Sweater numbers are synonymous with players. Most hockey fans can instantly tell you a great player by the number they wear on their back. There are many different stories about how players became associated with the famous numbers. Many odd and interesting facts surround these numbers as well. As we count down the start of the 2023-24 NHL season, we take a look at the story behind the numbers. Today we continue with sweater number 18. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 18
The First 18s
According to Hockey Reference, 443 players have worn sweater number 19 since since jersey records were kept in the 1950-51 season. However, it does not list any players before then that may have taken the number. Hockey Reference lists all of the Original Six with Tony Leswick of the New York Rangers was the scorer in number 18 with 15 goals. Ken Mosdell of the Montreal Canadiens was the leading point-getter with 31 that season.
As we draw closer to the end of the countdown, we’ll focus more the big-name players that wore the number. We’ll also give more attention to the players that briefly wore sweater number 18. This series will also take a look at the future of the number and who may carry the digits.
There are always a number of players that wore sweater number 18 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Builder Keith Allen had this number along with 19 for the Detroit Red Wings. Hall of Famer coach Al Arbour wore the number for a season each in Detroit and Toronto. Another great coach in Toe Blake wore the number with the Habs before the bench. Max Domi wore the number for his short time in Dallas. Doug Gilmour started his Hall of Famer career with the St. Louis Blues in sweater number 18. Dale Hawerchuk ended his playing career with the Philadelphia Flyers in 18. Igor Larionov started his North American career in 18 with Vancouver.
Ken Linseman also ended his career with Flyers in 18. Joe Nieuwendyk started his playing career with 18 before switching to 25 in Calgary. Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree also had 18 for one season with Boston. Marcel Pronovost tried 18 before settling on sweater number three with Detroit. Mark Recchi‘s one season with the Carolina Hurricanes was in 18. Brendan Shanahan finished out his career in New Jersey with 18.
The choice for best to wear sweater number 18 is Denis Savard, who had five 100-point seasons. Savard is in third place for points in Blackhawks franchise history behind Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. The Pointe Gatineau, Quebec native started his career in 1980-81. He was a consistent 20-goal scorer with the Blackhawks for a number of seasons. However, it would take a move to the Canadiens to finally get his hands on a Stanley Cup. Savard may have been near the end of his career, but he helped his team win the Cup.
He was given the number in Chicago by trainer Lou Varga according to Scott Morrison’s book By the Numbers. Savard’s cousin, Jean, had the number with the Quebec Remparts. He would switch to nine in Tampa Bay before a return to Chicago in the 1994-95 season.
Other 18s and the Future
Serge Savard, Dave Taylor, Ed Westfall were other great players that donned sweater number 18. Marian Hossa had a long career and recently had a testimonial game in Europe. Kirk Maltby was a workhorse in Detroit with the number 18. James Neal was also productive for a number of years. Ondrej Palat was part of the Tampa Bay recent run before switching to New Jersey. Let’s also not forget Marc Staal and Dave Taylor.
Main photo by: B. Bennett/Getty Images