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A Series: Looking into Avalanche and Nordiques Player Numbers: Number 25

Doug Pensinger, Getty

Number 25 may not be chock full of stars like tomorrow's entry will be, but there's still quite a few memorable and recognizable names on the list of players who wore it. Strangely, many have a notable brother.

Barry Legge - I don't know a lot about the history of the WHA, but based on this guy's career it must have been fairly interesting. Legge, a lanky defenseman from Winnipeg, was drafted by the NHL Canadiens and the Michigan Stags of the WHA in 1974. The Stags had just moved to Detroit, previously having been known as the LA Sharks. Interestingly, they had originally been known as the Aces, but when the San Francisco Sharks instead became the Quebec Nordiques when the WHA was formed, the Sharks moniker became available. Legge's stay in sunny Detroit didn't last long. The Stags weren't very good and only had one good player - Marc Tardiff and they ended up trading him to Quebec for Pierre Guite (Ben's dad) and 2 other players before folding midseason. The league took over the team, moving them to Baltimore and calling them the Blades for the rest of the season. After the season, there was talk of moving the team to Seattle, but that never materialized and the franchise folded for good with the players, Legge included, placed in a dispersal draft.

Meanwhile, in Denver, Ivan Mullenix owned a CHL team in Denver (the Spurs) had a deal in place to buy the California Golden Seals of the NHL and move them to Denver. But that deal fell through and Mullenix instead moved his CHL Spurs to the WHA for the 75-76 season and Legge, claimed in the dispersal by the Spurs, moved to Denver. The Spurs, playing in the brand new McNichols Arena struggled on the ice and had a tough time filling seats. Meanwhile, rumors were rampant that the NHL would be moving a team to Denver the following year - rumors that turned out to be true - and Mullenix knew he would not be able to compete, so he quietly worked to sell the team. He found a group of owners in Ottawa, but in order to negotiate they wanted Mullenix to move the team to Ottawa for the rest of the year, which he agreed to do on January 2nd. Reportedly, the deal was so secret that the players didn't know the franchise had been moved until the next day, when the Cincinnati arena staff played the Canadian anthem before the game (surprise!). At any rate, the Spurs were now the Ottawa Civics; Legge was on the move again.

His stay in Ottawa was short. The Civics, playing with their Spurs uniforms with the logo removed from the front, played just a few games in Ottawa. Mullenix and the prospective new owners could not reach an agreement on a deal and Mullenix began selling off assets. Just a few weeks after the franchise move, Legge and another player were traded to Cleveland for cash. The Civics folded days later, with the remaining players divvied up in a dispersal draft.

The Cleveland Crusaders were in their 4th season (ah, stability) and were fairly good on the ice, in part because of the goalie tandem of former NHLer Gary Cheevers and some fella named Cam Newton. The Crusaders made the playoffs all 4 years in Cleveland and Legge had to be feeling he could finally unpack his suitcases. Nope. After the 75-76 season, the NHL moved the Golden Seals - the team that was originally going to go to Denver - to Cleveland to operate as the Barons. The Crusaders briefly considered a move to Florida, but instead moved to Minnesota (the Barons would do the same two years later, becoming the North Stars).

Minnesota had just had a WHA team, but the Fighting Saints had just folded a few months before so it seemed like a great place to move a franchise to, right? (one noted former Fighting Saint was Bill Goldthorpe, the basis for Slapshot's Ogie Oglethorpe). Like the Mullenix situation, the Fighting Saints' owner was having a tough time selling the team to local owners and began selling off assets. Legge was traded to Cincinnati for cash just a couple of games into the 76-77 season. It was his 3rd season...and 7th team. (The Fighting Saints folded just 42 games into the season).

The Cincinnati Stingers were actually one of the few stable WHA teams and Legge spent three years in Cincy playing ith future NHL stars like Robbie Ftorek, Mark Messier, Mike Liut and Mike Gartner.

Meanwhile, during the 78-79 seasons, talks of a WHA-NHL merger heated up. The WHA was down to just 6 teams and the NHL wanted to take just three of them - the New England Whalers, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets. The NHL wanted to exclude the Quebec Nordiques to avoid conflict with the Canadiens and didn't feel another southern team would work based on the struggles of the Atlanta Flames, which crossed the Birmingham Bulls off the list. Meanwhile, the Stingers were doing fairly well in Cincinnati, but the attendance wasn't enough to justify a move to the NHL. While Birmingham and Cincinnati settled on being left out, the WHA fought to keep Quebec in the merger.

In part because of the forced inclusion of the Nordiques, the NHL owners first rejected the merger proposal. But fans in Edmonon, Winnipeg and Quebec City organized a boycott of Molson - the parent company of the Canadiens. If you know Canadians, you know they spend a lot of money on beer and the lost revenues put pressure on the league to vote again. This time, Montreal changed their no vote to a yes, as did Vancouver (after the league agreed to a balanced schedule, giving them an even number of games with the east coast teams) and the Whalers, Nordiques, Jets and Oilers joined the NHL as expansion teams (3 of the 4 have since moved). The Stingers and Bulls were given $1.5 million each as a parting gift and joined the CHL; both folded within two years.

In the 1979 expansion draft, the Winnipeg Jets drafted the rights to Barry Legge, but a few weeks later they traded him and Jamie Hislop to the Nordiques for Legge's former Stingers teammate Barry Melrose. Legge played 31 games for the Nordiques in their inaugural season. The following year, he was traded to Winnipeg for cash - the 3rd such trade in his career. He played two more years for his hometown Jets before injuries forced him to retire after the 1982 season.

Bernie Saunders - The Montreal-born winger is the brother of ESPN anchor John Saunders and wikipedia lists him as the 5th black hockey player in the NHL. Saunders was undrafted and the Nordiques signed him in 1979 after his college career at Western Michigan had ended. He played just 10 games in the NHL - all with Quebec.

Pierre Lacroix - No, not that one. This Pierre Lacroix was drafted by the Nordiques in 1979 and played with them from 1979 to 1982, when he was traded to Hartford for Blake Wesley. He wore #26 for his first season in QC, but then moved to #25 when the Nordiques signed Peter Stastny. In 218 games in Quebec, he scored 18 goals 83 assists, +8 and 179 penalty minutes. After finishing up his season with the Whalers, he went overseas with stints in France and Switzerland.

Blake Wesley - Hmmm, I'm sure I've heard that name before. Oh yeah, the Nordiques traded Pierre Lacroix for him one paragraph ago. Glen Wesley's older brother grabbed Lacroix's #25 after arriving via trade and kept it for the remainder of his 3 years in Quebec. In total, the defenseman racked up 119 games, 6 goals, 18 assists, +8 and 187 penalty minutes (oh, the red-headed temper). He signed with Toronto as a free agent after the 84-85 season.

Steven Finn - Finn was a longtime Nordique and when Peter Stastny was traded he and Joe Sakic served a season as co-captains together. But almost all of his time was spent wearing #29. He wore #25 for 17 games as a rookie in the 85-86 season before making the change. He should get your vote for #29, not for #25.

Steve Patrick - Patrick's brother, James was a longtime NHL defenseman mostly with the Rangers (added bonus, their dad was a QB for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers). The brothers were both 1st round picks in the NHL, with Steve going to the Sabres 20th overall in 1980. He didn't quite pan out and after 5 seasons with the Sabres he was traded to the Rangers. The Patrick brothers had parts of two seasons together before the Rangers traded Steve to the Nordiques for Wilf Paiement in 1986. He played 27 games for Quebec, scoring 17 points.

Greg Malone - Greg spent many years with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Late in his career, the Nordiques acquired him from the Whalers for Wayne Babych but Malone couldn't put up any numbers for Quebec. He had 8 points in 33 games over two seasons in Quebec. and retired at age 30 just 2 seasons removed from a 60-point seasons. He wore #25 and #18 for the Nords. Malone returned to Pittsburgh as a scout and was on the staff for 2 Stanley Cups with the Penguins. In keeping with today's theme, Malone's brother Jim was a 1st round pick of the Rangers. Jim blew out his knee before making it to the NHL; Jim's son Brad plays for Lake Erie.

John Ogrodnick - The longtime Red Wing (gag) was traded to the Nordiques in January of 1987 in a 6-player deal. He finished the season in Quebec, scoring 11 goals and 16 assists in 31 games before being traded to the Rangers the following offseason. To make Bob happy, Ogrodnick also spent time with the IHL Denver Rangers.

Jeff Jackson - One of the players the Nordques got in the deal with the Rangers for Ogrodnick was forward Jeff Jackson. Jackson played 176 games for the Nordiques (really?) scoring 24 goals and 37 assists with 206 penalty minutes and a -28 rating, mostly wearing #25 but also with a stint wearing #32. After retiring, Jackson became a lawyer and later joined the Maple Leafs' front office, serving as Assistant GM between 2008 and 2010...which means he would have been around when Toronto signed Jeff Finger to his rumored erroneous contract.

Stephane Morin - Morin wore #22 in a 6-game rookie callup during the 89-90 season before switching to #25 as a regular the following year. In parts of three seasons, Morin played in 84 games for the Nordiques, scoring 15 goals and 37 assists. In 1992 he left for the Canucks via free agency but managed just 6 NHL appearances in 2 seasons with Vancouver. He then moved to the IHL were he excelled, leading the league in scoring in 94-95. In 1998 he signed with a team in Berlin. 7 games into the season, he tragically suffered a fatal heart attack, collapsing on the bench during a game.

Martin Ruckinsky - Rucinsky was the 20th overall pick by the Oilers in the 1991 draft - the Lindros draft. That season, the Nordiques sucked (again) and they traded Ron Tugnutt to the Oilers to back up Bill Ranford, receiving Rucinsky in return. Rucinsky first wore #37 but then switched to #25 which he wore with Quebec and Colorado after the move. Rucinsky showed flashes of promise, appearing in 183 games for the franchise, scoring 35 goals, 71 assists and a +36 rating with 139 penalty minutes, but his best seasons were in Montreal after he was traded in 1995 in the Roy deal.

Mike Keane - Keane has already been voted the best to wear #12 and has a chance to repeat at #25. Keane wore #25 in his first stint with Colorado, arriving with Roy in a deal of some significance. During this #25 time with the Avs, he appeared in 136 games scoring 20 goals 27 assists 103 penalty minutes and winning one Stanley Fucking Cup.

Shjon Podein - If Keane is going to repeat, he's going to need to beat the original Silent Jay. Podein was acquired from the Flyers in 1998 for Keith Jones and appeared in 238 games scoring 34 goals, 37 assists +16 and 160 penalty minutes and was a member of the 2001 Cup team. Late in the '02 season, he was traded to the Blues for...Mike Keane.

Chris Stewart - #25 was unused for 7 years until 2009, when Chris Stewart traded in the #42 he wore as a rookie for #25. Stewie spent almost 3 years with the Avalanche, playing in 166 games and scoring 52 goals (tops on today's list), 61 assists and 165 penalty minutes with a -24 rating. To close out the brother list, I think most people know his brother is NHLer Anthony Stewart.

This will be an interesting vote. Mike Keane, Shjon Podein and Chris Stewart should all be in serious contention here, with Martin Rucinsky in the mix as well. Pierre Lacroix could also get some votes from people who didn't take time to read this.