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 2. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 2
It Takes Two
According to Hockey Reference, 349 players have worn sweater number 2 since since jersey records were kept in the 1950-51 season. However, it does not list very many players before then that may have taken the number. Five of the Original Six had players wear the numeral in that 1950-51 season. Two Hall of Famers had to number in Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadiens and Jack Stewart of the Chicago Black Hawks. The Boston Bruins didn’t have a player wear two due to the sweater being retired for the great Eddie Shore.
Two is the main number for defencemen in the early NHL. Most squad numbers were like soccer and were kept low. There wasn’t much room for player to get too outrageous with their numbers back in the day. Numbers would eventually go up, but it would take until the 1970s and 1980s for that to happen.
There are always a number of players that wore sweater number 2 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Future analyst Kevin Bieksa wore two for his time with the Anaheim Ducks. Hall of Famer Leo Boivin had the number for a pair of seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hal Gill donned the digits three seasons between the Penguins and the Canadiens. Hall of Famer Tim Horton wore the number for two seasons for the Buffalo Sabres.
The late Bryan Marchment had the number for thee seasons with Chicago. Pierre Pilote wore number two with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the end of his career. Ulf Samuelsson had the digit for the Detroit Red Wings. Hall of Famers Jack Stewart and Scott Stevens also had the sweater number. Darryl Sydor also wore the number for one season.
The Standard on Defence
Three candidates jumped out in our deliberations for the best to wear sweater number 2. Harvey, Shore and Brian Leetch jumped out as three top candidates. However, Harvey was the one we went with as the best to wear the number. The former Habs great won seven straight Norris Trophies and six Stanley Cups. He was one of the best lockdown defencemen in the history of the NHL.
Harvey played in 1,113 games and was an 11-time All-Star. He may have only scored 88 career goals, but he left his mark on the game. Defencemen weren’t relied upon to score goals until the era of Bobby Orr, but Harvey is one of the greats.
Other 2s and the Future
There are other great blueliners that have worn number two. Leetch and Shore had great careers in different eras of the game. Montreal had a line of great twos even before Harvey with Sprague Cleghorn, Jacques Laperrière and Sylvio Mantha, Other great twos are Viacheslav Fetisov, Derian Hatcher, Mark Howe, Duncan Keith, Al MacInnis and Brad Park.
Main photo by: Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images