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 12. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 12
The First Proper No. 12s
According to Hockey Reference, 468 players have worn sweater number 12 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. Hall of Famer Sid Abel scored 23 goals and got 61 points for the Detroit Red Wings in that season. It’s a big jump from unlucky 13.
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 12. 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 12 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Hall of Famer Fern Flaman wore 12 for a couple of seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fellow Hall of Fame players Andy Bathgate and Jean Beliveau would also have stints with the number 12. Marcel Dionne ended his stint in Detroit with the number 12 before going to the Los Angeles Kings. Phil Esposito also started with the New York Rangers in 12 before making the switch to 77.
Dale Hawerchuk had 12 with the St. Louis Blues. Sergei Samsonov took on sweater number 12 with the Edmonton Oilers. Cory Stillman had the sweater for two seasons with the Blues. Rick Vaive had the sweater for a season with the Buffalo Sabres.
Many great players have worn sweater number 12, but Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames stands out among the best. Iginla was actually drafted by the Dallas Stars, but came over as a part of the Joe Nieuwendyk deal and became a franchise icon. The Edmonton native played over 1,554 games and won two Maurice Richard Trophies. Iginla also won the Art Ross Trophy in 2002 and also earned the King Clancy and Mark Messier Trophies in his storied career.
He actually started off his career with 24, but made the switch to 12. Iginla actually switched to 88 at the end of his career with the Kings. He actually wanted to wear 11 with the Kamloops Blazers as a 16-year-old rookie, but was given 12. Iginla was a big fan of Mark Messier, but the number 12 stuck with Iginla. He won two Memorial Cups with the Blazers and got 12 back when Paul Kruse was traded.
Plenty of great players have also worn the numeral 12. Dickie Moore was the choice for the best 12 in Scott Morrison’s By the Number book. Players like Adam Oates, Yvan Cournoyer, Wayne Cashman and Gord Drillon also donned the digits. Adam Graves was 12 for the Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers. Pat Stapleton, Peter Bondra and Mike Fisher each made a career of wearing sweater number 12.
Players like Eric Staal, Jordan Greenway and others are currently carrying the number. The countdown is only going to get more intense as we draw closer to the upcoming season. Stay tuned the number 11 tomorrow.
Main photo by: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images