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This will be the third installment of which Penguins player has the distinguished honor of being the best player to ever wear a specific number for the Penguins. We’ve already gone through number 3 and number 25, and this article will feature number 1 for the Penguins.
In case you’re new here or haven’t read the previous articles, here’s a quick introduction from the original post in 2017:
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There have been many memorable jersey numbers given out in the history of the Penguins franchise. Only two numbers in the Penguins franchise have been retired, No. 21 of Michel Briere, whose life was unfortunately cut short at the young age of 21 when he was involved in a car accident in 1970. No player has ever worn the No. 21 for the Penguins since, and Briere’s jersey was officially retired in January of 2001. The other number retired is of course the No. 66 of former great Penguins player, and current team owner, Mario Lemieux. There are no words necessary to explain the reasoning behind his jersey hanging in the rafters, as he’s one of the greatest athletes of all time. The next number to be retired is most likely going to be Jaromir Jagr’s famous No. 68, which there’s plenty of time to argue one way or the other as Jagr may play until he’s 68 if a team is willing to give him a contract.
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According to hockey-reference.com, the Penguins have given out 77 [80 as of 2019] out of 99 98 possible numbers. Numbers 1-52 have all been assigned to current or former Penguin players. That brings me to the question, who wore it best?
One of the cooler aspects in Pittsburgh Penguins’ franchise lore is how it’s basically impossible to have a jersey number retired. Many other teams have cheapened the tradition by giving the honor to players who didn’t play with them very long, or didn’t really have a tremendous impact.
In Pittsburgh there are only two numbers retired, as you might know. One is the #21 of Michel Briere, a talented youngster who sadly was involved in a car accident after his rookie NHL season and passed away.
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The other, of course, Mario Lemieux’s #66.
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So that’s the bar in Pittsburgh – it’s only been used to honor the franchise’s singularly most important person ever and then also to honor a tragic fatal accident.
But the Penguins should bend this sooner than later. It’s time to put #68 in the rafters of PPG Paints Arena and forever welcome Jaromir Jagr fully back into the family.
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Jagr’s accomplishments merit it — he scored 1,079 regular season points with Pittsburgh in 809 games. He won the Art Ross trophy as the league’s leading scorer five times out of his eleven seasons with the Pens, which is just an astounding achievement. By comparison to modern day greats, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin only have two Art Ross’s a piece, Jagr’s got more than those two combined.
Jagr remains as the Pens all-time leader in game-winning goals with 78 (though Malkin currently has 68 and Crosby has 60).
Jagr helped the team to their first two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992 and added a few MVP trophies as well. Simply put, Jagr was the best player in the NHL in the 1990’s during his stint in Pittsburgh.
And, of course, he famously had a heroic performance in a potentially franchise-saving event helping the number 8 seeded Pens to upset the number one seeded New Jersey Devils (themselves at the height of their powers) to give the bankruptcy-bound Pens franchise more revenue and enough to keep afloat through the darkest of times.
According to hockey-reference.com, twenty-two players have donned the No 1 jersey for the Penguins starting with Hank Bassen in the Penguins’ inaugural season in 1967 to Casey DeSmith who currently wears the number for Pittsburgh. Not surprisingly, each player to wear the number has been a goaltender. There are several well-known names on this list that will certainly bring back a nostalgic feeling.
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The list will go in chronological order and will only feature players who played in 25 or more games for the Penguins while wearing the number. Be sure to vote on which player you think wore it the best at the end and feel free to explain why in the comment section!
Hank Bassen, 1967-68
25 GP, 7-10-3, .909 SV%, 2.87 GAA, 1 shutout
Traded to Pittsburgh on September 7, 1967 by Detroit for goalie Roy Edwards. Edwards would be claimed on waivers by Pittsburgh in 1971 and would go on to play in 15 games for the Penguins in 1971-72 while wearing No. 1. Edwards would then be traded by Pittsburgh back to Detroit on October 6, 1972 for cash.
First player to wear No. 1 for the Penguins.
Played his final year in the NHL with Pittsburgh in 1968 at the age of 35.
Played 157 games in 9 seasons with three teams (DET, CHI, PIT) going 47-65-31 with a .899 SV% and 2.98 GAA with 5 shutouts.
Traded in package deal on July 23, 1957 from Chicago to Detroit for Hall of Fame forward Ted Lindsay and Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall.
His son, Bob Bassen, played 765 regular season games and 93 playoff games in the NHL over 15 seasons with six teams.