Gretzky throughout his career, and because of this, his agent suggested he wear the number 66, as it is 99 flipped upside down.
Lemieux obliged, and the rest, as they say, is history. There are still arguments as to who was more talented, Gretzky or Lemieux, even though Gretzky has more assists than anyone else has points throughout their career.
But the 99 vs. 66 battle is one that will go down in infamy.
Fun Fact: Besides Lemieux, four players have wore number 66...but none for more than a single season.
4. Jaromir Jagr Represents the Prague Spring with Number 68
Without Jaromir Jagr, the number 68 wouldn't mean anything when it came to the hockey world, or even the sporting world in general. Many people, myself included, will argue that Jagr is the best athlete in all of sports to ever wear the number 68.
Others have worn the number 68, the most illustrious person probably being Ziggy Palffy, but for 19 NHL seasons Jagr has stepped onto the ice representing it.
Why? Jagr wears number 68 to show pride for his home country of Czechoslovakia. 1968 was the year of the Prague Spring Rebellion, which is when Czechoslovakia opened up their borders to the west.
3. Mel Angelstad and Andrew Desjardins Get Freaky...Wear Number 69
Do I really have to explain why this is strange?
No one really knows the story behind Mel Angelstad's choice, but in an interview with Allison High, Andrew Desjardins laid out (no pun intended) this explanation as to why he wore the number.
"I actually didn’t choose it. When you come to camp, you get given a number, any one from one to 99 I guess. A lot of the younger guys and the rookies get the higher numbers that guys wouldn’t normally wear, like (Jamie) McGinn was 64, Benny Ferriero was 78. So then when I came it was just 69. They just gave it to me and after a certain amount of time they can’t change it. I don’t know if they were going to anyway, but I’m pretty sure (Head Equipment Trainer) Mike (Aldrich) said that. But I didn’t choose it; it was just given to me. What are you going to do? You can’t worry about it too much I guess."
So with this explanation one would think that he would change it for the 2011-12 season, right?
Nope. He still wears it.
2. Neil Sheehy Puts a Bagel on His Back
Neil Sheehy wore the number 0 when he played with the Hartford Whalers for the 1987-88 season, and to this day he is the only skater to ever wear the number.
He wasn't much of a goal scorer, as he only tallied 5 points in 26 games and had a minus-3 rating, but he was very effective with his enforcer skills.
His 116 penalty minutes over the same span means he was 14 minutes short of averaging one fighting major a game, and at 6'2" 215 lbs, he was definitely not a player to be messed with.
Fun Fact: Paul Bibeault is the only other NHL player to ever wear number 0. He started his career in 1940, and played for the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins.
1. Shawn Heins and Steve Heinze Show Homage to Ketchup...Wear Number 57
The epitome of hilarity, Shawn Heins and Steve Heinze both decided to go through with the play on words and have the back of their jerseys be pronounced "Heinz 57." The only way this might have been topped is if Mike Commodore decided to go with the number 64 as opposed to 22.
Heins only wore the number in 2003, while Heinze wore it from 2000-03, so needless to say, in the 2002-03 season there was a lot of free advertising flying around the NHL.
Fun Fact: Shawn Heins wore the number for the Pittsburgh Penguins, where ketchup was invented.