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 19. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 19
The First 19s
According to Hockey Reference, 443 players have worn sweater number 19 since since jersey records were kept in the 1950-51 season. However, it does not list any players before then that may have taken the number. Hockey Reference lists all of the Original Six with Joe Klukay of the Toronto Maple Leafs getting to most goals with 14 that season.
As we draw closer to the end of the countdown, we’ll focus more the big-name players that wore the number. We’ll also give more attention to the players that briefly wore sweater number 20. This series will also take a look at the future of the number and who may carry the digits.
There are always a number of players that wore sweater number 19 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Chicago Black Hawks Hall of Famer Bert Olmstead started off in 19 before moving onto 15. Hall of Fame builder Keith Allen had that number for the Detroit Red Wings. Future NHL head coach Terry Crisp donned the digits for the St. Louis Blues. Jeff Friesen carried the number for a short time in San Jose. Another HoF builder in Brian Kilrea wore the number with the Los Angeles Kings.
Mason Marchment had sweater number 19 with Florida for a season. Michael Peca had two seasons with the number with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tomáš Plekanec played his one number in Toronto as number 19. Jarret Stoll wore the number for a season in Minnesota.
Sakic and Yzerman
This is one of the true dead heats when it comes to the best player to wear sweater number 19. Both Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman will be linked together through the Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche rivalry. They were both captains of talented teams. Both players were complete and could get it done on both ends of the ice. Yzerman won three Stanley Cups while Sakic won two. The two would end up being successful executives after their playing days. Yzerman put together the Tampa Bay Lightning club that is still rolling to this day. Sakic led the Avalanche to their most recent Stanley Cup.
Yzerman chose 19 because of his appreciation for Bryan Trottier. He was 14 and 15 before 19 would become more common. Sakic actually had to wait until his second season to get 19 due to Alain Cote. The Burnaby, British Columbia native never looked back after that. Sakic wore 88 in his first season with the Quebec Nordiques.
Other 19s and the Future
We already mentioned Trottier, but there were plenty of players that wore sweater number 19 well. Defenceman Larry Robinson was one of the best blueliners to wear the number. Hall of Famer Jean Ratelle had it for the New York Rangers. Brendan Shanahan wore 19 for part of his career with the Blues. Other great players were Rick MacLeish, Butch Goring, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews, Paul Henderson and Brad Richards.
Main photo by: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images/NHLI