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Hockey’s Forbidden Digits: Taboo Hockey Jersey Numbers

Find the right jersey number for you! Learn which rec league hockey jersey numbers to choose from and which jersey numbers are forbidden.

Numbers 99 and 66 are pretty much off-limits when it comes to your rec league hockey jersey number.

While there are no hard, fast rules about what numbers you can and cannot wear on your custom rec league jersey, hockey players tend to be a superstitious and reverent bunch. Some numbers are just so synonymous with a particular player that wearing it on your rec league sweater can seem sacrilegious, while other numbers are downright offensive.

This week, me and the Keener Jerseys team will help you avoid hockey fashion faux pas by showing you all the jersey numbers to avoid, which jersey numbers may soon become off-limits, and how you can get your team’s custom hockey sweaters done on-time and accurately with world-class precision for the 2023 hockey season.

gretzky scoring against vancouver canucks wearing 99 hockey jersey

Gretzky already hitting 500 goals just over 5 years into his career.

Taboo Hockey jersey numbers

There are a number of jersey numbers that you may want to avoid putting on your custom team jerseys because of the taboo associated with the number. Some numbers are verboten because of who they’re associated with, while others are merely frowned upon because of their immature implications.

Here’s a rundown of all the taboo custom hockey jersey numbers you need to know to avoid embarrassment.

Untouchable numbers

In some sports, wearing an icon’s number is seen as honoring a legend, but in hockey it can be viewed as sacrilege. These are the numbers that players avoid out of respect:

99Wayne Gretzky’s number 99 was retired by the NHL following his retirement in 1999, making the number unavailable for use by any player league-wide. But, beyond that, hockey players generally steer clear of 99 to avoid any comparison to the greatest player to have ever played the game. While there is an unwritten rule that you can wear 99 if you are the best or worst player on your team, it’s still a pretty gutsy move.

66 – Although double-six hasn’t been officially retired by the NHL, many players revere the number in a similar fashion to Gretzky’s 99 because of its association with Mario Lemieux. Choosing this number can be seen as boastful. Of course, we did hear one story of a rookie rec league player who, knowing little about hockey, chose number 66 as an homage to Route 66, the legendary highway traveled by many rhythm and blues artists.

While those are the only universally recognized untouchable numbers, a case can be made for some others:

97Connor McDavid has established himself as one of the best players ever to lace ‘em up. His ultra-creative play-making ability and blistering speed have turned him into a true superstar, and his number 97 may soon be off-limits.

87Sidney Crosby has done it all. He’s won three Stanley Cups, two Hart Trophies, two Rocket Richard Trophy trophies, and who could forget his iconic golden goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics to clinch gold for Canada? Number 87 might still be usable for now, but be warned: a customer of ours recently came in to get his number changed away from 87 because the opposing teams were chirping him too much about it.

crosby winning the stanley cup wearing 87 hockey jersey

Crosby has done it all. Do you think his number is chirp worthy?

Storied numbers

Some numbers are taboo because of their association with one great player, while other numbers may be taboo because of their association with several great players. Pulling on a jersey with any of these numbers can be seen as adding oneself to a long list of Hall of Fame players.

9 – This is the number worn by many of hockey’s first big stars like “Rocket” Richard, Johnny Bucyk, Bobby Hull, and, of course, Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe. Some modern legends have also donned number nine, such as Mike Modano and Paul Kariya.

19 – The 1990s and early 2000s saw the rise of many number 19s who have since etched their names into hockey history. If you don’t want to be compared to the likes of Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Jonathan Toews, and Joe Thornton, you might want to choose a different license plate number. Even the pros chosen for Canada’s Olympic teams have shied away from wearing number 19 out of respect for Stevie Y — that’s why Jonathan Toews has worn number 16 when representing Canada at the Olymipcs.

77 – Double numbers tend to be worn by elite players, and 77 is no exception having been draped over greats such as Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Adam Oates, and Phil Esposito. If you want to wear a double number that doesn’t draw immediate comparisons to a list of all-time greats, go with 55 or lower.

88 – Similar to 77, double eights have been worn by some iconic players, most notably Eric Lindros and Patrick Kane. You can add Joe Sakic to that list, too, as he wore 88 during his rookie season with the Quebec Nordiques. You might get called out by your teammates if you try to add yourself to that list, though.

Cursed jersey numbers

Some jersey numbers are just downright bad luck. Here are some numbers that your teammates might talk you out of before sending in an order to your jersey maker.

13 – Triskaidekaphobia is the technical term for the superstitious fear of the number 13. It may have begun with Norse mythology when Loki, the trickster god, arrived as the 13th guest to a feast at which the god Baldur was killed. Or it may have its origins in the story of the betrayal of Christ, where Judas was the 13th guest to arrive at the Last Supper. And let’s not forget the infamous 13th man on the field that dashed the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 2009 Grey Cup hopes.

Either way, because of the perceived unluckiness of number 13, many players shy away from wearing it. Some notable exceptions include Teemu Selanne (who set the rookie goal scoring record wearing number 13) and Toronto Maple Leafs all-time leading scorer, Mats Sundin

67 – Speaking of the Leafs, Buds fans generally consider it to be unlucky to wear number 67 as 1967 was the last year that the Toronto club won the Stanley Cup. Leafs fans may want to avoid wearing this number on their rec league team jerseys, too, because who knows how deep the curse of number 67 really goes?

Inappropriate jersey numbers

We all have that one guy or gal on our team that likes to clown it up a bit. They answer the phone with “Wuzzuuuuup?” and they’re always quick with the perfect Borat quote. They are also the most likely to select one of these inappropriate jersey numbers.

69 – What can we really say about this number other than “get your mind out of the gutter!”  

420 – The NHL doesn’t allow players to select triple-digit numbers, but some rec leagues do. That’s where you’re sure to find cannabis crusaders wearing number 420 on their hockey sweaters. This number has become synonymous with cannabis culture, and is a rallying cry in countries and states that have not yet chosen to legalize jazz cabbage.

It’s not super advisable as a hockey number, however, as it’s easy for refs and time keepers to mistakenly give your points to number 42 or number 20. It may also be saying more about you than you want it to, especially if your in-laws come to watch you play in the league championship game.

custom numbering for rec team hockey jerseys

Custom numbering for rec team hockey jerseys

Team identity and custom jerseys go hand in hand, and choosing the right hockey jersey number can be a journey in itself. But ,whether you choose a forbidden number or you decide to play it safe, hockey jersey customization experts, Keener Jerseys can bring your vision to reality. My knowledgeable staff can replicate any team jersey to exact on-ice specs, so your team can look just like the pros. Give our custom jersey builder a try, and see for yourself. 

Custom hockey sweaters are my life, and I pride myself on being the most knowledgeable hockey jersey designer in the game. That’s why Keener Jerseys is the go-to hockey jersey customizer for professional hockey organizations and local rec league teams. Whether you’re the New York Islanders or the Vincent Massey High School Trojans, we’ll do your logos, numbers, and jerseys on-time and accurate. Every time.

Keener Jerseys consistently delivers high quality customization services. They are professional to work with and their customer service is excellent.” – Robert Marsala, New York Islanders

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A Little about Keener

Who is Keener?

Chris “Keener” Dougherty started customizing jerseys when he was 11. Over the next 20 years, Keener honed his craft to become a world-class customizer and leading expert on premium jersey customization.

Keener’s experience, attention to detail and ‘keen’ eye are what sets him apart! We hope you enjoy Keener’s jersey-related nuggets and insights as much as we do here at Keener Jerseys.

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