Though there is no debate over who the best player to wear that number is, there are 98 other numbers with more than one worthy candidate. That is where the “NHL’s Who Wore It Best?” comes in.
NHL.com writers and editors have cast their votes, each selecting his or her top three for each number, with the top vote-getter receiving three points, second place receiving two points and third place receiving one point.
Candidates will be debated, and the winners revealed, in a weekly, five-part series first airing on Sportsnet, NHL.com and League platforms each Friday at 5 p.m. ET, and re-airing each Tuesday on NBCSN (5 p.m. ET) and NHL Network (6:30 p.m. ET). NHL.com will provide the list of winners each Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET following the premiere of each episode.
Today, we look at Nos. 30-21:
No. 30 — Martin Brodeur
Seasons worn: New Jersey Devils 1993-2014; St. Louis Blues 2014-15
Career stats: 691-397-49 with 105 ties, 2.24 GAA, .912 save percentage in 1,266 games
Voting points: 57 (All 19 first-place votes)
The skinny: The NHL leader in wins (691) and shutouts (125), Brodeur also had a League-record eight seasons with at least 40 wins. The Hockey Hall of Famer won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie (1994), the Vezina Trophy as the League’s top goalie four times (2002-03, 2003-04, 2006-07, 2007-08), and the Stanley Cup three times with the Devils (1995, 2000, 2003).
Fun fact: Brodeur wore No. 29 when he joined the Devils as a 19-year-old late in the 1991-92 season because goalie Chad Erickson was wearing No. 30. But when Brodeur returned to New Jersey in the fall of 1993, he was given No. 30 and wore it for the remainder of his NHL career. The Devils retired his number on Feb. 9, 2016.
Others receiving votes: Henrik Lundqvist, 29 (0-13-3); Rogie Vachon, 9 (0-2-5); Bernie Parent, 8 (0-3-2); Ed Belfour, 4 (0-0-4); Gerry Cheever, 3 (0-1-1); Chris Osgood, 2 (0-0-2); Tim Thomas, 2 (0-0-2).
Analysis: “Brodeur was a unique goalie on and off the ice, for his hybrid playing style and his outgoing, engaging personality. His memory bank of shooters was off the charts. Nobody will top his wins record. He is No. 30.” — Dan Rosen, NHL.com senior writer
Seasons worn: Montreal Canadiens 1971-73; 1974-79
Career stats: 258-57 with 74 ties, 2.24 GAA, .922 save percentage in 397 games
Voting points: 57 (All 19 first-place votes)
The skinny: Dryden made an immediate impact for the Canadiens after being called up late in the 1970-71 season, going 6-0-0 in the regular season before winning the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Hockey Hall of Famer would go on to win the Stanley Cup five more times, including four straight before retiring in 1979, and the Vezina Trophy as the League’s best goaltender five times (1972-73, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1977-78, 1978-79).
Fun fact: The usual goalie numbers, Nos. 1 (which Dryden wore at Cornell) and 30, were taken when the Canadiens called up Dryden late in the 1970-71 season, so he was assigned No. 29 and wore it for the remainder of his NHL career. The number was issued to 15 additional players from 1980-2002 before the Canadiens retired it on Jan. 29, 2007.
Others receiving votes: Marc-Andre Fleury, 35 (0-16-3); Nathan MacKinnon, 20 (0-3-14); Mike Vernon, 2 (0-0-2).
Analysis: “Ken Dryden didn’t merely win the 1971 Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy before he won the Calder as the NHL’s best rookie in 1971-72, he won the Cup and the Smythe before he’d lost a single regular-season NHL game. And then, through the 1970s, he got a whole lot better.” — Dave Stubbs, NHL.com columnist
No. 28 — Steve Larmer
Seasons worn: Chicago Blackhawks 1982-93; New York Rangers 1993-95
Career stats: 1,012 points (441 goals, 571 assists) in 1,006 games
Voting points: 46 (11-6-1)
The skinny: Larmer won the Calder Trophy after scoring 90 points (43 goals, 47 assists) in 80 games as a rookie in 1982-83. The right wing scored at least 40 goals five times and at least 30 goals nine times in his 11 full seasons with Chicago, and after being acquired by the Rangers on Nov. 2, 1993, he helped them end their 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994 by scoring 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 23 playoff games.
Fun fact: Larmer was the first player in Blackhawks history to wear No. 31, doing so during brief stints in 1980-81 and 1981-82. But he was issued No. 28 at training camp in 1982 and wore it for the remainder of his NHL career. He played in 884 consecutive games during his time with Chicago, the third-longest streak in NHL history.
Others receiving votes: Claude Giroux, 31 (5-6-4); Brian Rafalski, 16 (2-2-6); Steve Duchesne, 10 (1-2-3); Reed Larson, 3 (0-0-3); Tomas Sandstrom, 2 (0-1-0); Tie Domi, 2 (0-1-0); Mark Recchi, 2 (0-1-0); Pierre Larouche, 2 (0-0-2).
Analysis: “When you live in Chicago and you play for the Blackhawks, that No. 28 belongs to Steve Larmer. I don’t know how many times you have to call a guy underrated until he’s no longer that but that’s kind of what Steve Larmer is.” — Patrick Sharp, NBCSN analyst
No. 27 — Scott Niedermayer
Seasons worn: New Jersey Devils 1991-2004; Anaheim Ducks 2005-10
Career stats: 740 points (172 goals, 568 assists) in 1,263 games
Voting points: 46 (13-3-1)
The skinny: A smooth skating defenseman, Niedermayer helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003 before signing with the Ducks and helping them win the Cup in 2007. The Hockey Hall of Famer won the Norris Trophy as the League’s top defenseman in 2004, was selected to the NHL First All-Star Team three times (2003-04, 2005-06, 2006-07) and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2007.
Fun fact: Niedermayer wore No. 28 with Kamloops of the Western Hockey League (which has retired the number) but was issued No. 27 when he joined the Devils and wore it throughout his time with New Jersey and Anaheim. The Devils (Dec. 16, 2011) and Ducks (Feb. 17, 2019) each retired No. 27 in his honor.
Others receiving votes: Frank Mahovlich, 30 (2-10-4); Darryl Sittler, 24 (2-5-8); Ron Hextall, 6 (1-1-1); Jeremy Roenick, 5 (1-0-2); John Tonelli, 1 (0-0-1); Darryl Sutter, 1 (0-0-1); Reggie Leach, 1 (0-0-1).
Analysis: “Tremendous in his own end. Great passer, great rusher. He could do everything. He was just a tremendous force for those teams that he played for.”— Dave Stubbs, NHL.com columnist
No. 26 — Peter Stastny
Seasons worn: Quebec Nordiques 1980-90; New Jersey Devils 1990-93; St. Louis Blues 1993-95
Career stats: 1,239 points (450 goals, 789 assists) in 977 games
Voting points: 50 (14-4-0)
The skinny: Stastny teamed with brothers Anton and Marian, who each defected from Czechoslovakia, to form one of the NHL’s most potent lines for Quebec. Peter, a center, had six straight seasons with at least 100 points to begin his NHL career, including 109 (39 goals, 70 assists) in 77 games in 1980-81 to win the Calder Trophy as the League’s top rookie. The Hockey Hall of Famer’s 986 points (356 goals, 630 assists) in 675 games from 1980-81 through 1988-89 were second most in the League during that span behind Wayne Gretzky’s 1,700.
Fun fact: Stastny starred in Czechoslovakia wearing No. 26 and kept it after defecting to North America and joining the Nordiques. He wore it for all but 12 of his 965 NHL games; the Devils issued him No. 29 when they acquired him in a trade on March 6, 1990. No. 26 was already being worn by defenseman Tommy Albelin, who played with Stastny in Quebec. However, Albelin switched to No. 6 in 1991-92, allowing Stastny to take back the number that had become identified with him.
Others receiving votes: Martin St. Louis, 37 (3-13-2); Patrik Elias, 22 (2-2-12); Allan Stanley, 2 (0-0-2); Jere Lehtinen, 1 (0-0-1); Mats Naslund, 1 (0-0-1); Paul Stastny 1, (0-0-1).
Analysis: “There are probably more prolific Europeans in the NHL but I would argue at this point that none have had a greater impact or a greater influence in the League than Peter Stastny has.”— Dave Stubbs, NHL.com columnist
No. 25 — Joe Nieuwendyk
Seasons worn: Calgary Flames 1987-95; Dallas Stars 1995-2002; New Jersey Devils 2002-03; Toronto Maple Leafs 2003-04; Florida Panthers 2005-06
Career stats: 1,126 points (564 goals, 562 assists) in 1,257 games
Voting points: 50 (12-7-0)
The skinny: Nieuwendyk is one of 11 players to win the Stanley Cup with at least three teams, doing so with Calgary in 1989, Dallas in 1999 (when he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP) and New Jersey in 2003. The center won the Calder Trophy as the League’s top rookie after scoring 51 goals in 75 games in 1987-88. Nieuwendyk scored 51 goals again in 1988-89, and at least 30 in eight of his first 11 full NHL seasons.
Fun fact: Nieuwendyk was issued No. 18 when he joined the Flames for nine games at the end of the 1986-87 season. He was able to switch to No. 25, his number at Cornell, after the Flames traded forward Mike Bullard to the St. Louis Blues before the start of the 1987-88 season and wore it for the rest of his Hockey Hall of Fame career.
Others receiving votes: Dave Andreychuk, 33 (5-5-8); Jacques Lemaire, 30 (2-7-10); Thomas Steen, 1 (0-0-1).
Analysis: “Nieuwendyk can’t be identified with one team, but he can be identified with one number. He wore No. 25 to win the Stanley Cup with the Flames, Stars and Devils. Whereever he went, winning followed, the true sign of a champion.” – Dan Rosen, NHL.com senior writer
No. 24 — Chris Chelios
Seasons worn: Montreal Canadiens 1984-90; Detroit Red Wings 1999-2009; Atlanta Thrashers 2010
Career stats: 948 points (185 goals, 763 assists) in 1,651 games
Voting points: 56 (18-1-0)
The skinny: A three-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the League’s best defenseman (1988-89, 1992-93, 1995-96), Chelios played 26 seasons and 1,651 games (an NHL record for defensemen) before retiring in 2010 when he was 48. Chelios won the Stanley Cup for the first time with Montreal in 1986, when he was 24, before winning with Detroit in 2002, when he was 40, and in 2008 when he was 46.
Fun fact: Chelios had to give up No. 24 after he was traded to the Blackhawks on June 29, 1990, because it was being worn by defenseman Doug Wilson. As a result, he decided to wear No. 7 in Chicago but went back to No. 24 after being traded to the Red Wings on March 23, 1999.
Others receiving votes: Bernie Federko, 33 (1-13-4); Doug Wilson, 18 (0-3-12); Terry O’Reilly, 4 (0-1-2); Bob Probert, 2 (0-1-0); Ryan Callahan, 1 (0-0-1).
Analysis: “Like fellow Hall of Fame defensemen Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque, Chelios spent a good part of his career in No. 7 but wore another number better than anyone else. It was in No. 24 that Chelios won the Stanley Cup, once with Montreal, twice with Detroit.” — Nick Cotsonika, NHL.com columnist
No. 23 — Bob Gainey
Seasons worn: Montreal Canadiens 1973-89
Career stats: 501 points (239 goals, 262 assists) in 1,160 games
Voting points: 52 (16-2-0)
The skinny: Recognized for his ability to shut down opposing forwards while playing on one of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams, Gainey won the Selke Trophy as the League’s top defensive forward each of the first four seasons it was awarded from 1977-81. The Hockey Hall of Fame left wing won the Stanley Cup five times with Montreal, including the final time as captain in 1986.
Fun fact: Four players wore Gainey’s No. 23 between the time he retired in 1989 and Feb. 23, 2008, when he became the 14th player in Canadiens history to have his number retired.
Others receiving votes: Brian Bellows, 26 (2-9-2); Bob Nystrom, 16 (1-5-3); Milan Hejduk, 13 (0-2-9); Dustin Brown, 4 (0-0-4); Scott Gomez, 2 (0-1-0); Lou Nanne, 1 (0-0-1).
Analysis: “Le Capitaine had an illustrious career with the Canadiens, winning the Stanley Cup with Montreal five times (1976-79, 1986). Great at defending and playing at a time when wings were given more consideration for the Selke, he won the trophy four straight years.” — Tracey Myers, NHL.com staff writer
No. 22 — Mike Bossy
Seasons worn: New York Islanders 1977-87
Career stats: 1,126 points (573 goals, 553 assists) in 752 games
Voting points: 57 (All 19 first-place votes)
The skinny: A lethal shooter, Bossy scored at least 50 goals in nine seasons, an NHL record he shares with Wayne Gretzky. The Hockey Hall of Fame right wing led the League with an NHL career-high 69 goals in 1978-79 and 68 in 1980-81 (when he matched Maurice Richard with 50 goals in the first 50 games). A back injury forced Bossy to retire after he scored 38 goals in 1986-87, but the four-time Stanley Cup champion’s average of .762 goals per game is the highest in NHL history (minimum 150 games played).
Fun fact: Bossy wore No. 17 with Laval of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. But center Jude Drouin had that number when Bossy came to the Islanders in 1977, so he was issued No. 22 and wore it throughout his 10 NHL seasons. The Islanders retired it on March 3, 1992.
Others receiving votes: Daniel Sedin, 26 (0-10-6); Dino Ciccarelli, 9 (0-4-1); Steve Shutt, 9 (0-2-5); Brad Park, 6 (0-2-2); Willie O’Ree, 2 (0-1-0); Jordin Tootoo, 1 (0-0-1); John Ferguson, 1 (0-0-1); Dan Boyle, 1 (0-0-1); Rick Tocchet, 1 (0-0-1).
Analysis: “Mike Bossy won the Cup four times and averaged 57.3 goals per season during his 10 stellar seasons; talk about setting a high bar.” –Tim Campbell, NHL.com staff writer
No. 21 — Stan Mikita
Seasons worn: Chicago Black Hawks 1958-79
Career stats: 1,467 points (541 goals, 926 assists) in 1,396 games
Voting points: 52 (14-5-0)
The skinny: Chicago’s all-time leader in points and assists, Mikita helped the Black Hawks win the Stanley Cup in 1961 and was a model of consistency, topping 70 points 13 times in a 14-season span from 1961-62 through 1974-75. The Hockey Hall of Fame center led the League in points four times and won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player and the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct in consecutive seasons (1966-67, 1967-68).
Fun fact: Mikita was given No. 21 when he joined Chicago for three games in 1958-59, and he wore it for every one of his team-record 1,396 games until Nov. 30, 1979. On Oct. 19, 1980, No. 21 became the first number to be retired in Black Hawks history.
Others receiving votes: Peter Forsberg, 41 (5-12-2); Borje Salming, 16 (0-2-12); Guy Carbonneau, 3 (0-0-3); Brent Sutter, 2 (0-0-2).
Analysis: “He was, at times, the top player in the game. He had no weaknesses in his game. What a player and what an influence in the game he was.”— Patrick Sharp, NBCSN analyst