I always thought Nick Foligno wore No. 71 with the Ottawa Senators because his father Mike wore that number when he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I assumed it was a nice tribute to his dad. After all, Nick has fond memories of going to Maple Leaf Gardens when he was five or six-years old and watching his dad play for Toronto. But it turns out that Nick didn’t actually choose No. 71 when he came to Ottawa.
So it got me thinking: How did the players end up with the jersey numbers they are wearing now?
In this week’s blog entry, I had a chance to ask every member of the Senators team about the number on their back.
Jared Cowen No. 2: “When I grew up, I actually wore No. 10 — that was my favourite number. And then I changed towns to play hockey and I was No. 5, but not by choice. The next year, both No. 5 and No. 10 were taken, so I switched to No. 2. There is nobody that wears that number that I like and I don’t wear it in honour of anybody. There’s no special reason.”
Chris Phillips No. 4: “I started with No. 5 because Sean Hill was wearing No. 4 when I was first here. We traded him halfway through the season and I decided to make the switch. I was more familiar with No. 4 and some pretty distinguished players have worn that number. It was an opportunity to change at that time and I did it. But there was no history before that really — I think I had it in the World Juniors in my first year because they gave me that number. But all through juniors I was No. 6, No. 7 or No. 77. I was looking at my old No. 5 Sens jersey the other day and it really looked funny.”
Brian Lee No. 5: “I was always No. 19 or No. 22 growing up, but those were off-limits here because of Spezza and Kelly. So I picked No. 5 because that’s the number my brother was wearing at his college. No. 55 was just a training camp number they gave me here and I wore it for a couple of years.”
David Rundblad No. 7: “Actually, it was my first year in the Swedish Elite League and we came home from a national team tournament after a trip. I walked into the locker room and they had my jersey hanging up and it just said Rundblad No. 7. I didn’t care too much about the number I had, but I’ve been wearing it for a couple of years now.”
Milan Michalek No. 9: “I went to San Jose and made the team out of training camp and they gave me the choice of three numbers. I chose No. 9 because I wore it when I was younger for one or two years.”
Daniel Alfredsson No. 11: “It was pretty simple actually. I had No. 63 in my first training camp and once I made the team, our equipment manager told me I could choose between No. 11 and No. 22. It was between me and Antti Tormanen — the Finnish rookie — and he let me pick first. I had never worn No. 11 before, except in soccer, but I didn’t like No. 22. So I took No. 11 and Tormanen got No. 22.”
Colin Greening No. 14: “I actually wanted No. 15, but Zack Smith has that number. So I chose No. 14 because I was just trying to get as close to No. 15 as possible. There’s no real secret to it — No. 15 was a really special number to me growing up and I had it in college. So for me, it was either No. 15 or as close as I could get to it. When I was a kid, I was actually a big Doug Gilmour fan and I had a couple of No. 93 jerseys. But I wasn’t really a big fan of that number and Zibanejad had it in camp anyway.”
Zack Smith No. 15: “There’s no significance really. I’ve worn No. 15 since I was like 13 or 14-years old, so I was really fortunate to be able to get it up here.”
Bobby Butler No. 16: “When I signed here, the equipment guys told me that usually new guys get pretty funky numbers — but they were going to take care of me. So No. 16 was the closest to No. 12 — which is what I wore before along with No. 15. So I’m pretty happy with No. 16 right now. I wouldn’t want to switch to anything else. It just felt comfortable to come to a new level and switch to a new number.”
Filip Kuba No. 17: “There’s no special meaning behind it — although there are some really good players who have played for the Czech national team who wore that number. I started with No. 29 in my first couple of years in Florida. And then into my fourth year I wanted to change something, so I went to No. 17. And since then, it’s always looked pretty good.”
Jesse Winchester No. 18: “It was just given to me when I got here. I was No. 14 growing up for as long as I could remember. But No. 18 was free when I first got here and they offered it to me. I wasn’t in the position to make any demands, so I gladly accepted it and I love it.”
Jason Spezza No. 19: “I always wore No. 9 as a kid. It was my favourite number for some reason. But I idolized Steve Yzerman — he was one of the guys I looked up to and I liked the way he played. My uncle actually played junior with Yzerman and I got a chance to meet him when I was a young kid. After that, I always wore No. 19. Once I got here, I couldn’t wear No. 9 or No. 19, so I started out wearing No. 39. I had to wear No. 44 in the pre-season here one year and I really hated it. No. 44 is a defenceman’s number. So I was really happy to settle back into No. 19 when it became available again.”
Erik Condra No. 22: “I wore No. 11 throughout college and minor hockey and even in Binghamton. But obviously, that’s not going to happen here. So I just had to double it and go with No. 22.”
Stephane Da Costa No. 24: “I had No. 23 when I played my first year of junior hockey down in Texas and then I had No. 24 the year after that. There’s no real story or anything.”
Chris Neil No. 25: “There was a couple to pick from when I started out, but Jacques (Martin) didn’t like having guys’ jerseys over a certain number so we all had low numbers. I think No. 13, No. 25 and a couple of other ones were available. I liked No. 25 the best out of that group and that’s why I picked it.”
Zenon Konopka No. 28: “My number career didn’t start out very well. I was No. 15 when I was with the 67s and they gave that number to me right away — I didn’t ask for it. And then they told me, ‘You can’t have that number because we’re going to retire it for Bobby Smith.’ So then I was No. 20 and I started switching numbers all of the time in the minors because numbers don’t really mean that much to me. But it was really annoying, because when you play in the minors and then get called up to the NHL, you usually have two different numbers. So then during the summer, what number do you sign for an autograph — both of them or just one? Finally, I started wearing No. 28 because I told the guys I wanted a number that was available in the minors and in the NHL.”
Alex Auld No. 35: “There’s nothing really special about it. This is just the number they gave me at my first training camp back in Vancouver. I wore No. 35 for a few years and kind of switched around because of different circumstances. And when I came back here this season, it was available so I just took it.”
Craig Anderson No. 41: “I used to wear No. 31 because I liked Grant Fuhr as a kid. I wanted to wear No. 33, but obviously that number was retired in Colorado and I don’t want to wear that number on any other team just out of respect, because in my mind, he (Patrick Roy) is the greatest who ever played. And then No. 41 started to look good on my jersey after I wore No. 31 and I played with Jocelyn Thibault who used to wear that number and it just seemed like it fit me.”
Sergei Gonchar No. 55: “When I got to North America and in my first year with the Portland Pirates they gave me No. 5 down there. I was wearing that and things were going well for me. But when I got called up, the Capitals were about to retire that number because it was worn by Rod Langway for a long time. So they told me it was impossible to wear that number, so I just switched to No. 55.”
Erik Karlsson No. 65: “I got to pick my number for the first time when I was in Frolunda and I chose that number because that was the year that both of my parents were born.”
Nick Foligno No. 71: “I came here and that was the number they gave me. I don’t know if it was more of a joke because my dad wore that number, but that’s the number I got when I came here and I wasn’t going to ask for another one. I used to wear No. 16 because that was my mom’s favourite number. But I was just thrilled to have a number in the NHL and I didn’t care what it was. It’s pretty neat that it was No. 71 and something that my father wore and it means a lot to me.”