The Numbers Post
For those of you who know me, maybe the only thing that I’m obsessed with more than the CBA is jersey numbers. I look forward to each new season to see what jersey numbers players are assigned, which players (if any) decided to switch to a lower or “favorite” number, and when the Canes make a trade, I’m one of the ones harassing Mike Sundheim to see what jersey number that new player is going to be wearing. Heck, I even follow a Twitter account dedicated to posting new jersey numbers for players across the league.
After working on my numbers spreadsheet (yes, I have a spreadsheet completely dedicated to Canes player numbers in the organization), I was going to post a few random things on Twitter when I realized I could probably squeeze an actual column out of this. So, if you’re jersey number obsessed like I am, enjoy.
- This season sees 20 new numbers assigned, and while most are a result of new players coming into the organization, a few have had numbers reassigned. Jesper Sellgren, who had been assigned #56 last season in development camp, was switched to #58 to give #56 to recent acquisition Erik Haula, who had worn the number previously with Vegas and Minnesota. #58 had previously been worn by Nicolas Roy, who coincidentally was traded to Vegas for Haula.
- Being assigned a new number is nothing new for Julien Gauthier, who is now on his third number since being drafted by the Canes in 2017. Gauthier was originally assigned #44, which he gave up last season when the Canes signed Calvin de Haan to a free agent contract. Gauthier switched to #21, which he then gave up later in the regular season when the Canes acquired Nino Niederreiter from Minnesota. Gauthier is now listed as #26, which has previously been worn by Ray Sheppard, Erik Cole, John-Michael Liles, and of course Matt “Klas Dahlbeck beat me out for a job” Tennyson. Gauthier’s true preferred number 12, which he wore in junior hockey and currently wears in Charlotte, isn’t going to happen (hi Eric).
- Niederreiter, when he was traded to the Hurricanes, found that his preferred #22 was not available, with Brett Pesce already wearing the number, having switched over from his originally assigned #54 after his first season with the Canes to the number he wore at the University of New Hampshire. Niederreiter elected to go with 21, presumably because it was the closest number to 22 that was available. Niederreiter had already been denied his preferred 22 in his first NHL stop, with the Islanders having retired it previously for Mike Bossy. Niederreiter wore #25 during his time on the Island, but the less said about that, the better.
- On many teams, single digit numbers are generally taken up by defensemen, if they haven’t been retired already. The Hurricanes only have two single digit numbers currently in use (#4 Haydn Fleury and the currently unsigned #8 Saku Maenalanen), but have only one single digit number retired – Glen Wesley’s #2. So what of the others? Despite the Hurricanes decision not to honor the Hartford Whalers retired jersey numbers when the team relocated, the team has never assigned Gordie Howe’s #9, and it’s assumed the team never will (though Gordie only took #9 to get a lower bunk on the team train). #3 was last worn by defenseman Steve Chiasson, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1999, and the team has taken it out of circulation since then. #1 is best known for goaltender Arturs Irbe, and the number has not been worn by a Canes goaltender since 2004, when Irbe played his final game with the Canes. Currently, numbers 5-7 are available, available to whatever random defenseman wants them (Chase Priskie, hello), though #7 has recently seen some use with forwards (Derek Ryan & Phil Di Giussepe). Or, go total chaos and give Sebastian Aho #6 and Jaccob Slavin #7.
- Speaking of Priskie, it’s unlikely he’ll get his preferred number, or at least the number he wore in college. The newest Hurricanes defenseman wore #13 while at Quinnipiac University, which is currently being worn by Warren Foegele, who himself switched from his originally assigned #37, which was given to Andrei Svechnikov. There was some discussion as to what number Svech would wear with the Hurricanes as his junior hockey number was already being worn by veteran team captain Justin Williams. Svechnikov selected #37, which is the number his older brother Evgeny wears for the Detroit Red Wings.
- Justin Williams wears his preferred #14 in his second tenure with the Hurricanes, but during his initial run he wore #11, the only time he’s worn that number during his NHL career. Williams’ #14 was unavailable at the time he was dealt to Carolina, with it already assigned to Kevyn Adams. Williams didn’t necessarily have an attachment to #14 (he told the Athletic’s Sara Civian that he was given three number choices by the Flyers and he liked 14 best out of them), and he wore #21 for Plymouth during his junior hockey days, so there’s a chance that #11 could have been the number Justin Williams was known for – had Anze Kopitar not already been wearing it for the Los Angeles Kings at the time he was traded there by Carolina. Williams went back to the #14 he wore in Philadelphia, won two Stanley Cups in seven seasons with the Kings, and has worn #14 ever since.