From A to Zub: Why every Senators player wears their jersey number

NHL players tend to be a superstitious bunch.

They often follow the same pattern, with some of their routines dating all the way back to their minor hockey days.

This is especially true of their jersey numbers, which hold a special meaning for the players. An NHL player’s jersey number often has a hidden or unique meaning behind it. Sometimes players wear it to honour a family member. Other times, it’s to signify a lucky number they’ve worn for years. And on some occasions, a jersey number ends up on their back by pure accident.

So over the past several weeks, The Athletic asked every member on the Ottawa Senators roster about the backstory of their jersey number.

(Note: answers have been edited for clarity and length.)

No. 2: Artem Zub

“So my first number when I was young, usually had No. 33. After that I had No. 4 when I started in the KHL. When I went to St. Petersburg, we had a forward with No. 4. So I got No. 2 and then when I went to the national team, I got No. 2. When I came to Ottawa, they had four or five options for me. I was happy to see No. 2 was open so I took it.”

No. 6: Jakob Chychrun

“No. 6 was given to me in my first training camp in Arizona. I’m not sure if they did it as a gesture because my pops also wore No. 6, but I thought it was pretty cool. And once I made the team, I just kept it.”

Chychrun spent part of his childhood in the Ottawa area and understands the legacy of the jersey number that previously belonged to Wade Redden, who is in the club’s Ring of Honour.

“It’s funny, when I was traded here, they asked me if I wanted to still wear No. 6. And I said, ‘Wait, am I allowed?’. I knew that Reds wore that number for a long time, so I wasn’t sure if I was allowed. But they told me I could and that was pretty much it.”

No. 7: Brady Tkachuk

“It’s pretty simple because my dad wore it and that’s a number that’s always been in our family. But when we were growing up, Matthew also wore seven and while we didn’t play for the same team, we played for the same organization, the St. Louis Triple-A Blues. And because our hockey bags would have been the exact same, I actually switched to No. 71 when I was younger. And that was a little bit for (Evgeni) Malkin too. But then of course when I came here and had the opportunity, it was pretty easy choice to go with seven.”

Brady Tkachuk wears No. 7. (Dan Hamilton / USA Today)

No. 9: Josh Norris

“No real reason, honestly. I think I’ve always liked the No. 9. I have three nines in my birth year — 1999 — so there are a lot of nines there. And he wasn’t my favourite player, but I always loved watching Mike Modano and he wore No. 9. There’s no special reason for it. I just like the way it looks.”

No. 12: Mark Kastelic

“No. 47 was just given to me when I came in. And it definitely grew on me and I feel a sense of attachment to 47. But growing up and my whole life, I always wore No. 12. My grandpa Pat Stapleton wore that number too, so it’s a number that runs in the family. So I just asked to switch when it became available this year. I like the look of it and I think it just suits me.”

Does Kastelic know about Mike Fisher’s role in Ottawa wearing the same number?

“I’m well aware. He was an unreal player and it’s cool to have some history behind the number within the organization.”

 No. 17: Zack MacEwen

“Mine is actually for my father. He passed away in 2020 unexpectedly from a stroke. He was born on August 17, 1971, so it worked out for me in Vancouver to start wearing No. 17. It’s just something to honour him and always keep him with me.”

No. 18: Tim Stützle

“I wear 18 because No. 8 was retired. And I just figured I would put a one in front of it.”

Is Stützle familiar with Marian Hossa’s legacy wearing the same number?

“Oh yeah, I watched him play. So it’s definitely an honour to wear that same number.”

No. 19: Drake Batherson

“Growing up, I lived in a lot of places where my dad played pro. The time I remember best was when we were in Straubing, Germany and he wore No. 19. So when I was from the ages of 4 to 8, I kind of understood what was going on and I knew to always look for No. 19. I’ve always kind of loved it.”

How well does Batherson know about the other stars — like Jason Spezza and Alexei Yashin — who have also worn No. 19 for Ottawa?

“I used to watch Spezz growing up. And my first NHL game was in Ottawa and I actually got to meet him after the morning skate. I was like 10 or 11 years old and I still have the picture. I’ve gone for dinner with him since and it’s pretty awesome. It’s some big shoes to fill, that’s for sure.”

No. 21: Mathieu Joseph

“Why do I wear 21? It started in junior and my first number there was actually 42. And I wanted to stay with No. 42 because of Jackie Robinson, but they asked me to take a lower number because 42 was a training camp number. So I ended up taking 21. But my family number is seven. And when I had my first year of pro in Syracuse, they asked me what number I wanted to wear and I ended up taking No. 7. And that number wasn’t taken in Tampa either. When I got traded here, obviously seven was taken. I took No. 21 and I didn’t even realize this was Nick Paul’s number. I just took it because it was my junior number.”

No. 23: Travis Hamonic

“When I got traded here, my son Henry was two and my daughter Charlie was three. I wanted to wear something for the kids. I’ve always had a jersey number that has meant something to me along the way. The number was available and so I went with 23. I’m always thinking of the kids and they’re one of the main reasons I’m still playing.

So if his kids were three and four at the time of the trade, would Hamonic have worn No. 34 instead?

“Yeah, I guess so.”

No. 24: Jacob Bernard-Docker

“My story is pretty simple and there’s not a ton of meaning behind it. In bantam I was No. 12, and when I went up to junior, they didn’t have it available, so I doubled it and went to 24. And funny enough, when I first came to Ottawa, my training camp number was 48 — so they doubled it again. I didn’t ask for that and I did consider keeping 48, but I like 24 more.”

No. 26: Erik Brannstrom

“I always wore either 26 or 17. My dad played pro when we were younger and he always switched between 17 and 26. So I’m using 26 for him. I wore 26 and my brother always wore 17. It’s always been those two numbers for us.”

No. 27: Parker Kelly

“I always used to wear No. 17 growing up. There is a junior-A team in my hometown and my favourite player growing up used to wear 17. When I got to junior, 17 was taken and they ended up giving me 27. And it grew on me. I wore it for four years in Prince Albert. When I got here, I was given 45. I’ve always wanted to go back to 27, so this is the first year with 27. And it just feels right again.”

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Claude Giroux requested No. 9 when he was playing for the Gatineau Olympiques, but they gave him No. 28 — and the number stuck. (Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

No. 28: Claude Giroux

“It’s pretty simple. I went to the Gatineau Olympiques. They asked me which number I wanted to wear. I said, ‘No. 9’. And then I came to my first game and I had 28 in my stall. So I just kept with it.”

Was somebody else wearing No. 9 for the Olympiques?

“No, but I didn’t ask any questions. I was just happy to make the team, so I just put my head down and played hockey.”

No. 31: Anton Forsberg

“I don’t really have a good explanation why. That’s basically the number I got from Columbus when I got sent down to the minors. And it’s kind of always been No. 31 since then.”

What number did he wear as kid growing up?

“The first time I picked a number I went with 25 because that’s the number my dad used to wear.”

No. 49: Rourke Chartier

“To be honest, I don’t know how I got 49. I had No. 67 last year and it got a little mixed up. I came in and it was 49 this year. We talked about maybe changing it, but the only other number I care for is 14. That’s what I wore in junior and I’ve had it a few times in pro. But I’m not really picky with numbers. So 49 is what was given to me and that’s what I’m going with.”

No. 52: Roby Jarventie

“This is just the number they gave me right now, so there is no story behind it. But if I had to choose my own number, I usually pick 21 because my dad played with it.”

No. 70: Joonas Korpisalo

“I didn’t actually choose it. In my first development camp, goalies were either 60, 70, 80 or 90. I said, ‘I don’t care what number I get. Just slap it on.’ And so they gave me No. 7o and that’s how I kept going on with it. When I was a kid, I wore No. 1 or No. 35 and that was pretty much it for goalies. I did wear No. 35 in the Finnish League, but I stayed with No. 70 since I came here. And I know Braden Holtby wore that number too. So I always thought, ‘If he’s using it, that’s good enough for me.’”

No. 71: Ridly Greig

“I wore 17 growing up because of my dad. But with Zack coming and the story with his dad, I was more than happy to give it to him. I just switched it up to 71 and my dad actually wore that a couple of times too. I wanted to stay with the one and the seven. I like it so far.”

Did MacEwen buy Greig anything for switching jerseys?

“We’re still figuring that out,” Greig says. “Maybe a couple of dinners on him.”

No. 72: Thomas Chabot

“No great reason at all. It was my training camp number and that’s the number they gave me on my first day. And I kind of just went with it. But my real number has always been 25. But for obvious reasons, I can’t wear that in Ottawa. I would have considered No. 5, but early on Cody Ceci had it. So I guess I look at 72 and say seven minus two equals five.”

No. 81: Dominik Kubalik

“It’s pretty simple. My favourite number is 18. But I’ve had bad luck where it seems like 18 is always taken. So when I went to Switzerland I went to 81 — just flipped the numbers. I went to Chicago and No. 18 was in the rafters and 81 was with Marian Hossa, so I just went with No. 8. And in Detroit and here in Ottawa, No. 81 was available so I went with that.”

No. 85: Jake Sanderson

“I have always worn eight when I was younger because my dad was eight. But when I came here, No. 8 was retired. So I thought it would be cool to be a higher number, but nothing too cocky, you know what I mean? Like if I was No. 87 or No. 88, I can’t do that. So I don’t know. No. 84 was too dusty for me. I went with No. 85 and nobody really wears that in the league.”

Jake’s dad, Geoff, also wore No. 80 for a portion of his NHL career. So did he ever consider that number in Ottawa?

“I thought about No. 80, yeah. But honestly, I just kind of like the way 85 looks. I think I’m going to rock it from now on.”

No. 91: Vladimir Tarasenko

“When I started hockey, I was No. 10 because my dad used to play and my grandpa used to play and they were both No. 10 at some point. But when I went to a KHL team at 16 years old, 10 was taken by an older guy. So I had a choice between 13 and 91. I was born in 1991 and I was born on the 13th of December. So I just decided to go with 91. And even when 10 was open, I just decided to stay. And so far, I’ve never switched from 91 since I was 16 years old.”

(Top photo: Chris Tanouye / Freestyle Photography / Getty Images)

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