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 15. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 15
The First 15s
According to Hockey Reference, 511 players have worn sweater number 15 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 at least one player in that number. Two Hall of Famers had the number in that season. Bert Olmstead scored 16 goals for the Montreal Canadiens, but we’ll talk about the other one later.
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 15. 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 15 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Toronto Maple Leafs Hall of Famer George Armstrong wore the number 1952 and 1955 before settling on 10. Todd Gill wore 15 in his first spell with the Detroit Red Wings. Brett Hull wore 15 with the Calgary Flames and so did Martin St. Louis. Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay ended his career with sweater number 15 in Detroit.
Maurice Richard was actually number 15 for the Candiens, but would find his way into the number nine sweater. Builder Glenn Sather had 15 with the St. Louis Blues for the 1974-75 season. Derek Steppan was 15 with the Ottawa Senators. Jack Eichel had 15 for three seasons before switching over to nine for the Buffalo Sabres.
We go to the wayback machine for the best to wear sweater number 15. The Boston Bruins Milt Schmidt has been regarded as the greatest player to don the digits. Schmidt was part of the famed “Kraut Line” with fellow Hall of Famers Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer. The trio were childhood friends and that chemistry would show on the ice. Schmidt would serve for the Royal Canadian Air Force with Dumart and Bauer. The war had the three players lose out on the prime part of their career.
Schimdt would return for the 1946 season and would win the Hart Trophy in 1951. He would become coach and general manager for the team as well. The Kitchener, Ontario native would win two Stanley Cups and make the 100th anniversary team. Schmidt said there was no story behind the number and that it was just assigned to him.
Other 15s and the Future
There have been plenty of other great 15s through the history of the league. Players like Eric Nesterenko, Jim Nielson and John MacLean have worn sweater number 15. Nesterenko played with the Chicago Black Hawks for most of his career in 15. Nielson and MacLean each played 1,000 games in the league in their respective careers. Four-time Stanley Cup winner Bobby Rousseau also wore the number for many seasons.
Players like Alex Newhook hope to carry on the number 15 with his new team in Montreal. The number 15 has a long and rich tradition and these traditions will get richer as we close in on the start of the season.
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