Saturday, November 24, 2018

From Forsberg to Bure to no particular reason, Blues skaters dissect their current numbers, ones they grew up wearing

Some players wore numbers idolizing their favorite player, 
some didn't have one, others just went with what they were given

ST. LOUIS -- Blues fans have their favorite players and know the numbers they wear by heart.

Ever wonder if the numbers they actually wear are their favorite numbers, if they were just given to them and why? Or if they had a different favorite number and why?

Well, gauging the comments from every player on the roster, some of the common names to come up as favorite players and numbers included Peter Forsberg and Pavel Bure more than a couple times.

Here are your Blues players in numerical order and their answers:

Carl Gunnarsson, No. 4
What was your favorite number?

Nick Lidstrom. I don't think anyone can compare themselves to him, but I just enjoyed watching him play. It looked so effortless. One of the all-time best. 

Did you ever wear No. 5?
Last time I wore five was way back, probably like 13, 14 years ago, that was it. Every team I've been on, it's been taken or up in the rafters. That's been a tough one to get. Five was taken here, a couple numbers I had in the past were taken, too, and I like the low ones. 

Why No. 4?
Four kind of just stuck with me. I had 36 in Toronto. That was a camp number, so I didn't want to do that again.

Joel Edmundson, No. 6
What was your favorite number growing up?
I'd say 19. A lot of goal scorers wore No. 19. 

You couldn't get No. 19 here because of Jay Bouwmeester:
He's 19 now, but back when I watched him, he was No. 4. He used to be one of my favorite players growing up. But I played forward for a year, so I wore No. 19. That was back in peewee, so I was 12-ish. I wore No. 19 as a centerman and I put up over 200 points. Back in the day, I used to be offensive, but that slowly went away. There's not really any reason. Goal scorers, lots of guys wore it in the league. 

How did you come to No. 6?
They told me here it was six or one other number and I said I'll take six. My prospect number was 62. Once I made the team, they gave me a couple options. I wanted to keep a low number, so No. 6 was it. Lots of low numbers retired on this team, so this was one of the ones available so I took it.

Pat Maroon, No. 7
Did you have a favorite number?
Seven was my favorite number. I've always wore that number, I always had it. 

Easy to take when you signed in your hometown?
It was one of those things where it was available and I had it to take. Obviously (No.) 19 was taken by 'Bouw' so seven was available. In Anaheim, it was 62 and 19, so 19 was with me in the minors all the way through so I just figured I'd stick with it. 

Did you get to wear either No. 7 or No. 19 when you first got started?
When you're in training camp, they give you a number and I was 62 for two years and changed the last few years. And I was 17 in New Jersey last year. Seventeen was taken here, 19 was taken. So there wasn't too many options after that.

Sammy Blais, No. 9 
What was your favorite number?
I've always had when I was younger No. 9 as my number. I like 19 a lot, but 'Bouw' got it, so I always liked nine or 19. Just decided to switch it up and finally have a good number.

You wore No. 64 before and both you and Robert Thomas wanted No. 9. Why did you get it?
I think I had the first choice, so I took No. 9, but I think [Thomas] looks good with No. 18. I just decided to take No. 9 because it was open.

Brayden Schenn, No. 10 
Is No. 10 your favorite number?
Ten's been my number. I've worn 10 my whole life. I wore it in Philly, I wore it in junior, I wore it in L.A. when I made the team. 

Did you get it right away after the Kings drafted you?
They first gave the rookie No. 55 and they let me switch it to 10. It's just kind of worked out where I came to teams. The only time I didn't wear it was in junior. I wore 21 because 10 was retired in Saskatoon. Other than that, I pretty much wore it my entire life, even minor hockey, so yeah, I guess 10's my number. 

Why No. 10?
I was always a big fan of Pavel Bure back in the day. He was the guy you rooted for. A skilled Russian, dynamic that can wow you at any time. I got attached to his game and the number. They were waiting for 'Uppy' [Scottie Upshall] if he was going to come back or not, and then they said he wasn't coming back, so they gave me 10, and then 'Uppy' did come back.

Zach Sanford, No. 12
You're a Massachussetts native. Is this an easy question what your favorite number was?
I liked (No.) 4, I loved Bobby Orr. I never watched him. I was a huge Bruins fan. He's the most famous Bruin of all time probably. It was either that, or my dad [Michael] used to wear (No.) 8 a little bit when I was younger. It would have been cool (to get that number to honor my dad). 

When did you start wearing 12?
I had 12 when I was in juniors. I was 21 in high school so that's where the 12 came from. Just flip it around. 

Me and my dad used to watch every Bruins game growing up. We were pretty big fans. 

You weren't able to get 12 when you first were traded here:
I was 82 when I first came here. That was just a training camp number. I didn't want that one. That's for the Euros. I wore 12 for two years. I think I'll stick to it. I don't want to be switching too much.

Robby Fabbri, No. 15
What number did you grow up being fond of?
I was actually 21 for Peter Forsberg. I grew up loving him and watching him. I was 21, I don't know, my first year of playing triple-A. All through there. I couldn't wear it in juniors so in juniors, I was No. 9. That was just one of the best options they had. But with 21 and Forsberg, he had so much great skill and he still played hard. He's able to use his body and just the way he sees the ice and the way he plays, I've always grown up loving players that play like that. From a young age, I started liking him. 

How did you come to No. 15?
I don't know if they gave me 15 here or if it was just the best option they had. But I ended up settling into it and I like it now. I'm not much about switching numbers, so I'm good with 15 now.

Jaden Schwartz, No. 17 
What's your favorite number?
I really didn't have one. My uncle wore 15 when he was older, Darren Schwartz. He played in the East Coast [Hockey] League for a while and played juniors. Fifteen was always around our family. Seventeen was always there. 

You started with No. 9 with the Blues and switched to 17 to honor your sister Mandi, right?
Yeah, to wear it in honor of my sister, it means a lot. It's obviously a special meaning to our family. I wore it growing up but kind of got away from it a little bit, but when it was available, it was obvious. We were very, very close. She obviously had a huge impact on me. It was tough for us, but it makes my family proud that I'm wearing it.

Robert Thomas, No. 18
You wore No. 27 in Hamilton and started with 36 here and switched to 18. Why?
There wasn't really too many options there. I always wore nine and 27 growing up, so I just kind of picked something in the middle of it. I thought 18 suited me a little better than 36, so I decided to switch. ... [Blais] had already asked for (No. 9) before; he had wore nine growing up, so it was all his.

Jay Bouwmeester, No. 19
What was your favorite number?
I was never really into players because of their number. I was No. 4 for a long time just because when I played junior, they gave me No. 4. When I came here, I liked Steve Yzerman when I was a kid, and my only options were like 19 and 13 and something else, so I took 19. I've never been real particular about it. I don't see the significance in numbers. I've played on lots of different teams with lots of different numbers. It doesn't matter.

Alexander Steen, No. 20
What was your favorite number?
I switched quite a bit. I'd say 25 because my dad [Thomas Steen] was wearing 25 (in Winnipeg). I switched it up. I wore 52 for a while, then I made the pro team back home when I was 17 so I picked 17 as my number, and then I switched to MoDo and 17 was taken so I took 27; I just added 10, and then when I got to Toronto, they asked me and I just took 10. When I got traded here, I added 10 again. Ten for some reason, and then 20 and 25, I'd say, were my three numbers."

Tyler Bozak, No. 21
Did you have a favorite number growing up?
I never really had a favorite number. My old email had 68 in it because I liked [Jaromir] Jagr, so 68 was a number I liked. I never wore it. I was a big Pavel Bure fan too. He changed his number a lot, but I always liked what he was wearing. 

After wearing 42 in Toronto for nine seasons, you chose 21 here. Why?
I was 21 in college (at Denver University), and that was the number I really liked, and that was taken when I got to Toronto (by former Blue Lee Stempniak) so they gave me 42 and I stuck with that. When I got the chance to go back to my college number here, I did. I wore 21 just the two years in college and I had some really good success and I really liked the number, so it kind of became my favorite number.

Chris Thorburn, No. 22
What was your favorite number?
My favorite number was 17. I don't know, I think it was the first number given to me when I got my first jersey and I just tried to keep it all the way. Then I got to North Bay [Ontario Hockey League] and Chris Eade was wearing it, so then I switched to 16, and then from there I went to 19. It's not a superstitious thing, but 17 was my favorite number though growing up. 

What did you get when you first reached the NHL?
When I went to Buffalo, I had like 47, but then when I went to Pittsburgh, they asked what number and I said 22. It was available, they gave it to me, and then I went to Atlanta, Ken Klee was there. He usually wears No. 2 but Garnet Exelby was there. He took it when he got traded there, because he was an older guy, so he took 22 and then I went to 27, and then when we went to Winnipeg, I was wearing 27, which was Teppo Numminen's number. So out of respect ... I actually called Teppo; he never returned my call, to see if I could wear his number. He never returned my call, so I was like, 'Ahh!' I'll just change it because all of us were changing our numbers. Bryan Little, myself, and then I went back to 22 in Winnipeg and I just stuck with it. [Kevin] Shattenkirk was here before, so it was available in the summer when I signed, so it just worked out. Double deuces, it's my favorite now.

Alex Pietrangelo, No. 27
What was your favorite number?
I wore 10 growing up. (But) when I was a little kid, I wore 88 because I loved [Eric] Lindros. That's when I played forward. I don't know how I got onto 10. I do know that once I picked No. 10, because there were no other numbers, I started liking Pavel Bure just because he was like the best No. 10 at the time. 

Why 27 when you got here?
When I came here, it was 21 or 27, and the 'Berg Dog' [Patrik Berglund] took 21. I still remember that conversation on the plane. I didn't have much of a choice, it was 21 or 27. They just said these were your choices, and I was only 18; I'm not going to say anything. So 'Bergy' took 21 and there I was. And 27 has stuck with me. It's worked out well. I had 52 when I first came into camp, but that was a tough one. That was a training camp number. I wasn't going to keep 52. No. 27 stuck with me because of Scott Niedermeyer. Who else would I look to?

Jakub Jerabek, No. 28 
You've been here briefly, so what was your number growing up?
I had more numbers. I used to play with 15 when I was young, maybe this one, or five. Five was in our family. My father [Jaroslav] played soccer with five and my sister [Marketa] played handball then with five also. 

Coming here late, how did you settle for 28?
They gave me this number maybe here because I played with this last year in Montreal and Washington. I used five and 15 with soccer and tennis and I used to play street hockey with the guys and when the Czech Republic won the Olympics in '98, everyone wanted to be Jagr or [Dominik] Hasek. I just jumped on the ice and was really excited and a big fan. I fell in love with hockey and wore those numbers.

Vince Dunn, No. 29 
What was your number growing up?
Yeah, No. 4 probably. I was a big Bobby Orr fan. I was like a Bruins fan growing up. Bruins and Red Wings were probably my favorite teams. It's kind of hard to cheer for Toronto when you're a [Toronto] kid and they weren't doing so well. It's a little different now, but it's something that's like always been iconic in Canada. Bobby Orr's obviously a huge hockey figure and he did a lot in his career for how short it was.

What were you hoping to get when you turned pro?
I was hoping to be No. 4 in Chicago and I was No. 6, and that wasn't too bad. Other than that, I usually always have been No. 4. 

And why 29 when you came to St. Louis?
I think 29 is cool. It was a random number given to me. My birthday (fell) on the 29th of (October), so it kind of works for me and I just kind of stuck with it. It works. I didn't really like it at first, but I thought about it, and was like, 'Yeah, it's my birthday.' It works and might as well keep it if it's working.

Chad Johnson, No. 31
Goalies don't deviate from certain numbers, so what was your favorite number?
I liked No. 30. I think for me, it was just a lot of goalies I watched growing up. Ed Belfour, I sort of idolized him when he was with Dallas, maybe a little bit with Chicago. Marty Brodeur, obviously he was a big name. So it was kind of like that goalie number. Thirty was the start of those goalie numbers and so I just kind of fell in love with being No. 30 and as I moved on, it was difficult to kind of get 30 with the different teams I played for, especially in the NHL, so I linked up with 31 and I always had the opportunity to wear either 30 or 31, so I just decided to go with 31. That's what I've worn the last few years. In Long Island, I wore 30. When I first came into the league with the Rangers, I wore 29 just because [Henrik] Lundqvist was wearing 30. And then one year I think I was 30 in Boston, then the next year I was 30 again with the Islanders, so I just decided to switch over to 31. 

And coming here to St. Louis, 31 was right there waiting for you, right?
I've had choices. It worked out again this year where I had the choice of 30 or 31. Obviously, some great goalies have worn that number here. I have always been a fan of [Grant] Fuhr and [Curtis] Joseph obviously. Those guys were big names here and played big names. So 31 was a popular number here, and Brodeur was 30 when he was here. I was fortunate to get 31 and be able to wear it.

Jordan Kyrou, No. 33
Since Blues fans haven't really gotten to know you much, what was your number growing up?
I actually used to wear 55 because my birthday was May 5th. Fifth month, fifth day. I liked players, I didn't get into their numbers, but Pavel Datsyuk was my favorite player growing up and Nathan MacKinnon too. 

So what made you settle for 33 in St. Louis?
I got 33 because they wanted us to go with lower numbers. There weren't really too many options. In junior, I wore 25 and that wasn't really an option, so I just decided to stay with it here. They gave me 33 and there's really no rhyme or reason, so just stay with it.

Jake Allen, No. 34
Again, with goalies, there's certain numbers they wear. What was yours growing up?
John Vanbiesbrouck was always my favorite goalie and he was 34. That's why I more or less have 34 now I guess. When you're a kid, you don't really get to pick your number. When you're playing minor hockey, there's always No. 1 or No. 30 and then once you get to junior, you sort of have more of a choice and then when you get to pro, first in the American [Hockey] League, I never had the opportunity. I was 35 and then after that, they let me change to 34 so I just stuck with it that way. 

Why Vanbiesbrouck?
I always liked his mask in Florida as a kid. In Florida, he had a big cat mask. He was always had cool pads and at that time, he was a great goalie and got them to the Cup Finals there in '96, 97. He just always caught my attention. I had his jersey and I liked the cat logo. I had his jersey. I was a Panthers guy when he was there. 

Did you get 34 right away?
I had 35 in the minors in Peoria, but after that, I had 34 everywhere else. Actually, I had 35 in Chicago with the Wolves because 34 wasn't available, but the whole time with the Blues, it's been 34.

Robert Bortuzzo, No. 41 
What number were you fond of growing up?
Fifteen was mine. My cousin [Mike Wehrstedt] was a pretty good player and he wore 15. He played a little bit in the OHL. He was older and cooler and good at hockey, so I think I liked the number, and that was it. I wore it all through minor hockey all my life. 

And when the Penguins drafted you?
Pittsburgh gave me 41. Fifteen was gone in junior hockey, so I wore 21. That was for Peter Forsberg. Don't know why a young defenseman would want a Peter Forsberg number, but that's what I wore in junior. And 41 was my training camp number and that was it. I said I'm here and I'm not messing with things. I just stayed with it here. I figured once the coach knew my number, I don't want to change it. That was pretty much the reason why I kept it.

Jordan Schmaltz, No. 43
What was your number growing up as a Wisconsin guy who went to North Dakota?
My favorite number was seven or 24. I've always worn those, and I think just because [Chris] Chelios wore seven and then he switched to 24. I always liked watching him play. Especially growing up playing for the Mission in Chicago. The Hawks and even the Red Wings were always on, so he was probably my go-to guy to watch. I always liked watching him play. I started with seven and I kind of transformed over to 24 and then actually went back to seven in junior and went to 24 in North Dakota. 

You couldn't get either of those numbers here ... 
Well, seven was for [Keith] Tkachuk; that's an unwritten rule and I don't take that one and 24 was [Bernie] Federko, so those are both taken. Forty-three was a camp number and I just kind of rolled with it. My uncle [Mark Schmaltz], that was his number in football, 43, at North Dakota so I was just went with it. He was always a big beauty and a big supporter, so I'm rolling with it.

Ivan Barbashev, No. 49 
What was your favorite number in Russia?
Mine was 22. Since my older brother [Sergey], who's 26 or 27, started playing hockey, he always played it at No. 22, so usually he wore it. It kind of started being a family thing, so he started with 22 and I started playing with 22 when I was younger. My first year in the American [Hockey] League, I couldn't take 22 because somebody else had it, some of the older guys. For my second season, I had 22. 

What were you looking for when you got here?
So when I was here, before 'Thorbs' got traded or picked up, I asked for 22 and the guys told me like, 'Thorbs' is coming and I was like OK, whatever. It's OK. They just gave me 49 here. I don't care. I'd like to get 22 if I can. That's the thing. 'Thorbs' is 35. I can see him playing another couple years for sure. You never know. I'll wait. I'm OK with 49. I don't care. That's what they gave me and I don't really want to change anything. I'm totally fine with this. 

Colton Parayko, No. 55
You could take a pick of favorite numbers growing up in the suburbs of Edmonton and all those great Oilers players, so what was it?
Twelve. I was born on May 12th. It's kind of boring. I just started wearing it and that was the number I kind of stuck with playing hockey. I wore it through minor hockey, wore it in junior, then in college, it was taken by a guy ahead of me in my class [Garrick Perry]. As soon as I got four, I went with four in college and didn't really change. I also wore 12 during my time at Fort McMurray, 10 the first year, 12 the second year.

So how did you come to 55 here?
I got it out of camp here. When you come in, they just give you numbers and they asked me if I wanted to change, and I thought it looked good. Seems like a cool number, I don't know. The 'Colt 55' started to catch on. Some people were saying that, and with the 'Colt 45', some people were like, 'You ought to get 45,' and I was like, 'I don't know. This looks fine.' I'm not really a big number guy, so it doesn't matter. I could have probably taken 12, but Jori [Lehtera] wore it when I first got here. If 12 was open, I would have taken it at that time, but now that I have 55, I think I'll just stay. 

David Perron, No. 57
So what was a kid from Quebec fond of growing up?
Mine was 21 with Peter Forsberg. I really liked following him growing up. I just thought he was great making plays and played hard. It's when I was really, really young and after that, I actually had 57 one year in minor hockey, but it was given to me just like it was given to me here and that's pretty much it. When I was young, I wore 21 a lot and I was a center back then just like Forsberg was, so I was just trying to kind of mold my game around him, work hard, make plays and kind of try and do it all for the team like he was. He was a great player. I like his grittiness how strong he was on the puck even though he was a smaller guy. And then as I grew older, guys like [Alexei] Kovalev, those guys with a lot of skill. They really impressed me too.

So when you came here, what made you decide on 57?
I didn't really like (57) when I started, but it was the number they gave me here, and if I wanted to be here, I just wanted to have a jersey on my back. It didn't really matter what the number was and then midway through the year, they asked me if I wanted to change and I kind of got used to it one year in minor hockey, so I stuck with it. It worked out with all the teams I've been on, I could wear it.

I had 39 in junior and with Dougie Weight being here, all the respect for him, I wasn't going to do that and then the next year, I had wore 39 like one half season in Pittsburgh, but it's just a number at the end of the day, but now I'm used to 57 and I like it.

Oskar Sundqvist, No. 70
Did you have a number you were fond of growing up?
No, I didn't. I had all different kinds of numbers when I was younger. I didn't really have a favorite one. I liked Peter Forsberg, but I didn't like his number. I don't know why, but I didn't like 21. I liked him as a player. 

So when you turned pro, you didn't care what you got? And is that the case when you came here?
When I came here, first I wanted 40, but that was [Carter] Hutton, and then I wanted 41 and that was [Robert] Bortuzzo and then I just came up with 70. I don't know why I came up with that. I like a number with a zero in it, if I had to pick. Zero or a one, except for 21 though. Ninety-one is nice, 71 is nice, 90 is nice. I think I've worn 8, 11, 29, 40 and now 70. I'll just stay with 70 for now. I like 70 so I'll stick with that one for now. 

Nikita Soshnikov, No. 86
What was your favorite number?
I never really had one. I never really paid attention to numbers. When I picked one, it was 90. I don't know why, but for whatever reason, my buddies had like five numbers, so I had to choose one of them, so I had to be one in between. I wore 90 with the [Toronto] Marlies, but when I came to the Leafs, high numbers weren't allowed, so I had 41 and I actually liked this number, 41. They gave me 41 and I kind of liked it, but we had 41 here and I had to choose something else. 

So why did you take 90 and what made you settle for 86 when you changed and why?
I took 90, but [Ryan] O'Reilly was playing in this league for a long time. So I gave that to him, and took 86, and to be honest, I don't know why. I didn't know which number to choose. I kind of liked this one so I just picked it.

Ryan O'Reilly, No. 90
Did you wear a particular number when you were younger and liked?
I always wore nine when I was young. I always loved nine because it was what my brother [Cal] wore. He's in Des Moines, and then I had a cousin [Bill Bowler] played before. Played pro for a while, played in the American League and IHL [International Hockey League]. He wore nine all through his junior career. He holds the all-time points record for Windsor in the OHL and maybe assist record. He played five years and like just lit it up, so he was someone that we always watched and idolized. Nine was the big number. 

Were you able to wear it?
I didn't get to wear it a lot, because it was such a popular number, so a lot of kids had it. I bounced around, but I really liked it when [Mike] Modano went to Detroit, and he wore 90. I was wearing 37 at the time, but I was like, 'That's a sick number.' A guy always wore nine went to 90. I liked it and I always thought it would look nice with the O'Reilly, like the zero of the O'Reilly and the nine. Now I love it. I've been wearing 90 for seven years now. I wore 37 for the first three years (in Colorado) and then I switched and I got it. It worked out well here. I like the number. 

Vladimir Tarasenko, No. 91
Another Russian kid growing up, what was your go-to number?
Ten was my favorite. It used to be 10. I always played 10. My grandpa [Vladimir] played 10, my dad [Andrei] played 10. I played 10, but then I went to KHL team and 10 was taken already. So I start to play 91 and then 10 was open and I was like, 'OK, there's no need to change no more.' And that's how it ended up. I used to play 10, I also have 13 a little bit, but 10 is like a family tradition. 

When you came to St. Louis, why 91?
And 91 is the year I was born and 13 was the date of I was born. It's simple. When I start playing here, there was no need to change. You get used to playing 91 all the time and then with Russian national team, I was 91 and there was no need to change.