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Picking numbers - 12-10-10

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Back in October, Flames rookie defenseman T.J. Brodie caused a bit of a stir when he wore No. 66 for the first few weeks of the season.

As it turned out, Brodie, a 20-year-old who made the NHL roster out of training camp as a bit of a surprise, was simply given the number and didn't feel established enough to request a new number.

A few members of the Penguins recently discussed their own humble beginings in NHL training camp and what it was like wearing a "training camp" number:


Paul Martin (right), No. 7

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Devils?

"I had 38 my first training camp.  I think they just gave it to me. When you’re a rookie, you don’t ask for too many things. They just gave me 7."


Chris Kunitz, No. 14

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Mighty Ducks?

"I had 38 my whole first year. Just whatever number you get in camp. You just worry about playing hockey. You’re worried about what your number is. Just happy to be there."

Why did you change to 14?

"They didn’t like high numbers. So they asked everybody with high numbers to switch down."


Brent Johnson (right), No. 1

Did you have ever have an odd 'training camp number?'

"No I never did. Sorry that’s so boring. I got No. 1 and stuck with it for a little while. Then I wanted No. 35. My first full year in St. Louis, I got that. Then I went back to 1 and I’ve been back to it every since."

Does No. 1 mean anything to you?

"It’s just a number. I like No. 1. My dad wore No. 1."


Pascal Dupuis, No 9

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Wild?

"I think I was 69 actually. I was a tryout player. So I had No. 69."

What was your reaction to that number?

"You get a high number, you feel like you have to prove something."

When did you change it?

"They had me play two games for the team the first year and they gave me No. 11."

How did you end up with No. 9 (right)?

"I got the Rangers where I spent two weeks and 11, Mark Messier wore it before so I couldn’t get it there. I got a goofy number. I got 61. I wore it for two weeks. Then I got to Atlanta and that’s where I got 9."

Does No. 9 carry any meaning for you?

"Yeah, it’s my son’s birthday."


Mike Rupp, No. 17

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Devils?

"I had 48, 42 and the one year I had 16. It was kind of a subtle way of saying I had a shot at making the team."


Tyler Kennedy (right), No. 48

On his current number:

"Yeah, I got it in training camp. I got called up and they gave me 48 and I just kept it."

Does 48 carry any meaning for him?

"No, I never even thought about 48. I used to be 8 when I was younger."


Mike Comrie, No. 19 

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Oilers?

"My first number in the NHL was 89 because it was my training camp number. I ended up keeping it until last year. I had 89 for eight or nine years. This is the first year I actually picked a number."


Deryk Engelland, No. 5

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Penguins?

"I was in the low forties. You more or less take what they give you. It’s not something you want to worry about while trying  to get into the league. "

When did you change it to No. 5?

"Last year before camp, they asked if there was a number if I want. I’ve been 5 for a long time. I asked if it was available. And it was so I took that."


Craig Adams (right), No. 27

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Hurricanes?

"I think my training camp number my first year was 46 maybe. Once I made the team, I asked if I could switch to something a little bit more reasonable. "

When did you change to No 27?

"I think one of the guys said, ‘Hey, you don’t have to keep that.’ And I got a chance to get 27."

Does No 27 carry any meaning?

No. I wore 17 all growing up and in junior and college and everything. But I don’t know why Rod Brind’Amour wouldn’t give it to me but he wouldn’t."


Eric Tangradi (right), No. 26

(Note: We chatted with Tangradi back in October before he was demoted to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.)

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Penguins?

I was No. 78 at one point. It’s definitely pretty soothing to have a normal number. It makes me feel like I belong.

How did you decide on No. 26?

"Actually Dan Bylsma contacted me and said 26 is open. I said, ‘I’d love to. I’d wear anything on my back just to be on this dressing room and to be on this team.’"


Alex Goligoski, No. 3

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Penguins?

"Yeah. It was a training camp number. You just show up and there was a number there. It was 67. Whatever. I didn’t really care."

Was No. 66 or No. 68 not available?

"That was kind of the question everyone kept asking. I don’t know why I was jammed in there."

Does No. 3 carry any meaning?

"I don’t really care. I don’t know. I was 7 when I played high school. I was 10 when I went to college. I was 13 my first year pro. Then Billy (Guerin) took 13. I was 3. It really doesn’t matter to me."


Tony Granato (right), assistant coach

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Rangers?

"39 to start my first training camp in New York. And I didn’t know I was going to be 39 until I showed up. When you’re a young player, you look and see what the other guys numbers are – the draft pick and other prospects – and you can kind of guess where you fit amongst the depth chart."

When did you get a "normal" number?

After a couple games, the trainers said, ‘Hey the bosses said you can pick a number and these are the ones available.’


Phil Bourque, broadcaster

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Penguins?

"I had low numbers. I think I had 2, 7. It’s one of those things where the equipment guy says here are three or four numbers or you just show up and the number is there. And you don’t dare say, 'Boo' until you feel like you’ve got a couple games or get a first goal in the NHL. You just kind of zip your mouth and worry about what you have to do on the ice."

When did you change to No. 29 (right)?

"I think I wore No. 28 when (former head coach) Pierre Creamer was here. And the next year, I wanted to wear 29. And I think I asked (former equipment manager) Steve Latin if I could have 29 and he said yeah sure, it’s open."


Ben Lovejoy, No. 6

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Penguins?

"I was No. 65. They only give that to the big time prospects. I played my first couple of game wearing No. 65. It will always have a soft spot in my heart. I actually have one of the jerseys I wore."

When did you change to No. 6 (right)?

"When first got sent down my first year after playing two games. I had a meeting with the coaches and mangers, Ray (Shero) if I wanted to switch numbers. That was a good feeling."


Zbynek Michalek, No. 4

What was your first number in your first NHL camp with the Wild?

"When I was first a rookie, I came to Minnesota, I was wearing 73 or 72. It was a pretty high number. That’s what they give to rookies usually. I guess when you make the team, they allow you to change your number."

When did you change to No. 4?

"I always wore four since I started playing hockey. When I was in Minnesota, 4 was taken so I had to wear No. 6. Then I got traded to Phoenix, I went back to No. 4 since it was open."

How long did it take to get No. 4 with the Coyotes?

"I came to Phoenix. Nobody knew me. They gave me 39. I palyed maybe the first five, six games with 39. Some of the older guys came up to me and said if I wanted to change numbers, just go ahead."

On getting No. 4 with the Penguins (right):

"Right when I signed, I was on the phone with Ray Shero and he asked me what number I would like to wear. I said I would like to wear No. 4 like in Phoenix. He said it was available and he was going to hold it for me."

(Photos: Martin, Dupuis, Kennedy and Michalek-Jamie Sabau/Getty Images; Johnson, Adams, Tangradi-Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; Lemieux and Jagr-Photobucket; Granato-eBay; Bourque-Penguins Hockey Cards; Lovejoy-Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

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