The goaltenders from my youth – Bill Ranford, Andy Moog, Grant Fuhr – all had jersey numbers in the low thirties. And most of the goalies I can think of now have numbers in the low thirties. This got me wondering, how do the numbers number by position across the major sports leagues? What traditions, rules, and preferences do they reveal?
So what can we see in the numbers? Well, Jackie Robinson’s league-wide retired #42 is quite clear, while the NHL’s only league-wide retired number, #99, is not nearly as apparent given the thin number of 90s to begin with and its position at the end of the spectrum.
The NFL’s arcane and rigid numbering system also shows up quite clearly. Something I was completely unaware of until going through this exercise.
Plus there is an interesting parallel between soccer and hockey when it comes to picking numbers for the defence where both seem to prefer single digits that are not #1. Both leagues also like to give goalies the #1, though you can see the NHL’s three most popular goalie numbers are #30, #31, and #35 which I’m pleased to say are Bill Ranford, Grant Fuhr, and Andy Moog’s numbers respectively. I’ll imagine this is the leagues current players paying homage to the hero’s of my youth, though it is more likely has to do with tradition.
So click through and let us know what you discover in the graphics.