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 40. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 40
The First 40s
According to Hockey Reference, 197 players have worn sweater number 40 since since jersey records were kept in the 1950-51 season. Hockey Reference lists Rogie Vachon and Terry Richardson as the first players to do the digits. Richardson was wrapping up his career with the St. Louis Blues and played only one game in the sweater. Vachon was in the middle of a Hall of Fame career and had the number with the Detroit Red Wings. The former Vezina Trophy winner would move onto number 30 in the same season.
Former Olympic gold medalist Mark Pavelich would have the number in the 1981-82 season with the New York Rangers. He’d end top five in the Calder Trophy and score 133 career goals with the Blueshirts. Tony Cassolato of the Washington Capitals had the number for 12 games in the final season of his career.
There are always a number of players that wore sweater number 40 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Tie Domi‘s first stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs saw him wear 40, but would switch up to the trademark 28 in his second go-around. Ted Donato would wrap up his Boston Bruins career with the number 40. Roman Hamrlík played for the Rangers with number 40. Guy Hebert started his career with the Blues as a number 40.
Uwe Krupp was in sweater number 40 in his tenure with the Buffalo Sabres. Vincent Lecavalier moved on from his trademark number four to 40 in his two-plus seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers. Darryl Sydor started his career with the Los Angeles Kings as number 40. Goalie Ron Tugnutt was in sweater number 40 for the start of his Quebec Nordiques. Fellow goalie Bill Ranford ended his career with 40 as a member of the Red Wings roster. Robin Lehner started off as a 40, but switched over to 90 when he moved to the Vegas Golden Knights.
One of the most well-known players to wear sweater number 40 is Henrik Zetterberg. The Swede came into the league in the 2002-03 and was a runner-up in the Calder Trophy voting. Zetterberg would establish himself as one of the better defensive forwards in the league. He would win the Conn Smythe Trophy in the 2007-08 season as he’d help the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup.
The Swede would become captain and be a consistent leader for the Red Wings. Injuries claimed the end of Zetterberg’s career, but he was one of the quintessential players in franchise roster. He may not have gotten points like Sidney Crosby and other stars. However, he was a great player that should get his number retired.
Other 40s and the Future
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask is in the conversation for one of the greatest 40s in league history. Rask won the Vezina in 2013-14 and earned 308 career victories before recently retiring. Devan Dubnyk was another solid goalie that wore 40 as is Semyon Varlamov.Patrick Lalime won 200 games in net while wearing sweater number 40.
The number 40 will be loved in Michigan and Massachusetts because of the great players that wore them. Both Zetterberg and Rask had lengthy careers in the NHL and were role model players.
Main photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images