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Behind the Sweater Number: No. 88

Patrick Kane Trade

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 88. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.

Behind the Sweater Number: 88

The First 88

According to Hockey Reference, sweater number 88 has been worn by 33 players in NHL history. Some may think that Eric Lindros was the first player to wear 88. However, the first recorded number 88 is Ken Hodge with the New York Rangers. Hodge wore 88 for two seasons with the Blueshirts. The Birmingham, United Kingdom native had worn 14 and eight in previous stops.

Hodge netted 21 goals in his first season with the Rangers, but he tailed off in the 1977-78 season. He was demoted to AHL New Haven before retiring. He would play for Birmingham in the AHL before hanging up his skates after the 1979-80 season. Rocky Trottier, the brother of Bryan Trottier, wore the number 88 with the New Jersey Devils in the 1983-84 season.

The Great 88 Debate

Eric Lindros

Lindros quickly took Hodge’s mantle of the best 88 when he broke into the league with the Philadelphia Flyers. The top draft pick of the 1991 NHL Draft chose 88 in honour of friend and mentor John McCauley, who was an NHL official. McCauley wore eight while he a league official, but died at the age of 44. Current referee Wes McCauley is the son of John McCauley.

Lindros had a career shortened by injuries, but put together a Hall of Fame career. The London, Ontario native scored 372 goals and won a Hart Trophy. It’s sad to imagine what his career might have been if he stayed healthy. However, Lindros put together a great career.

It’s Showtime Patrick Kane

The mantle of the great 88 might now belong to Patrick Kane. The Buffalo native was taken with the 88th pick of the 2004 OHL Draft. Kane was also born in 1988 and has put together a great NHL career already.

He already has three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks and won the Calder Trophy in 2007-08. The former top pick of the 2007 NHL Draft also has a Conn Smythe, Hart and Art Ross Trophies to his name. Kane already has 451 goals to his name and may finish his career as the greatest American NHLer and best to wear sweater number 88.

Current Great 88s

Kane doesn’t have a monopoly on greatest with the number. David Pastrnak put up 61 goals this season with the Boston Bruins while William Nylander is a key part of the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning has two Stanley Cups and Vezina Trophy to his name. It’s not traditional for a goalie to wear sweater number 88, but he’s making the number his own.

Andrew Mangiapane has won an IIHF World Championship with Team Canada and is a valuable member of the Calgary Flames. Martin Necas is a valuable member of the Carolina Hurricanes and Nate Schmidt has nearly 600 games while wearing 88.

Past 88s

Both Joe Sakic and Owen Nolan wore 88 with the Quebec Nordiques for a short time. Jarome Iginla had sweater number 88 while with the Los Angeles Kings in the 2016-17 season.

Brent Burns also wore that number for many years with the San Jose Sharks before coming over to the Hurricanes. Burns shifted over to eight, which was his old number with the Minnesota Wild.

The Future of 88

Players like Kane, Pastrnak, Nylander and Vasilevskiy are very popular and will inspire another generation of young skaters. Youngsters will often don numbers that inspire them and it’s the same with this group.

There are some great players wearing sweater number 88. However, we see more in the future.

Main photo by: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports


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