February 6, 2008

The Little Book Of Hockey Sweaters

This is Mark Napier. Napier is a long forgotten goal scoring wizard. He was as feared of a sniper ast there was in junior and in the WHA in the late 1970s. He would join the Montreal Canadiens and by the early 1980s it was Napier who assumed the offensive reigns after Guy Lafleur slowed down.

Interestingly, Napier finished his career with a stint in Buffalo, wearing jersey #65 back when such NASCAR numbers were not so common place. Since his favored #9 was already in use courtesy of Danny Gare, Napier chose 65 because of his involvement with the charitable Cystic Fibrosis Foundation where he was an honorary chairman. The terrible disease is often mispronounced by its youngest victims as Sixty Five Roses, leading to the annual fundraising and awareness campaign by the same tagline. Napier brought further attention to the cause by donning the jersey number.

That is just one of the many jersey number oddities I unearthed when I recently picked up the book The Little Book of Hockey Sweaters by Andrew Podnieks and Rob Hynes with the illustrations of Anthony Jenkins.

Podnieks and Hynes look at the personal reasons why NHLers chose the jersey numbers they did. There is about 100 NHLers of various eras featured, each with a caricature by the talent Jenkins. The book came out in 2005 and now sells around the $16 mark for a brand new copy.

That's a pretty good price. I had initially held off from buying that book because I felt if I waited a couple of years I could find it in a used book store. I LOVE used book stores. I had hoped to find for $10.00, or if lucky less.

I guess you could say I won the lottery of used books then when I picked this up at donated used book charity book sale at a local grocery store for the princely sum of $0.25! I got three others too even though I already had them. But at $0.25 each who could resist.

Well I'm obviously very pleased with the $0.25 purchase price, the book is well worth getting even at $16. The caricatures by Jenkins are funny and enjoyable, and many of the stories of why jersey numbers are quite fascinating. There's a lot of stories of number reversals or some other reincarnation because original favorite numbers were already in use, but plenty of great stories like Napier's.

Here's some more examples:

Eddie Shack wore 23 because in a mirror 23 looked like his initials, ES.

Neil Sheehy wore 0 because his family's original name was O'Sheehy.

Steve Heinze and Shawn Heins both wore 57 in reference to the famous sauce.

Bobby Clarke always wore 16, except for one game when he wore 36. His jersey was stolen and 36 was the only jersey available for the road game.

Ace Bailey was so impressed with the play of Ron Ellis that he asked the Leafs to unretire his jersey #6 so that Ellis could wear it.

Theo Fleury and Martin Rucinsky are the only two known players to wear two different jerseys numbers in the same game. In both cases their original jerseys were destroyed. Fleury came back wearing 74, but only after referees refused to let him borrow a fan's autograph-covered 14 jersey. Rucinsky returned wearing #41.

Rocket Richard
chose 9 because his first daughter was born at 9lbs.

Gordie Howe chose 9 because in those days players with the lower numbers got the lower bunk bed on the long train rides for road games.

Doug Gilmour wore 93 because that was his softball number while in Calgary.

Jaromir Jagr chose 68 to honor the year the Soviet tanks invaded his country.

Alexander Ovechkin chooses #8 because that is the number his mother Tatiana wore #8 in two gold medal winning Olympiads with the Russian basketball team.


Eighty-Two February 7, 2008 at 3:26 PM  

Joe, Bobby Clarke wore number 28 for Team Canada.

I suppose the author meant for the Flyers, he only wore 16.

Anonymous,  December 16, 2009 at 4:12 PM  

Clarke did wear #36 in one game for the Flyers on the road in Winnipeg. I don't recall the year, but I do recall the Flyers TV broadcast and the announcement that Clarke's jersey had been stolen out of the Flyers locker room and that he was wearing #36 in the emergency.

Anonymous,  December 28, 2013 at 12:02 AM  

I do remember Mark Napier as a Marlboro in the 70's. I liked the Fincups and the Dale McCourt, Greg Hickey, Danny Shearer versus Mark Napier, Bruce Boudreau, Mike Kitchen games were so fun back then. I remember the junk when Napier signed the under age contract with the Toros also. What a mess.

Glad Mark had a good career and I liked the #65 story. I think he was 14 as a Marlborough. He was a sniper, wide stanced skater with good puck sense.

Thanks Joe.

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