Sweater 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 73. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 73
The First 73s
According to Hockey Reference, there have been 41 players that have worn sweater number 73 in NHL history. The first player to wear 73 was Alain Cote with the Quebec Nordiques in the 1993-94 season. This would be his last season in the NHL and he would play just six games for the Nords.
The next player to don the number was Matt Elich with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He had worn 42 in his first eight games with Tampa Bay. However, he’d switch over to 74 for the eight games he played in the 2000-01 season.
The Midnight Ryder
The next player to take sweater number 73 was Newfoundland native Michael Ryder. He broke into the league in the 2003-04 season with the Montreal Canadiens. Ryder was a two-time 30-goal scorer with the Habs and became a fan favourite. He’d sign with the Boston Bruins, but he’d make his way back to the Canadiens in 2012-13 after a trade with the Dallas Stars.
There was some worry that he wouldn’t get his number back, but then-rookie Brendan Gallagher stepped up. Gallagher was wearing 73, but quickly gave Ryder his number back without hesitation. Some players often get compensation when they give up their jersey number to someone else. Gallagher quipped that “Rolex makes nice watches.”
Ryder finished his career with 237 goals in his 11-year NHL career. He did finish second in the Calder Trophy voting in the 2003-04 season.
There was another Habs player that took sweater number and that’s Tyler Toffoli. The Scarborough, Ontario native started with the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks before a brief time with the Canadiens. Toffoli has established himself as quite the forward in his 11-year career. He’s got 227 career goals and a Stanley Cup to his name.
The choice between Ryder and Toffoli as the top player to wear sweater number 73 was a hard one. Ryder has more goals, but Toffoli is about ready to take over that mantle. He’s going to be a factor for the New Jersey Devils this season.
The Future of 73
Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy might have a say in who the best 73 when all is said and done. Adam Erne has worn the number for seven seasons and will continue to do so for the Detroit Red Wings. Connor Sheary had the number for a few seasons and will do so with the Lightning next season. Pierre-Olivier Joseph has been solid for the Pittsburgh Penguins and got 75 games of action.
There have been some good players that wore sweater number 73 and there may be more coming. The league has a few players with the number as well.
Main photo by: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports