Dear new NHL player.
Congratulations on making the top hockey league in the world (unless you're playing in Colorado, in which case...we're sorry.) Now that you've made the NHL, you need to pick a number. And as lovers of the great game in all its tradition, like you, we at Chowder would like to advise you.
A jersey number is important in the NHL. It becomes synonymous with players and often carries a lot of meaning - it's chosen for birthdays, for luck, or to pay tribute to former favorites. And all this is fine! However, as you'll no doubt be aware, in today's NHL people will analyse and unpick every aspect of your character for flaws and find ridiculous reasons to criticise it cause that's how hockey works, so we need to make sure you choose the right number and don't inadvertently break any rules (even though most of these aren't written down). Also, this guide will hopefully help you avoid annoying some former fourthliner who is now paid to sit behind a desk and yell how players far better than they ever were are somehow bad for the game.
You already know that the number 99 is retired for Mr Gretzky (if you're Canadian, you simply know this person as "The Great One", right? Good!
However, like we said, you're a star now, and you don't want to annoy the sportswriters who can make or break your career for fear of having to look over your shoulder at every hot-dog stand you visit for the next 15 years, so we've done the legwork for you. by looking at all the numbers and producing this handy guide!. Ready? Let's dive in!
1: You can only have this if you're a goalie. Now, on the minus side, it's been used by a lot of goalies - greats like Jacques Plante, Glenn Hall, and Georges Vezina. But it's also been used by Andrew Raycroft, so you're probably OK with this one without the media getting too worried.
2: Doug Harvey and Al MacInnis in the past, Duncan Keith now. You'd better be confident, rookie. However, as long as you're nearer them than the likes of Jared Cowen and Adam Pardy...you'll be fine.
3 You should be OK with this one. It's a) common and b) not in any way linked to anyone the media think are "untouchable" so if you're a defenseman, fire away. However, forwards wearing it just look weird (we're looking at YOU, Charlie Coyle)
4 You can'r wear it in Boston or Montreal, and you're gonna get compared to players like Bobby Orr and Jean Beliveau if you want to take it on by some lazyass in the media. Probably not worth the hassle.
5 Don't wear it in Detroit (Nick Lidstrom). But definitely wear it if you're a Swedish defenseman, because easy brownie points (55 also acceptable).
6-8: You're probably OK with these. The media will leave you alone. Plus 7 and 8 are nice multi-purpose numbers - perfect wherever you play. They've all been worn by some incredible players (and are now - see Ovi8, for example) but again...you should be OK.
9: Gordie Howe AND Rocket Richard. The French-speaking media will remind you of this at every opportunity if you play in Montreal. Quelle horreur! Everywhere else people will yell GORDIE at you. Probably best to avoid this one.
10-30: Careful wearing 11 unless you're a responsible, gritty player with LEADERSHIP, and like giving guarantees. The rest are probably not going to give you too much trouble - although many of these numbers have also been worn by legends of the game, the media will be nice about it as long as you say "it's a tribute."
30-31: Marty Brodeur, Grant Fuhr AND Curtis Joseph. Probably just best not to wear this for a Canadian team unless you're REALLY confident you can handle it. Or you have to carry a team on your back for years, like Carey Price.
33. Are you a goalie? Again...you'd better be really good. GMing and coaching talent is not as much of a requirement. If you're a skater, 6'9 Eastern European man mountains are preferred.
34-65: These are all probably fine-except for 39, which can either go REALLY well for you as a goalie (see Hasek, Dominik) or really badly (see DiPietro, Rick). Also, we're getting a little less-used for some of these, so you get novelty value.
Bonus points for double-digits cause they look cool, and also 36 if you want numbers that pay tribute to ridiculously bad fourth liners who your team inexplicably gave up a third-rounder for (ed: yes, we're still bitter).
Also, don't wear 37 unless you are a saint. A SAINT. You hear us?
But definitely don't wear 65 ever, cause Andrew Shaw wears that, and nobody wants that on their associated numbers.
66: Apparently you're not allowed to wear this number because it makes hockey people really mad, even though the number isn't retired around the league or anything. A guy called Mario who was really really good wore it, and that means that nobody else can, even though they can.
So you can, but many in hockey will tell you you can't, and then you'll have to say you're wearing it as a tribute even if you aren't, and it'll get very very silly and overblown and you'll be asked questions about it for ages and people will say you're arrogant and oh god why are we even having to write this?
67: Wear to remind Leafs fans that it's been a really, REALLY long time. Hasn't it, Toronto?
68: Wear only if you want to be a Czech cyborg who will never age while simultaneously paying tribute to one of the most important events in your country's history.
69: GET THE NUMBER SIXTY NINE, IT'S HILARIOUS! And no, before you ask, that number's probably not taken. So...uh...that's nice.
70-86: Now we're into the weird, rarely used numbers. Double-digits are always best with high numbers, so if in doubt, go 77.
87: Just assume the NHL media are going to treat this number like 66 in a few years, and save yourself the hassle in advance. Plus, it saves you having to sign really weird contract amounts to symbolise how much you love your team.
88: This number is already retired league-wide for The Legend, David Pastrnak. Keep moving.
89-98: These are probably fine, but they're right up the high end of the spectrum for a reason and look weird. Wear 97 if you want to guarantee being a TV pundit who everybody hates at the end of your career.
99: No. We've been over this. We like to pretend 66 is like it too, but it isn't.
We in the NHL world hope this guide has been informative, and will help you negotiate the minefield of choosing a number, even though we probably assign far too much value to what is essentially a random identifier that is often assigned to players based on availability anyway.
Happy number crunching, rookie!