Somewhere on the Eastern shore of Japan Whether you believe he’s one of the greatest players in the game, or just another guy rotting away in a cursed rink down in Ohio, it doesn’t change the fact that, to our generation of hockey fans, #61 will always be synonymous with Rick Nash. However, you may be surprised to learn that Mr. Nash’s iconic number came from superstitious origins.
To me the story of #61 is common knowledge. I remember Thericknash, as he’s better known in the Psycho Universe, being asked about this during an interview back in his OHL playing days with the London Knights. But I started wondering today how many of you, the Rick Nash fans of his NHL career, actually know this story as well. Is it common knowledge to all Rick Nash fans, or did this interesting bit of sports trivia get lost over the last 12 years?
First of all I should say that I’ve always been a huge fan of Thericknash… in more ways than one!! I’m also lucky enough to boast that I was front row for the last game ever played at the old London Ice House. It was a second round playoff game six versus the Erie Otters and Thebradboyes. It was also #61’s last game in the OHL, and, I should add, he scored his last OHL goal RIGHT in front of me complete with modest ‘celey!’ Yeah… Huge Rick Nash fan over here.
However, prior to his short two season stay in the OHL, Thericknash was not the #61 we all know him to be today. He was actually lucky #13. I suppose this story always stuck with me because I, too, wore #13 while growing up, if I could get my hands on it, that is. Often the #13 option was mysteriously absent during number selection, and I would have to go for second choice #8. But enough about me, when a fresh faced, 16 year old Rick Nash entered the London Knights organization as a rookie back in 2000, the Hunter brothers, Dale and Mark, forbade him from selecting his usual #13. The Hunters were superstitious and wouldn’t allow any player to play on their team wearing such an unlucky number. Unfortunately for Thericknash, his second choice #16 (with his birthday, June 16th, the likely origin for that one), was taken by veteran OA, Ryan Held, who would later go on to a storied career in the Central League. So, as you may have already guessed, Mr. 61 simply flipped around the digits of his second favourite number. What did you expect? No self-respecting forward would wear #31!
It’s difficult to try to imagine Rick Nash wearing any other number, but it’s fun to speculate on the career he could have had as one of the few players that dared to be #13. Did the superstitious Hunters save him from obscurity by forcing him to choose another number? Would the evil forces behind #13 have prompted Florida to change their minds about swapping picks with Columbus during the 2002 NHL Draft in Toronto (to the benefit of one Jay Bouwmeester)? I guess we’ll never know.
I suppose we are all a little superstitious with our hockey teams. Whether we eat the same thing on game day, or simply refuse to send our jerseys into the wash. Even I’m superstitious about what bridge to the US I cross prior to my road trips. Plus there’s that whole wearing red thing. Anyway, I’ve always found it interesting that one of the iconic numbers in the NHL today was also born from superstition. And that’s the end of my story… Sorry if you’ve heard it already.
P.S. Congratulations to the London Knights for making it to the 2012 OHL Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately my boys, the Kitchener Rangers, are going to be handing out severe ass rapings at the John Labatt Centre Thursday night! You’ve been warned!
Top Photo: Thericknash during my Blue Jackets adventure in Carolina last season. Great seats. Great view! I love BJs!