A Series: Looking into Avalanche and Nordiques Player Numbers: Number 17

Jari Kurri - Ian Tomlinson, Getty

Before going further, you might want to grab a snack. 23 players have worn #17 for the Avalanche, tied with one other number as the most popular number for the franchise (any guesses as to the other favored number is?). With so many players wearing it, you might think the list is filled with short-term players and you would be right. Only 6 players wore it more than one year and only one player wore it more than two. And I've never heard of that guy in my life.

Blair Stewart. You know how the Avalanche almost never have former Red Wings on their teams? Well, that wasn't an issue when the team was in Quebec. Stewart is a forward who got his start with the evil empire. He then played a couple of seasons before getting claimed by the Nordiques in the 1979 expansion draft. He played one season - 79-80 - in Quebec (top row, 2nd from left), scoring 14 points in 30 games. For comedic effect, there were 3 Stewarts - all forwards - on the team that year. None were related and all three played just that one season for Quebec. I can only imagine that someone in the front office thought the idea of playing 3 guys on the same line together would be a cool marketing ploy, because the next year they imported 2/3 of the Stastny brothers from Czechoslovakia. The Stewarts, though, were cast aside. Blair spent the next year in the CHL and was out of hockey the following year.

Christian Tanguay - Just as I've learned today that Chris Stewart isn't the first Stewie to play for the franchise, now I know that Alex wasn't the first Tanguay. Christian (no relation) played 2 NHL games, both with Quebec during the 81-82 season.

Pat Hickey - Hickey, a one-time 40 goal scorer for the Rangers, played just 7 games for Quebec towards the end of his career. However, he's also a former Rockie and was once traded with Wilf Paiment for Lanny MacDonald and Joel Quenneville. So that's kind of cool.

Tim Tookey - Okay, stop me if you've heard of any of these guys? Tookey played 12 games for Quebec during the 82-83 season.

Bo Berglund - Berglund is the first guy to wear #17 for more than 2 seasons with Quebec, albeit barely. The Swedish forward joined the team for the 83-84 season and then was traded to Minnesota just 12 games into his second season. In total, he played in 87 games with 20 goals, 28 assists +8 and 26 penalty minutes. So far, he's the top #17 in franchise history!!!

Mark Kumpel - And the only person to wear #17 for more than 2 seasons for the Nordiques or Avalanche? Mark Kumpel. The Massachusetts native spent parts of 3 seasons with the Nordiques from 1984 to 1987. Totals for him: 129 games (tops so far), 19 goals, 27 assists, +2 and 59. Kumpel has the games played lead, but Berglund is still the stop scorer. Towards the end of his 3rd season, he was traded to the Red Wings (!). One of the players coming back was...

Basil McRae - McRae spent his 1st two years in the NHL with Quebec (wearing #11) and went with the now-vacant #17 when the Nordiques reacquired the enforcer from Detroit (!) in 1987. In his 2nd stint, McRae played 33 games with 14 goals and 149 penalty minutes (mostly fighting with people who made fun of his first name, I presume). After the 87 season, he signed with the North Stars as a free agent (and, he stuck with #17 for the rest of his career).

Trevor Steinburg - The former 1st round pick played parts of 4 seasons in Quebec wearing 3 different numbers. He wore #3 for 2 games in 85-86, #14 for 6 games in 86-87 and then wore #17 for 63 games over the 87-88 and 88-89 seasons. In total, he played in 71 games for Quebec, scoring 12 points and 161 penalty minutes (topping McRae). After the 88-89 season he spent a couple of years in the minors but never made it back to NHL action.

Stu Kulak - Nope, never heard of him. The journeyman played 14 games with the Nordiques in the 87-88 season.

Greg Adams - This is not the Greg Adams who played 1000+ games, mostly with Dallas and Vancouver. This is the Greg Adams who had 1100 penalty minutes in 545 games with 7 different teams. His stint in Quebec was super brief - 7 games in 1989 after being acquired in the waiver draft. He was traded to Detroit (!) two months into the season, his last.

Dan Vincelette - Okay, who are these people? Vincellete played 27 games for the Noriques in 89-90 and 90-91. He scored 2 assists and was -16 with 63 penalty minutes.

Brian Lawton - Lawton was drafted 1st overall by the North Stars in 1983, just ahead of Steve Yzerman and Pat LaFontaine. He is the first - and only - player to wear #98 in the NHL, but abandoned that after a couple of seasons in Minnesota. He never panned out in Minny and was traded after 5 disappointing seasons to the Rangers. The Rangers kept him for two months before trading him to the Whalers and a year later the Whalers waived him and he was claimed by the Nordiques. He played 14 games for Quebec before, apparently, being released. He would eventually become an agent, representing Yzerman among others. Later, he would serve a disappointing stint as GM of the Lightning, working for Tyson Barrie's father and working with Brad Malone's uncle in the front office. He would eventually be replaced by Yzerman.

Kevin Kaminski In 1990, Kaminski played 1 game for Quebec wearing #17. The next year he played 5 games wearing #40. The end.

Valeri Kamensky - Kamensky is more known for wearing #13, but when he broke in with Quebec Mats Sundin was still on the roster. So he wore #17 during his 23-game rookie season, switched to 31 for a year and then moved to his #13 in his 3rd year.

Chris Lindberg - Lindberg was a member of Team Canada's 1992 silver-medal-winning hockey team along with jerkface Eric Lindros who was holding out at the time. Lindberg signed with the Nordiques as a free agent in 1993 but, though he did sport a prototypical early 90s hockey mullet, it did not translate into on-ice performance. He had 14 points in 37 games for Quebec that year, which would be his last in the NHL.

Wendel Clark - Clark was famously acquired for Mats Sundin in 1994, just before Gary Bettman popped his lockout cherry. Clark played 37 games that year (fuck you, Gary) scoring 12 goals, 18 assists and 45 penalty minutes with a -1 rating. He's the last Nordique to wear #17. The team moved to Colorado the following offseason and Clark was traded before the 1995 season for Claude Lemieux. So far, Berglund is still the offensive MVP of this bunch.

Landon Wilson - and the Avalanche #17 era officially begins with Landon Wilson. Wilson, a prospect who came to Quebec in the Clark deal, played 7 games a rookie with the Avalanche in 95-96 season, wearing #14. The next year, he played 9 games wearing #17 before being traded to Boston for a 1st round pick (it would become Robyn Regehr...nice deal).

Jari Kurri - The longtime Finnish forward signed with the Avalanche for the 96-97 season, his last in the NHL. The 37-year old played in 70 games for the Avs, scoring 5 goals - including his 600th - and 17 assists. He retired after that season.

Christian Matte - Matte had 4 brief stints with the Avalanche between the 96-97 and 99-00 seasons. He played in 22 games, scored 5 points and wore #27, #14 and #17.

Radim Vrbata - Vrbata briefly wore #12 as an Avalanche rookie, but gave that up to Mike Keane when he was re-acquired at the 2001 trade deadline. He went with #17 and stuck with that for the rest of his short stay in Colorado. Vrbata played 118 games for the Avs, scored 29 goals, 31 assists, +7 and 30 penalty minutes. While Kumpel is still tops for the franchise in games played, Vrbata passes Berglund for points (although we don't know how many he scored in #12 vs #17).

Jim Cummins - The enforcer came out of retirement to sign with the Avs for the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup run. Wearing #17, Cummins played in 55 games scoring 3 points and racking up 147 penalty minutes. He re-retired after that season.

Jaroslav Hlinka - The Czech import notched 28 points in 63 games in his one NHL season in Colorado before taking his turtlenecks back to Europe.

Chuck Kobasew - The most recent #17 scored 14 points in 58 games in his first season in Denver.

Well, there's the amazing list. Perhaps it would be better to just retire #17 as it doesn't seem to be working out very well for the team. "Contenders" for the Who Wore it Best include Bo Berglund, Radim Vrbata, Trevor Steinburg, Basil McRae, Jim Cummins, Mike Kumpel, Wendel Clark and Jari Kurri. Good luck with that vote, folks.

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