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June 07, 2014

Neil Sheehy: Nobody's Zero

In the 1987-88 season Hartford Whalers' defenseman Neil Sheehy became the first skater to wear the number 0.

Why?

"When people asked me why I wore it I had some fun with it. I would tell them it was the furthest number from 99 and talent-wise I'm furthest from Wayne Gretzky, but just remember opposites attract. At the time, the Battle of Alberta was pretty intense and my job was to play against Gretzky a lot of the time.

"I also told people I wanted to get the 'O' back in my name for O'Sheehy, my Irish ancestors. The truth is, in Ireland our name was MacSheehy. I just tried to have some fun with it. Fans used to yell at me, 'Is zero your IQ?' then somebody would say, 'Hey, this guy went to Harvard you know.' It was hilarious."

While Sheehy was the first skater to wear 0, he was not the first player. Way back in 1942-43 Montreal Canadiens goaltender Paul Bibeault became the first to wear the unusual number. Just as unusual - in his 102 NHL game career Bibeault also wore 1, 14, 16 and 21.

Goaltenders John Davidson (1978) and Martin Biron (1996) wore the number 00 briefly. Bernie Parent actually did it before them, wearing Double 0 in 1972-73 while playing with the WHA Philadelphia Blazers.

The NHL has banned the use of 0 and 00. The reason - their computer software could not handle that entry into their database! You would think by now they would have upgraded their software, but the numbers remain out of circulation.


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