The number "9" is of mythic proportions to the game of hockey. The sacred number has been associated with numerous legends of the game.
Think of it as a secret "Da Vinci Code" for the NHL to identify prolific players, but without Tom Hanks or the crappy movie. I have officially decided that "Top 10" lists are pretty played out.
So to keep with the theme, I have decided to give a "Top 9 of the 9's of Hockey," with a couple surprises and rule-bends along the way. Just in time for the end of '09. Enjoy.
I felt the need to include Paul Kariya's full Japanese name, because let's face it, it's pretty awesome.
Paul Kariya squeaked his way onto the No. 9 spot of the list by being a solid playmaker with superb point totals over the years.
He is currently creeping his way towards 400 goals and 1,000 points.
All Kariya needs now is a Stanley Cup to put an exclamation point on an otherwise solid career.
A trade away from the St. Louis Blues would be a great first step to making that happen.
Fun Fact: Along with Paul Kariya, Mike Modano makes this the second player on our list to make a guest appearance in a Mighty Ducks movie.
As the All-time leading scorer among Americans, this No. 9 is surely headed to the hall of fame after retirement.
Fortunately, Modano already has a Stanley Cup Championship and a hot wife.
Google Images: "Willa Ford" if you don't believe me, but not right now, wait until after you finish the slideshow.
What a stache! With a mustache like that, Lanny McDonald had two choices: become a hockey player or a 1980's porn star.
Calgary Flames fans are sure glad he went with the first option. He put up 500 goals in his career and brought a championship to the Flames. His No.
9 now hangs in the rafters in Calgary.
What? I know what you are thinking. Where's the 9? Hear me out. As the story goes: 99 was already made popular by some other guy, so Mario was advised by his agent to flip 99 upside down and take 66.
This adds to the lore and importance of the number 9, even in alternate forms.
Super Mario's career was illustrious, but wondering just how good a fully healthy Mario Lemieux would have been still keeps many people up at night.
Now, if only we could get a player to combine these two and wear number 69...
Wait! I present to you Mel "the Mangler" Angelstad. The first and last player to wear number 69 in the NHL. Mel, I salute you.
You only played two games in the NHL, but your bold choice of number alone is enough to earn you a spot among this list of legends.
"The Golden Jet" went down in history as one of the greatest wingers to ever play the game.
Hull possessed a near 120 mph slapshot at a time when goalies were still wondering whether they should wear masks. That's frightening.
He also brought the Chicago Blackhawks their most recent Stanley Cup...in 1961.
Fun Fact: Brett Hull, famously a No. 16, honored thy father by sporting No. 9 for the last 5 games of his career.
Maurice Richard is the most revered player of hockey's most celebrated franchise, the Montreal Canadiens.
An entire city broke out in riots when he was suspended in 1955. Will Washington show this sort of devotion for the next Ovechkin suspension?
Richard's state funeral drew 115,000 people to the Molson Centre.
He was the first player to notch 50 in 50, and won 8 Stanley Cup Championships; all while wearing 9, the number he donned after the birth of his 9-pound daughter. How sweet.
Fun Fact: The movie "The Rocket" is nine times better than "Da Vinci Code."
His nickname is Mr. Hockey. He even has his own hat trick named after him. You can't get much more legendary than that.
The true hockey iron-man, Howe is about due for another one game comeback, like in 1997 with the Detroit Vipers.
Clean the rust off your skates Gordie, because it looks like the Red Wings might be able to use you this season.
Fun Fact: So, what made Gordie Howe take the holy No. 9? Was the message sent from a hockey god in a dream? Birthday of someone special? Did it appear in the clouds while driving to Detroit?
None of the above. The number entitled him to a lower bunk on the railroad. You gotta love a man that's practical like that.
Two 9's are better than one. That was the suggestion from Gretzky's junior coach Muzz MacPherson at Sault Ste. Marie.
Wayne, of course wanted the No. 9 of his lower-bunk loving idol Gordie Howe, but it was taken.
At the time, they didn't know this would become the most poignant choice of number in the history of sports.
Even if the NHL hadn't retired his number 99 league wide, no player would feel worthy enough to wear it.
The Great One can rest assured that his jersey number, like most of his records, is untouchable. Hockey's greatest player gets two 9's.
It should be noted interestingly enough that number 19, which contains a 9, might be the second most prominent number among hockey icons. That will be discussed another day.
Honorable Mention goes to the likes of Johnny Bucyk, Andy Bathgate, Ted Kennedy, Glenn Anderson, Clark Gillies, Charlie Conacher, Adam Graves and Bernie Nicholls.
Other Current Notable 9's: Zach Parise, New Jersey; Derek Roy, Buffalo; Milan Michalek, Ottawa; Nik Hagman, Toronto; Evander Kane, Atlanta; Stephen Weiss, Florida; Matt Duchene, Colorado; Mikko Koivu, Minnesota; Bobby Ryan, Anaheim.
Now you are free to Google Willa Ford...