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 33 Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 33
The First 33s
According to Hockey Reference, 295 players have worn sweater number 33 since since jersey records were kept in the 1950-51 season. Hockey Reference lists goalie Doug Favell of the Toronto Maple Leafs as the first player to wear the number. This was during the 1973-74 season with the Leafs. He would keep the number when he moved onto the Colorado Rockies in 1975-76, but would revert back to his original number of one. Favell would be the only player to wear the digits until the 1975-76 season with Gilles Gratton and Jerome Mrazek.
Doug Grant and Wayne Thomas would be next to take sweater number 33 in the next season. The number was first seemingly only meant for goalies when it was first introduced in the early 70s. John Smrke of the St. Louis Blues was the first position player to wear 33 in the 1978-79 season. He’d get a career-high six goals and 14 points in that campaign.
There are always a number of players that wore sweater number 33 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Tony Amonte was 33 for the New York Rangers for a few seasons before the trade to the Chicago Blackhawks. Joel Armia wore the sweater for one season with the Buffalo Sabres as did the late Wade Belak. Future general manager Marc Bergevin had the digits with the New York Islanders. Sean Burke wore the number with the Philadelphia Flyers in between his spells with the number one.
Defenceman Jack Johnson started off his career with the 33 sweater with the Los Angeles Kings. Michael Peca‘s first number with the Vancouver Canucks was 33, but moved onto 27 with Buffalo. Vezina Trophy winner Pete Peeters had 33 with the Flyers. However, Glenn Resch, or Chico as he’s known by, would also have that number for the club. Marc Savard and Shawn Thornton were early wearers of 33 in their careers.
The man many think is the best to wear sweater number 33 is Patrick Roy. He burst onto the scene with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1985-86 season after replacing Steve Penney in goal. Roy’s performance led the Habs to the Stanley Cup and got himself a Conn Smythe Trophy. He would quickly establish himself as one of the best goalies in the league and gave Montreal another Stanley Cup in 1993.
However, the end of his Canadiens’ career would acrimonious to say the least. Roy was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in the 1995-96 season, but he was the missing piece for the Avs. He would backstop Colorado to its first championship in its first season in the Rocky Mountains. Roy would add another championship in the 2000-01 campaign and earn his third Conn Smythe.
The bad feelings between Roy and the Canadiens ended when he had his sweater number 33 lifted to the rafters in the 2008-09 season. Roy has always been a man with confidence and that’s spread to his coaching career. His performances earned him the nickname of St. Patrick.
Other 33s and the Future
Plenty of other 33s have graced the league with their greatness. Henrik Sedin is one of the few players to be a skater and have a Hall of Fame career with the number. Zdeno Chara also had a long career as a rugged defenceman with sweater number 33. Kris Draper, Benoit Hogue and Dustin Byfuglien also carved out solid careers wearing the number.
Goalies have mostly worn the number as was mentioned earlier. Don Beaupre appeared in 666 career games in between the pipes. Cam Talbot has carried the number for most of his career except for a brief time in Calgary.
Main photo by: Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)