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 24. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 24
The First 24s
According to Hockey Reference, 496 players have worn sweater number 24 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 Ross Lowe of the Boston Bruins as the only player to wear that number in the 1950-51 season. Lowe had the number for 43 games in that campaign. However, it would be the final season of NHL career.
Two Bruins would keep the number in circulation the next season with Lorne Ferguson and Real Chevrefils. The Toronto Maple Leafs also had Jim Morrison don the digits in the 1951-52 season. Morrison would open doors to a 700-plus game career in the league. He wore sweater number 24 until the end of 1954.
There are always a number of players that wore sweater number 24 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Keith Acton ended his playing career in 24 with the New York Islanders. Greg Adams had the number for a couple of seasons in New Jersey. The late Ace Bailey donned the digits with the St. Louis Blues. Hall of Famer Leo Boivin wore the number with the Detroit Red Wings for a season. Paul Byron spent one season with the Buffalo Sabres in the 24 sweater. Don Cherry played his only game in the NHL in 24 with the Bruins.
Jeff Halpern wore sweater number 24 in his second stint with the Montreal Canadiens. Bobby Holik started his Hartford Whalers career for two seasons with the number. Hall of Famer and donut enthusiast Tim Horton wore the number in Pittsburgh. Fellow Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla had the sweater for the Los Angeles Kings. Chris Kunitz donned the digits with the Atlanta Thrashers. Sergei Makarov had two seasons in San Jose with the number. Hall of Famers Serge Savard and Terry Sawchuk wore the number. Matheiu Schneider had the sweater for the Habs.
There are plenty of great players that wore sweater number 24. However, Chris Chelios stands tallest in this group. Chelios joined the Habs in the 1983-84 season, but got full time play the next season. It would be the start of a great career for the American blueliner. The Chicago native helped Montreal to the Stanley Cup in 1985-86 and won the first of three Norris Trophies in the 1988-89 season.
Chelios would move to the Chicago Blackhawks and switch to number seven and get two more Norris Trophies. However, he would join rival Detroit and reclaim sweater number 24. Chelios would win two more Stanley Cups with the Red Wings. He’d finish his career in Atlanta and get 948 points and 1,651 games in 26 seasons. His 24 sweater did make a pop culture appearance as Dr. Cox in Scrubs was often seen rocking a Chelios Red Wings sweater.
Other 24s and the Future
Bernie Federko, Ryan Callahan and Sami Kapanen are among the other great 24s. Federko was a beloved figure in St. Louis and Philadelphia. Callahan was a captain of the New York Rangers and won Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Kapanen played 831 games and is one of the best Finnish players in the game. Bob Probert had the number before Chelios in Detroit. Buffalo’s Bill Hajt was a cult favourite in Western New York with the Sabres. Fellow enforcer Terry O’Reilly had the number with Boston.
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