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Why Golden Knights Players Chose Their Numbers

Vegas players' jersey numbers were unveiled on Tuesday

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

I picked my first number in hockey because it was an even number. At five, I didn't like odd numbers. So, when I had a choice between No. 2 and No. 5 - I took 2.

My older brother was thrilled when I came home and told him I picked two. Jacques Laperriere wore two for the Montreal Canadiens and was one of the most efficient defensemen in the NHL. I chose well, believed big brother.

It was a sweater and not a jersey back then in small-town Canada and we didn't get to take them home in mite. They went back on the hanger after a game or practice and the coach would have them hanging in the stall when you arrived for the next scheduled skate. It was nerve-wracking and awesome all at the same time to arrive at the rink and see where that sweater was hanging and to drag your bag up to the stall and begin getting dressed.

The number was your identity in the room and on the ice. At the start of the season when the coach didn't yet know your name - you were that number. "Hey, 16, get the puck up off the boards if you can't make a pass. And don't, no matter what you do, throw it up the middle," was a typical refrain from my coaches in the early 70s.

RELATED: Golden Knights announce jersey numbers

At the pro level, getting a number is a different story altogether. Often, it's what the equipment manager assigns a player. Later in a career a player gets to choose.

 

Video: A look at some of the Golden Knights' jersey numbers

 

"I can't wait until I'm the big dog who gets to say, '24 is my number and the rest of you guys get out of the way,'" said Golden Knights defenseman Jon Merrill, who will be wearing 15 at camp in Vegas.

James Neal was unable to wear his childhood when he arrived with the Dallas Stars. But it was due to 19 being retired by the Stars in honor of Bill Masterton. The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded to the NHL player who best demonstrates perseverance and dedication to hockey.

"I took 18 because it was closest to 19 which was my childhood number," said Neal. "I've stuck with it and it's been great to me. I've had success wearing 18 and now I identify with it. It's my number."

For some, it's tradition. For others, it's making the best of what's available.

 

Video: Jon Merrill talks about his new number, 15

 

"I wanted 19 but it's taken," said Golden Knights forward Brendan Leipsic. "So, I picked 13. It's Vegas, 13 is supposed to be the unlucky number - I just thought it was cool."

Murray Craven, now a VP with the Golden Knights but a retired NHLer with 1,071 career NHL games on his resume, took a while before he could get a number he could keep.

"They gave me 22 when I got to Detroit," recalled Craven. "But then Brad Park came and that was his number. So, they gave me 11. But then Blake Dunlop came and that was his number. In those days they just ripped it away from you. When I got to Philly, I asked for 16 but that had been Bobby Clarke's number. The Flyers' trainer, Sudsy (Dave Settlemyre), just ignored me and gave me a choice between six and 32. I took 32 and pretty much wore it the rest of my career."

 

Video: Deryk Engelland explains why he chose No. 5.

 

Nate Schmidt has worn 88 for his entire NHL career. It wasn't his choice at first but now it's part of his identity as a player.

"I went to Washington for my first development camp as an unsigned free agent. All of us guys in that boat, we got high numbers. From 85 to like 98," said Schmidt. "They gave me 88 and, to be honest, it was a little high for my liking. But I wasn't going to say anything. Then, when I signed with Washington and went to camp, it was there in my stall. So, I was 88. And now I've just always worn it. It's funny but we get attached to numbers. Now it's part of what defines me as a hockey player."

Schmidt says family and friends have grown to know him as 88.

"Some of my buddies call me 8s. And my godson Clark, he only knows me as 8-8. He sees me on TV and says, '8-8.' So, even if I wanted to change, I can't now," laughed Schmidt.

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