IN WITH THE NEW: Mike Cammalleri becomes first Devil to wear No. 13. (Photo: Getty Images) Mike Cammalleri
will make history this season, count on it.
When the Devils take the ice for the 2015-16 opener at Prudential Center on Oct. 9, Cammalleri will become the first player in the club's 33-year New Jersey existence to have No. 13.
In between Chico Resch’s 1 and Doug Gilmour's 93 there have been 3's, 4's and 27's. There have been 30’s, a 44, a 68 and an 89. Since the team’s arrival in 1982, every number through 35 has made it onto the back of a Devils sweater at one point or another.
Every one except for 13.
It has been an offseason of change for the Devils in a number of ways, but this is truly a first.
"It’s the number I’ve just identified with from wearing it for so long,” said Cammalleri, who will change from No. 23. “The only time I didn’t wear it was when someone else had it."
He’ll become the second player in franchise history to suit up with No. 13, joining Robin Burns – cousin of the late former Devils coach Pat Burns – who wore it with the Kansas City Scouts in the 1970’s.
It’s the number I’ve just identified with from wearing it for so long. - Mike Cammalleri on 13
Cammalleri’s connection to No. 13 spans decades. At age 7, he was the youngest player to make the cut for his triple-A team in Toronto. So, when it was time to choose a number, his father Leo decided he would pick last.
"The coach came in the room and threw a box of jerseys on the floor,” Cammalleri recalled. "He said, ‘You guys have made the team. Here’s your jerseys, everybody pick a number.’"
The scramble was on for every kid except Cammalleri, who had to wait until the eight-year-olds had made their selections.
“I’m sitting there, it’s my first triple-A jersey and I remember being as anxious as could be,” he said. “The last number in the box that nobody wanted was number 13."
Ninety-one different NHLers have worn it, according to hockey-reference.com. Former Devil Bill Guerin wore it with more teams than anyone else in NHL history (six), while Mats Sundin skated it all the way into the Hockey Hall of Fame. (Slava Kozlov was wearing it when this happened.)
For Cammalleri, though, it felt like a zero.
"The only thing I knew about the number 13 was that in Don Cherry’s Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em that year, Kenny Linseman wore 13 and the clip of him in [the video] was he scored in his own net,” he said. "I was pretty upset about it, actually. I was angry with my dad."
Leo helped him see it from a different perspective.
“We got home and he showed me his football jersey from high school,” Cammalleri said. “He actually wore No. 13 and I still have the jersey that he wore. I’ve worn 13 ever since.”
Cammalleri’s not the only Devil getting new digits for the new year. Jordin Tootoo will swap 20 for the 22 that he had with Nashville and Detroit. Eric Gelinas, who had 22 last season, will switch to the 44 he wore with his first junior hockey team, Lewiston (QMJHL).
Fans with last year’s Cammalleri, Tootoo and Gelinas jerseys can find out if they're eligible to exchange them for the updated versions by visiting newjerseydevils.com/jerseyexchange.
The superstitions associated with No. 13 have never added up for Cammalleri, who led the Devils last season with 27 goals.
“In Italy, it’s actually a lucky number,” he said. (Unlucky in Italy: 17.)
He notched a career-high 39 goals while wearing 13 with the Flames in 2008-09. The No. 23 that he was assigned for his first season in New Jersey represented only the second time in his NHL career that he’s worn anything else.
“When I left Calgary [in 2009], I was wearing 13 originally there. Olli Jokinen took it when I left, then when I got traded back there for the last couple months of the season [in 2012], I didn’t wear because he had it, so I wore 93,” he said. "The only other time would’ve been last season.
“Signing in New Jersey and all the respect I have for Lou [Lamoriello], that’s not a conversation you have, what number you wanted to wear. When I got there, 23 was in my stall and that was great by me.”
Does it feel special to have 13 again?
"At the end of the day it is just a number, so I’m not going to make a huge deal of it,” he said.
Maybe it's not a huge deal. Maybe it's more like a lucky break.