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 8. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 8
According to Hockey Reference, 453 players have worn sweater number 8 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. All of the Original Six teams had someone wearing the number during that 1950-51 season. Sid Smith of the Toronto Maple Leafs netted 30 goals in that campaign. Hall of Famers Bill Mosienko and Allan Stanley each had the number for that year as well.
The number eight has been synonymous with a team’s top scorer or playmaker. There have been a number of great players to don sweater number 8 over the years. The lower numbers in the countdown will feature on defence, but eight is considered to be a mostly forward-based number.
There are always a number of players that wore sweater number 8 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Tie Domi had number eight to start his second stint with the Maple Leafs. Fellow enforcer Stu Grimson ended his career in Nashville with that number. Phil Kessel took the number eight with the Vegas Golden Knights. Vincent Lecavalier actually started off with number eight before settling on the number four.
Rob Ramage had the number for two seasons in Toronto. Kevin Shattenkirk donned the number with the Colorado Avalanche. Miracle on Ice player Dave Silk had the number for a season with Detroit. Keith Tkachuk carried the numeral with the Atlanta Thrashers at the end of his career. Ray Whitney wore the number in the 1997-98 season with the Edmonton Oilers.
The Great Eight
Alex Ovechkin is the choice for the best to wear sweater number 8. The Russian came onto the scene in the 2005-06 season and won the Calder Trophy with a great rookie season with the Washington Capitals. Ovechkin netted 52 goals and recorded 106 points. The left winger has never scored less than 24 goals in a season and is chasing down Wayne Gretzky‘s goal-scoring record.
Ovechkin finally got his Stanley Cup in 2018 and has amassed nine Maurice Richard Trophies, thee Hart Trophies, an Art Ross Trophy and was a 12-time All-Star. He took the number eight because his mother, Tatania, was a two-time gold-medal winning women’s basketball player. His mom wore the number eight with the Soviet basketball team and it was a natural number for him.
Other Great 8s
Cam Neely was a great number eight, but injuries cut short his career. Teemu Selanne was known to be a great 13, but also had a solid career in the number eight sweater. Igor Larionov, Larry Murphy, Barclay Plager, Ken Hodge, Mark Recchi and Dick Duff were just a number of players that wore the number eight.
There are plenty of players that are currently putting up great showings with the number. Cale Makar, Jacob Trouba, Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Brian Dumoulin, Conor Garland and Zach Werenski are each wearing the number at the moment. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s next edition of our sweater number countdown.
Main photo by: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports