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 13. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 13
The Unlucky 13
According to Hockey Reference, 133 players have worn sweater number 13 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. Normally we’d take a look at the players that donned the sweater in the early days of hockey. However, the number sort of disappeared. The number was worn by a handful of players in the 1920s and 30s according to The Hockey News. However, hockey is a superstitious game and many avoided the number until the mid 1970s.
Jack Stoddard, a forward who played for the New York Rangers from 1951-53, was one of the only players to carry the number for many years. It took until Robins Burns in 1974-75 with the Kansas City Scouts to wear the number. However, Burns struggled defensively and the Scouts became the Colorado Rockies. It took until Ken Linseman winning a Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s to shatter the stigma.
There are always a number of players that wore sweater number 13 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Valeri Bure wore 13 for two seasons with the St. Louis Blues. Pierre-Luc Dubois was 13 with the Winnipeg Jets before switching to 80 in honour of a fallen friend. Geoff Sanderson started his NHL career with 13 with the Hartford Whalers. Alex Tanguay was 13 for two seasons. Alexander Kerfoot had the number for two seasons with the Colorado Avalanche.
The more-recent history with the number lends it to having not as many cameos as other number. However, the league getting over superstition has given some great choices for the best to wear sweater number 13.
The Magic Man
The race for being the top to wear 13 was a tough one. Some wanted Mats Sundin to get the honour, but others think Pavel Datsyuk should get the call. We want with the magic man of the Detroit Red Wings for his all-around great play. However, Sundin scored more goals (564) or points (1,349) while wearing the number for his whole career. Bardown even broke down the intense debate between the Swede and the Russian.
Datsyuk actually switched his number to 24 for a time in honor of the late Ruslan Salei. The Russian was one of the most complete players in NHL history and won two Stanley Cups. Datsyuk was a great defensive player with three Selkes, but also a clean player with four Lady Byng Trophies. He’d go home to Russia after 2016, but the Magic Man with the silky mitts was a memorable player.
There were other great 13s in the league like Teemu Selanne. However, he was pretty famous for donning the numeral eight. Vyacheslav Kozlov wore the 13 in Detroit before Datsyuk came to Motown. Other great players like Pavel Kubina, Bill Guerin and Ray Whitney also wore the number.
Main photo by: Tom Pidgeon /Allsport