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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Fun with numbers - 1990-91 edition

There are few official rules when it comes to jersey numbers in the NHL. The number 0 or 00 (as the number messes with NHL statistics databases) and 99 (because of Wayne Gretzky) cannot be worn league wide. Each franchise has the ability to 'retire' or honour its own numbers in recognition of outstanding players, or other reasons all together (Minnesota retired the #1 in honour of their fans).

That being said, there are plenty of unofficial rules. 1 and numbers in 30s are typically reserved for goalies, defenceman wear lower numbers, and only certain unique numbers can be worn by superstars (see the case of Josh Ho-Sang trying to wear 66). For today's post, in honour of Zdeno Ciger, who worn 33, a number typically worn by goalies, during his time with the New Jersey Devils, let's recognizing some position players who wore a number in 30s range during the 1990-91 season:

  • Chris 'Knuckles' Nilan wore # 30 during the season with Boston. I wouldn't make a big deal out of his number, given his 277 penalty minutes in 41 games.

  • Tony Amonte made his NHL debut during two playoff games in 1991 with the Rangers, wearing the #31. He would wear #33 the following three seasons before switching to his familiar # 10.

  • Dale Hunter and Rob Ray, two other tough guys, wore # 32, both their standard numbers throughout their careers.

  • Hard shooting, mullet rocking Al Iafrate wore #33 with Toronto, switching to #34 after a mid-season trade to Washington.

  • Mitch Messier, cousin of Mark Messier, wore # 37 during his two games with Minnesota in 1990-91, the final games of his NHL career.

  • Future Hall of Famer Doug Gilmour rocked # 39 throughout his four season with the Flames, switching to his now familiar # 93 after being traded to Toronto.

  • Similar to Tony Amonte, Doug Weight made his NHL debut in the 1991 playoffs with the Rangers, playing a single game and wearing # 39. This number he would wear throughout his career, save his first season as an Oiler (wore # 43) and the final three years of his career with the Islanders (wore # 93)

Card 381 - Sergei Kharin

A right winger, Kharin was drafted 240th overall by Winnipeg in 1989 at age 26. Having already played pro hockey for several seasons in his native Soviet Union, Kharin came to North America in 1990-91, playing 66 games with Moncton, scoring 22 goals. He also appeared in seven games with the Jets, scoring two goals and five points. Those seven games would be Kharin’s only in the NHL, but unlike most Soviet players of the era, he would carve out another 10 years in North America.

In October 1991 his rights were traded to Quebec for Shawn Anderson, but Kharin’s next five pro seasons would be split between the AHL, ECHL and IHL. In 1993-94 with Dayton of the ECHL he scored 89 points in 59 games. In 1996-97 he joined Muskegon of the Colonial Hockey League, the franchise for which he would play the final four seasons of his pro career. In the late 1990s Kharin had back-to-back 100+ point seasons, including 122 in 1997-98, and won a Colonial Cup as player-coach in 1998. Despite playing only 288 games with the franchise, he ranks fifth all-time in points and third in assists.

About a decade after retiring Kharin came back to minor pro hockey in North America, as coach of Indiana in the short-lived All-American Hockey League. The AAHL lasted three seasons, with franchises in the midwestern United States; the league’s most famous moment comes from Kira Hurley, who was the first female pro hockey player to record a point in a men’s league game (her jersey and stick are on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame). In January 2016 Kharin was hired as the director of hockey operations for Flint in the OHL. He was named coach less than a month later after the firing of John Gruden. The next day OHL Commissioner David Branch suspended Flint’s team owner and all of his appointees.

Kharin returned to pro hockey in 2009 to play one game with Muskegon of the IHL in order to play on the same line as his son, Anton.

YouTube clip: scoring his second and final NHL goal.

Card 382 - Derek King

A left winger, King was drafted 13th overall by the New York Islanders in the 1985 draft. He played two additional seasons in the OHL with Oshawa following the draft, recording 106 points during the 1986-87 season. King also appeared in his first two NHL games that season.

The late 1980s saw King play roughly 46-60 games per season with the Islanders, averaging 30-40 points while spending significant time in the AHL. 1990-91 was his first full NHL season, scoring 45 points in 66 games. In a New Year’s Eve game against Quebec that season, King scored four goals in a single game.

1991-92 was King’s breakout season, scoring 40 goals and 78 points, both career-highs. The following season he scored 38 goals and 76 points as the Islanders went on a surprise run to the Prince of Wales Conference Finals. King contributed three goals and 14 points in 18 playoff games. The source of his breakout offensive performances in the early 1990s was King’s power play production, as he scored 21 goals with the man advantage each season, finishing fifth in the league in 1991-92.

After a third-straight 30 goal season in 1993-94, his scoring dropped throughout the mid-1990s. Late in 1996-97 King was traded to Hartford for a draft pick, scoring 23 goals between the two teams that season. After 12 games with the Whalers he signed as a free agent with Toronto, recording back-to-back seasons of 20+ goals. Early in the 1999-2000 season he was traded to St. Louis, playing his final 19 NHL games. From 2000-2004 King played with Grand Rapids in the IHL as part of the farm system for both Ottawa and Detroit, save one season he spent in Germany in 2001-02. During the 2000-01 season with Grand Rapids he led the IHL in scoring and was named a second team all-star.

In 14 NHL seasons, King played in 830 games, scoring 261 goals and 612 points. From 2009-2015 he was an assistant coach with Toronto in the AHL before joining Owen Sound for one season in 2015-2016. In 2016 he joined Rockford in the AHL as head coach, a role he held until 2022 when he was named interim head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks after the resignation of Joel Quenneville. King is currently an assistant coach with the Hawks.

YouTube clip: scoring a goal while being taken down on a breakaway against Washington in a November 1993 game.

Card 383 - Fredrik Olausson

A defenceman, Olausson was drafted 81st overall by Winnipeg in 1985. He played two seasons of pro hockey in Sweden following the draft, winning a league title and being named Swedish junior hockey player of the year in 1986. Olausson joined the Jets for the 1986-87 season, scoring seven goals and 29 points in his rookie season. The following season he appeared in only 38 games before his breakout in 1988-89, scoring 15 goals and 62 points.

Over his next four seasons with the Jets, Olausson scored 10+ goals four times, and 50+ points three times, including a career-high 20 goal season in 1991-92; he also finished third in scoring on Winnipeg that season with 62 points. In December 1993 he was traded to Edmonton for a third round pick. Olausson’s time with the Oilers was uneventful, playing in 108 games over three seasons, scoring 44 points.

January 1996 saw Olausson claimed off waivers by Anaheim, playing 56 games with the Mighty Ducks before a November trade to Pittsburgh with Alex Hicks for Dmitri Mironov and Shawn Antoski. He played two seasons with the Penguins before returning to Anaheim as a free agent for the 1998-99 season. Olausson’s second stint with the Ducks revitalized his career, scoring 16 goals and 56 points that season while earning Norris Trophy and all-star votes.

Olausson left for Switzerland in 2000, returning to the NHL with Detroit part way through the 2001-02 season. He played 47 regular season games with the Red Wings, as well as 21 playoff games, winning his first Stanley Cup that spring. Olausson played one final NHL season in Anaheim in 2002-03 before returning to Sweden for four seasons before retiring at age 40 after the 2006-07 season.

In 16 NHL seasons, Olausson played in 1022 games, scoring 147 goals and 581 points. He ranks fifth all-time in scoring amongst Swedish born defencemen. In retirement Olausson has coached pro hockey in Sweden, with HV71 (2009-2015) and MoDo (2015-17)

YouTube clip: scoring the overtime winner in Game 3 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals.

Card 384 - Tom Fergus

A centre, Fergus was drafted 60th overall in 1980 by Boston. He played a second season with Peterborough in the OHL before turning pro for the 1981-82 season. In his rookie year Fergus scored 16 goals and 39 points in 61 games.

From 1982-83 to 1985-86 Fergus scored 25+ goals and 60+ points each season, including a career-high 73 points in 1984-85. Following his career best season, Fergus was traded to Toronto for Bill Derlago, where in his first season as a Leaf he matched a career-high with 31 goals. During the 1986 playoffs he scored five goals and 12 points in 10 games, second in team scoring as the Leafs lost in seven games to St. Louis in the Norris Division Finals.

An assistant captain with the Leafs for three seasons, Fergus would average between 19-22 goals per season during the remainder of his time in Toronto. After playing only 14 games in the 1990-91 season due to a groin injury, Fergus was traded to Vancouver in December 1991 for cash. He scored 34 points in 44 regular season games for the Canucks, adding eight points in 13 playoff games during the 1992 post-season.

Fergus played the final 36 games of his NHL career with Vancouver in 1992-93 before wrapping up his pro career with two seasons in Switzerland, retiring after the 1994-95 season. In 12 NHL seasons Fergus played in 726 games, scoring 235 goals and 581 points. In retirement he owns and operates Blue Leaf promotional products.

YouTube clip: squaring off with Troy Murray, one of Fergus’ only seven career fights.

Card 385 - Zdeno Ciger

A left winger, Ciger was drafted 54th overall by New Jersey in 1988. He played three seasons of pro hockey in Czechoslovakia before debuting with the Devils in the 1990-91 season, scoring eight goals and 25 points in 45 games. The two following seasons Ciger would play in 45 games with the Devils, recording 23 points before a trade in January 1993 to Edmonton with Kevin Todd for Bernie Nicholls.

Ciger scored 22 goals and 57 points in his first full season with the Oilers. During the lockout shortened 1994-95 he played a full season in Slovakia, returning to play only five games for the Oilers. Once back to the NHL full-time for 1995-96, Ciger set career-highs with 31 goals and 70 points. Despite career best production, Ciger returned to Slovakia, where he played the next five seasons of his career. In this time he won Slovakian Player of the Year in 1997, followed by league titles in 1998 & 2000. During this time his NHL rights were claimed off waivers, first by Nashville and then by Minnesota.

A return to the NHL came for the 2001-02 season with the New York Rangers, playing 29 games before a trade to Tampa Bay for Matthew Barnaby. Just over a month after landing with the Lightning, Ciger scored a hat trick in a 5-4 win over New Jersey, including the overtime winner. This proved to be the final NHL highlight of Ciger’s career, as he returned to Slovakia following the end of the season. He played until the end of the 2005-06 season, winning Slovakian league titles in 2003 and 2005.

In 7 NHL seasons, Ciger played in 352 games, scoring 94 goals and 228 points. In retirement he coached with Bratislava in his home country (2006-11) and was the Slovakian national team coach from 2015-17. In 2021-22 he was hired as head coach for Bratislava’s junior team.

YouTube clip: scoring a goal against Patrick Roy during final NHL season.

Card 386 - Wendel Clark

Clark, originally a defenceman, was drafted first overall by Toronto in 1985. He made his NHL debut immediately following the draft, and was converted to forward by the Leafs. The transition was seamless, with Clark scoring 34 goals (leading all rookies) and 45 points in 66 games, along with 227 penalty minutes. He finished second in Calder voting and was named to the all-rookie team.

Clark’s goal total increased to 37 the following season to lead the Leafs, along with a career-high 271 penalty minutes. He was named assistant captain that season, and led the team in points during the 1987 playoffs as the Leafs would drop the Norris Division Finals to Detroit in seven games. His next three seasons would be marred by injuries, a result of his rough and tumble, bordering on reckless, style of play. Clark appeared in only 81 games between 1987-88 and 1989-90, scoring 37 goals. His next three season segment saw an increase in the games played (63, 44 and 66), scoring between 17-19 goals each season.

Clark was named captain to start the 1991-92 season following the departure of Rob Ramage. The 1993 playoffs saw Clark cement his all-time legend status with Toronto fans; as the Leafs would make it to Game 7 of the Campbell Conference Finals, Clark contributed 10 goals and 20 points. This included a hat trick in Game 6 of the Conference Finals against LA, with two goals coming in the third period to help the Leafs come back from a 4-2 deficit. Toronto ultimately lost the game in overtime and the series in the following game. Clark followed his outstanding playoffs by scoring 46 goals and 76 points in 64 games during the 1993-94 season, however he would be traded that off-season. The blockbuster deal saw Clark go to Quebec with two other players and 1st round pick for Mats Sundin, two players and 1st round pick.

After playing the lockout shortened 1994-95 in Quebec, Clark was traded to the New York Islanders in a three-way trade that involved Steve Thomas and Claude Lemieux. After 58 games with the Isles Clark would be sent back to Toronto in a seven-player swap, which included the first round pick the Islanders used to select Roberto Luongo. Following a resurgent 1996-97 where he scored 30 goals for a second season in the row, injuries again took a toll, with Clark playing only 47 games in 1997-98.

1998 saw Clark sign with Tampa Bay, scoring 28 goals in 65 games before a trade to Detroit. Following 12 regular and 10 playoff games as a Wing, Clark signed with Chicago, playing 13 games during the start of the 1999-2000 season before being released. January 2000 saw Clark sign with the Leafs, playing the final 13 games of his career where it originally started.

In 15 NHL seasons, Clark played in 793 games, scoring 330 goals and 564 points, along with recording 1690 penalty minutes. He also played in two all-star games (1986 & 1999). In retirement Clark works as a community ambassador for the Leafs, who retired his number in October 2016. He also owns restaurants in Saskatchewan and Ontario.

YouTube clip: the famous Wendel Clark All Heart video that truly demonstrates his rare ability to both score goals and pummel the opposition with his fists.

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