The Number on the back
How important is the number on the back of a hockey player? Not as much as the crest on the front, but still enough for players, if they are famous enough, to use that number in their autographs. It becomes a part of their brand identity, cherished and sometimes negotiated for as players move from club to club. Many hockey fans will argue (especially Oilers fans) that number 99, the one carried by Wayne Gretzky through his illustrious career is the best number.
Others will add 87 (Sydney Crosby), often with the Olympic gold-winning goal from 2010 in their minds. Or recognize the brilliant skill set of Russian star, Alex Ovechkin (8). Jágr’s number 68 would top out the variety list, given that he played for nine NHL teams over his 28-year career finishing with Calgary in 2018 (and the Travelling Jagrs might believe he can still hang out some more?). And who could forget Bobby Orr Number Four, recite that phrase and stir up memories of one of sport’s most iconic photographs?
But if integration of name and number is what you’re looking for, it doesn’t get better than the number 22 worn by Canadian professional hockey player, Jordin Tootoo.
Numbers out of the Hat
Even in the minor hockey leagues, the number on the back is worn with pride and often sought out again and again as the young players make their way up from Timbits to Novice, from Atom to Peewee and through to Bantam and Midget. Of course, with rivalries for the same numbers within the same team, players sometimes have to transition to new identities-as defined by their numbers. A draw “out of the hat” in the dressing room usually settles the contest although, in the younger years, there are sometimes tears when that lucky number is picked up by another player.
In recent years, number 12 was popular amongst the forwards in Calgary minor hockey teams as youngsters were inspired by the captain of the Calgary Flames, Jerome Iginla. With his departure and the arrival of Johnny Gaudreau, number 13 has become more appealing, although some jersey sets still have the 13 missing. Who said that superstition has gone? By the way, did you know that Johnny Hockey’s birthday lands on August 13? Coincidence?
Portraits and Numbers
I created a series of portraits inspired by these numbers. You can view the full set on my photo website-follow this link to J. Ashley Nixon Communications. The players are all young women from the Girls Hockey Calgary Bantam AA Fire White team, who play in the Alberta Female Elite Bantam Hockey League. With thanks to Global Sport Academy for the jersey and team sponsorship.
What’s your favourite sports number?
What’s your favourite hockey or other sports number? Is it for good luck, a recognition of a player or something else? Let me know!