International Ice Hockey Federation

The high numbers

The high numbers

Who would ever wear number 99? Who?

Published 10.05.2017 16:27 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
The high numbers
Russia's Vladislav Namestnikov (#90) and Nikita Gusev (#97) are among the players going with high numbers. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Sweater numbers are sacred to some players, trivial to others. Herein a look at what's hot and what's not at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

The name and number stick out like a shock. You see the roster for Latvia on the day the World Championship started, and there, at the bottom, is Teodors Blugers listed as number 99.

Say it ain’t so!

Relax, hockey traditionalists. Blugers wasn’t trying to wear perhaps the one sacred number that no one would dare to wear. 

“Normally when a player is entered with 99 it's usually for one reason only,” Emma Karlsson, one of the IIHF’s crack results managers explained. “It means his correct jersey number is not known yet, so they just enter 99 to be able to register him—you can’t register a player without a number."

In the case of Blugers, the team wanted to register but didn’t have an assigned number for him yet. When he got to Cologne and the Nike team made his nameplate, he took number 23.


That doesn’t mean this World Championship is a numerical bore, though. No! In fact, there are several interesting additions to the high-numbers history of the tournament.

The distinction of the highest number this year goes to Nikita Gusev of Russia, who wears 97. Right behind him with 96 is Damien Brunner of Switzerland and Mikko Rantanen of Finland. 

There are a small number of sacred numbers. In addition to Gretzky, no one wears 66 (Mario Lemieux) or 68 (Jaromir Jagr). Perhaps with the latter that explains why we have THREE players taking number 69 this year. In the past, it has been worn perhaps twice, most famously by Czech Martin Havlat in 2004. 

But in 2017, we have Lukas Radil (CZE), Mikhail Karnaukhov (BLR), and Matija Pintaric (SLO) all wearing a number that has traditionally been shunned (for obvious reasons). 

While some players “own” their numbers, other numbers are worn out of homage. Many a player has taken 4 for Bobby Orr or 29 for Ken Dryden. The 17 of Valeri Kharlamov has often been inverted to 71 (Ilya Kovalchuk), and sometimes a great idea is pilfered. 

Sidney Crosby wears 87 because he was born on August 7 (8-7) and was born in the year 1987. Three players here take 87 for the latter reason: Gints Meija (LAT), Marcel Hascak (SVK), and Vadim Shipachyov (RUS).

Of all the high numbers (anything over 30), the only ones not in use this year are 52, 56, 64, 73, 75, 83, and 98 (in addition to the big three of 66, 68, and 99). 

The most popular high number is 55, worn by no fewer than eight players. Number 71 has six and 70 has five wearers. 

Among the low numbers, the traditional number 9—and number 10—are the most popular, having nine wearers each of the famous hockey digits. Eight players wear number 8, but number 7, usually a traditional star number as well, is worn by only five players.

And goalies? Number 1 used to be the best, but now only three goalies wear it—Andreas Bernard (ITA), Jonas Hiller (SUI), and Thomas Greiss (GER).


Back to Overview