Sweaters numbers are synonymous with players. Most hockey fans can instantly tell you a great player by the number they wear on their back. There are many different stories about how players became associated with the famous numbers. Many odd and interesting facts surround these numbers as well. As we count down the start of the 2023-24 NHL season, we take a look at the story behind the numbers. Today we continue with sweater number 89. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 89
The Tale of Alexander Mogilny
According to Hockey Reference, there have been 23 NHL players that have worn sweater number 89. However, the best one may have been the first to wear the number. Alexander Mogilny wore 14 while with CSKA Moscow and was one of the best young Soviet players at the time. He formed one of the most feared lines with Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure. The Buffalo Sabres took the young Russian star with the 89th pick of the 1988 NHL Draft.
However, that’s when things really get dramatic. Mogilny and Sabres executive Don Luce hid from the KGB in Sweden to avoid detection while Mogilny defected. The harrowing game of cat-and-mouse should be made into its own movie. American officials finally were ready for Mogilny and gave him political asylum.
Mogilny decided to wear 89 because he was the 89th player taken and made his way to North American in 1989. He’d go onto to score 473 goals in 990 NHL games. The Russian winger would get a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils and won a Lady Byng Trophy. One would think those would be Hall of Fame numbers. However, voters have bungled Mogilny’s surefire induction for years.
Sam Gagner has played over 1.000 games while mostly wearing sweater number 89. The current Winnipeg Jets forward did have nine on his back during the 2014-15 Arizona Coyotes season. Pavel Buchnevich has worn the 89 jersey during his entire career with the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues. Buchnevich has 135 goals in 437 career NHL games.
Danish player Mikkel Bodker wore 89 for his entire 709-game NHL career. Darren Turcotte wore the number for three seasons between the Hartford Whalers and original Winnipeg Jets. Barclay Goodrow wore the number for two seasons with the San Jose Sharks before shifting to 19, 21 and 23. Mike Comrie wore the number for a number of seasons before wrapping up his career with 91 and 19, respectively.
The Future of 89
Another currently loved Sabres player has sweater number 89 and that’s Alex Tuch. The Baldwinsville, NY native grew up loving the team that was just down the Thruway. One would think the Sabres organization will get around to retiring 89 for Mogilny. However, Tuch is doing his best to live up to the massive expectations of that number.
Cam Atkinson is currently listed as having that number with the Philadelphia Flyers. Andreas Athanasiou is wearing the number with the Chicago Blackhawks. One hopes Nicholas Robertson can get over the injury bug and live up to the hype Toronto Maple Leafs fans have placed on him.
Sweater number 89 made a strong first impression with Mogilny. Could someone be waiting in the wings to carry the number forward?
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