Ever wonder how the numbers are assigned to the players at development camp? Yeah….me too! So I went straight to the man in charge - Rich Matthews, head equipment manager - to find out!
There is a method to the madness when it comes to picking numbers for the players to wear, but it's definitely not an exact science. Basically what happens is Tom Fitzgerald, the assistant general manager gives me the camp roster and I sit down with Steve Pelligrini, the vice president of hockey operations, and we start assigning numbers.
We reserve the 30s and 40s for players who are first or second round draft picks or players who have already appeared in games in Albany or with the Devils or will this coming season. Draft picks from later rounds are typically in the 50s or 60s and players who haven't been drafted and are here as an invitee or on a tryout are in the 60s and 70s. We also tend to put the goalies in higher numbers in multiples of five. For example, Mackenzie Blackwood is wearing 70, Cormier is in 60, Appleby is in 55. I really have no idea why that is, so don't ask, but that's just the way it is!
It's a fluid situation, though. The more development camps a player has under their belt, the lower their number is. One year they might be 67 and then they come back and they're 57 and then they come back again and they're 47, etc.
Or sometimes a guy likes the number he had the year before and he'll ask to keep it or, like in the case of Joe Blandisi, he wore number 64 for us during the season when he was called up last year, so we're not going to change it. Whatever number a player is assigned in training camp is the number he'll wear during the season. When he earns a full time roster spot, he can request to change it, if he'd like. The same goes for Pavel Zacha. He wore 37 for us last year and we didn't see a need to change it.
Before, you used to see the same player in a variety of numbers throughout the season if they went back and forth to the AHL a lot because other players might have been called up and they're wearing the number you wore before and you get a new one. But now, whatever the player wears during training camp is what he'll wear when he's called up. Makes it a lot easier on us as equipment managers because when a player comes in, we already have the jersey made and we can just go get it and put it in his stall.
Once Steve Pelligrini and I assign the numbers we send the list to Tom Fitzgerald and Ray Shero for approval. Once we get that, we send the jerseys to a company in Chicago to be customized.
So the bottom line is, while there is some reasoning behind it, the players at development camp are given these numbers pretty randomly until they've earned the opportunity to request a change
Rich Matthews - Head Equipment Manager, New Jersey Devils
You can follow Rich and his team behing the scenes @NJDSk8Guy on Twitter and Instagram.
Today's 3 p.m. Red vs White scrimmage at Barnabas Health Hockey House is sold out, but you can catch part of the game via periscope!
Here are the rosters:
Team A will wear red and Team B will wear white.