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Behind the Sweater Number: No. 35

Tony Esposito; sweater number 35

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

Behind the Sweater Number: 35

The First 35s

According to Hockey Reference, 211 players have worn sweater number 35 since since jersey records were kept in the 1950-51 season. Hockey Reference lists Fern Rivard as the first player to wear the number with the Minnesota North Stars. Rivard took the number for 13 games in the 1968-69 season and would keep the number for his entire 55-game NHL career. He only won nine games during his NHL career that ended in the 1974-75 season.

Rivard and one other player would wear the number in the 1969-70 season, but we’ll get into that other player in a while. The next season of 1970-71 saw Gilles Gilbert have the number with the North Stars. Michel Belhumeur of the Philadelphia Flyers would be next to take sweater number 35 in 1972-73. Belhumeur would actually wear 30 before and after the one season with 35.


There are always a number of players that wore sweater number 35 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Sergei Bobrovsky started his NHL career in Philadelphia as number 35 before finding a new number. Jim Corsi (yes, that one) wore the number with the Edmonton Oilers before becoming famous for other reasons. New York Rangers goalie John Davidson wore the number before settling on 00 and 30. Enforcer Stu Grimson had the number in a stint with the Calgary Flames.

Washington Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig started with the number, but would find his way over to number 37. Evgeni Nabokov started off with sweater number 35 before making his way to becoming 20. Chris Osgood was 35 with the New York Islanders in between being 30 most of his career. Tomáš Plekanec started his Montreal Canadiens career with 35 before converting to 14. Kevin Weekes had 35 as one of his numbers before his life as a hockey insider.


The player picked as the best to wear sweater number 35 is Tony Esposito of the Chicago Black Hawks. He’s the only player in NHL history to be a Hall of Famer with that number. (That may change in the next couple of years.) Esposito played for Chicago from 1969 until 1984. The netminder is eighth in NHL history in starts (874), ninth in games played, 10th in wins and tied for 10th in shutouts (76). The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native won a Stanley Cup with Montreal, but was taken by Chicago in the intra-league draft.

Esposito won the Calder Trophy for best rookin in 1969-70 and the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender three times (1969-70, 1971-72 and 1973-74). He was a rock with the team in the Madhouse on Madison. The goalie was revolutionary with the butterfly style and is one of the all-time greats. Esposito was 423-306-152 with a 2.93 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and 76 shutouts in 886 games.

Other 35s

Sweater number 35 has seen plenty of goalies win plenty of Stanley Cups and other awards. Mike Richter broke the Rangers 54-year curse with a great run 1994. Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne was a stalwart for that franchise. Tom Barrasso was recently elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame for his exploits.

Jean-Sébastien Giguère won a Conn Smythe for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim despite losing in the Stanley Cup Final. Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings put together a strong career. Nikolai Khabibulin won 333 games in nearly 800 career starts in the league. Andy Moog won three Stanley Cups and a Jennings Trophy and Cory Schneider also posted a long career in the league.

Main photo by: Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images


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