Weinhandl wears #13--is nothing sacred?!
By Andrew Podnieks
Last year, Jorgen Jonsson of Sweden forced the IIHF to make an
historic decision it had never made before. The federation allowed
him to change to sweater #72 after having worn #21 for the first
seven games. The move was precipitated by the arrival of THE #21,
Peter Forsberg, just before the semi-finals of the 2004 World
Championship. IIHF rules forbid a player from changing numbers during
a tournament, but the Directorate met and its members were convinced
by Swedish delegates that #21 simply was the man they call Foppa.
This year, Forsberg made absolutely clear he wasn't going to don the
togs of Tre Kronor in Austria, but to be extra safe Jonsson took #72
to start with. Not so with Mattias Weinhandl. He heard Mats Sundin
wasn't coming and quickly snapped #13, his preferred number. "I've
worn it my whole career," Weinhandl explained. "ln junior, the
Swedish league, everywhere." He wears #11 with the New York
Islanders, his NHL team, because when he got to the Island #13 was
taken. "It's no big deal," he said. "If Mats was here, he would take
#13 and I would wear something else. He's not here, though."
Team official Mats Olsson has a simple explanation: "We are not as
superstitious here in Europe about numbers. If Jonsson had wanted
number 21, he could have had it."
To be sure, things are different with a nation like Canada. Mike
Fisher, #12 with Ottawa Senators, was told to take another number out
of respect for Jarome Iginla. Number 99, of course, is retired in
perpetuity for Wayne Gretzky, and #19, which belongs to future Hall-
of-Famer Steve Yzerman, is so revered that at the last World Cup the
players made an incredible gesture for "Stevie Y." Yzerman pulled out
of the tournament because he still hadn't fully recovered from a
serious eye injury he had suffered in the 2004 playoffs. However, no
fewer than four other Team Canada players wore #19 with their club
teams, and not one adopted the number for the World Cup! Joe Sakic
took #91, Joe Thornton took #97 (which he is also wearing here in
Austria), Shane Doan took #9 (though he is back to #19 here), and
Brad Richards took #39.
Team USA has no such dedicated numbers, and according to team
spokesman Jim Johannson, there are no plans to do so in the immediate
futureany number is open for any player.