The National Hockey League has been around for over 100 years. Since it’s Inaugural season in 1917, we have seen players of all different backgrounds and skill levels compete for a chance to win Lord Stanley’s Cup. Players have worn numbers ranging from 1 to 99, and some wore them better than others. I’ve made a list of my favorite players to ever wear the number, so here goes nothing.
#1 Johan Hedberg
Johan Hedberg might not be a popular name for other NHL fans, but he played a huge part in my life growing up as a Penguins fan. Hedberg was traded to the Pens in March of 2001, and began playing games with his Manitoba Moose helmet on. As a result, Penguins fans gave him the nickname “Moose,” and would shout his name whenever he would make a huge save.
#2 Al MacInnis
St Louis Blues star defenseman Al MacInnins was always a favorite of mine. MacInnis was known for his slapshot, and always dominated the hardest shot competition in the NHL Skills Competitions.
#3 Zdeno Chara
Before tripling his number to 33, Zdeno Chara wore #3 for the New York Islanders where he played for four seasons. I have always been a fan of Chara for his defensive style of play, hard shot, and giant like tendencies. Chara is currently the tallest player, and oldest defenseman in the league.
#4 Vincent Lecavlier
Vinny was always enjoyable to watch. His speed and stick handling made him a threat on the ice each and every shift. Lecavlier spent most of his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but finished off his career playing for the Flyers and Kings.
#5 Nicklas Lidstrom
A Swedish defenseman who played 20 years for the Detroit Red Wings organization. Lidstrom has been considered as one of the best, if not the best defenseman of all time. His stay at home tendencies made him a shut down defenseman with a little touch of scoring every now and then.
#6 Trevor Daley
I was a fan of Trevor Daley when he played for the Dallas Stars early in his career, and when he was traded to the Penguins in a deal with the Blackhawks in 2015 I couldn’t have been more excited. The guy is a solid defenseman who can shut down his opponent’s star players. Daley currently plays for the Detroit Red Wings.
#7 Keith Tkatchuk
Keith Tkachuk was always one of my favorite players growing up. Keith played a physical game, while putting the puck in the net. Tkachuk is one of five American born players to score at least 500 goals in their career. Some people consider him the best US-born player in NHL history.
#8 Alexander Ovechkin
Ovechkin is one of the most dominant players in the game right now. His hard shot is something to admire, and his actions speak louder than words. You can see he wears his heart on his sleeve, and gives it his all each shift he goes out there.
#9 Paul Kariya
Every kid that grew up watching the Mighty Ducks movies should know who Paul Kariya is. Kariya played 15 season in the NHL and was know for his speed and offensive skills. Kariya suffered a lot of head injuries, which eventually lead to his retirement.
#10 Pavel Bure
Pavel Bure, also known as the “Russian Rocket” played 12 seasons in the NHL. Bure originally wanted to wear #96 when he debuted in the league, however Pat Quinn did not like players wearing high numbers, so Bure stuck with #10 which was his number for the Soviet national team. Bure was one of the fastest skaters I have ever watched play the game, and he would blow past the defensemen with ease.
#11 Jordan Staal
Jordan Staal, the tall lanky center, has always been a favorite player of mine. So much so, I wore #11 when I started my Adult Inline career. Staal is automatic on faceoffs, and plays a physical style game mixed with an offensive and defensive mindset. I was upset when he decided to leave Pittsburgh for Carolina, but in the end it made sense for him to take his game to the next level.
#12 Ryan Malone
Another former Penguin who was once my favorite player. Malone was an inspiration to all of us Pittsburgh kids, as he grew up in the area and was one of the Pittsburgh born players to make it big in the league during my lifetime.
#13 Mats Sundin
Quite possibly the only person I know with the name Mats, Sundin was the first European-born and trained player to be drafted first overall in the NHL Draft (1989-Quebec Nordiques). Sundin was no stranger to the NHL postseason. In fact, he appeared in the NHL Playoffs in 10 out of his 18 seasons.
#14 Sergei Samsonov
Standing at 5-foot-8, Samsonov was a bit smaller than your average sized NHL player. However, Samsonov made up for his size with his fast turns and offensive prowess. Sergei’s speed made him a deadly asset for any team he played for.
#15 Dany Heatley
Dany Heatley had a heck of a career in the NHL. Heatley won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the top rookie in 2002, as well as put up two 50 goal seasons in 05-06 and 06-07. The Senators line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson was one that many teams feared for years because of their offensive success.
#16 Brett Hull
Brett Hull was known as one of the games greatest snipers, as he was an elite scorer in all levels of the game. Hull finished his career 741 goals, and was one one of five players to score 50 goals in 50 games.
#17 Illya Kovalchuk
The first overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Kovalchuk showed off his skills since day one. Kovalchuk played alongside Dany Heatley, and the two were a deadly combo. Kovalchuk has had his up and downs since then, and currently plays for the Washington Capitals. I always liked Kovalchuk because of his accurate shots, and the curve of his stick. Even if it might have been illegal.
#18 Marian Hossa
I was a huge fan of Marian Hossa when he played for the Atlanta Thrashers. Hossa played alongside Illya Kovalchuk, and was part of the deal that traded Dany Heatley to Ottawa. Later on in his career Hossa was a big part of the Penguins success. After losing to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Final in 2007-2008, he decided to leave Pittsburgh to go to Detroit to “have a better chance of winning the cup”, and we all know how that ended.
#19 Joe Sakic
Growing up I was always an Avalanche fan, and you’ll start to see more of these guys coming up. In my eyes Sakic was one of the best leaders in the game, leading the Avalanche to the playoffs each and every year. Sakic is one of the reasons I wear #19 for my hockey teams now.
#20 Colby Armstrong
I remember watching the 2001 NHL Entry Draft with my dad and seeing Colby Armstrong being picked by the Penguins. Plain and simple, the guy just looked awkward up there, and I was wondering how he was going to be an NHL player. After watching him debut, I loved everything he brought to the game. He was a role player who played his heart out every shift, laying big hits along the way. Colby retired from the game, but still works as an Analyst for the Penguins showing off his fun loving personality.
#21 Peter Forsberg
Wearing #21 for the Colorado Avalanche, Peter Forsberg was always fun to watch. The guys offensive prowess was well known, and he even created his own shootout move called “The Forsberg.” The guy was a beast, his craziest stat was he never ended with a minus rating, in fact he finished his career with a +238.
#22 Brett Lebda
Brett Lebda might not be a popular name for most of the hockey world, however it is one that is close to my heart. During our backyard hockey days, my best friend Sean and I would always tell our friend’s little brother if he said, “Brett Lebda” before a shot it would be an automatic goal. Since once of us were always playing goalie at the time, we made it our mission to let the ball get past us. There was never a better feeling than seeing Ryan smile at our little inside joke, something we will never forget.
#23 Milan Hejduk
Another part of the well loved Avalanche squad, Milan was a force to be reckoned with on the ice. Hejduk spent his whole NHL career with the Avs, playing a total of 1,020 games with the organization. Hejduk on a team with Forsberg and Sakic, was just deadly. It’s no wonder the Avalanche always had success.
#24 Matt Cooke
This is me being a homer, forsure, but I really enjoyed watching the guy play. Cooke was one of my favorite pests to every play for the Penguins. He would do whatever it takes to get under his opponents skins, and most teams and other fans did not appreciate it.
#25 Max Talbot
I’m sure our leader Deke would agree with me on this one. Max Talbot is most famous for shushing the Flyers, and single handedly winning the cup for the Penguins in 2009. Talbot scored 2 goals in a big Game 7 against the Red Wings, which ended in the Penguins winning 2-1. The guy was an inspiration to 3rd and 4th liners everywhere.
Well there you have it, my favorite NHL players to ever wear numbers 1 through 25. Stay tuned for Part 2, which will include numbers 26 to 50.