The Sweater Series moves on with another popular uniform number. Unlike some of the more recent numbers, 29 is still in rotation today as it is being worn, at least on some nights, by a current player on the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Over its long history, the number has also graced the back of some forgotten prospects, a lot of Russians, raised the Stanley Cup and scored some pretty big overtime playoffs goals.
12. Steven Finn (16 games 0 goals, 0 assists)
Steven Finn played in the NHL for twelve seasons and racked up 725 games played, mostly with Quebec before being traded to the Lightning at the beginning of the 1995-96 season for a fourth round pick. His time in Tampa was brief. He only suited up 16 times and didn’t even have to pay a second month of rent as he was dealt in mid-November to the Kings for Michel Petit.
11. Pavel Torgaev (5 games 0 goals, 2 assists)
Claimed off of waivers from Calgary in November of 1999, Torgaev wasn’t horrible in his brief time with the Lightning, assisting on goals by Robert Petrovicky and Steve Guolla (why yes, the 1999-2000 Lightning were pretty bad, thanks for asking). He was brought into town during a flurry of activity in the month of November that saw the Lightning make 5 trades.
When Ian Herbers was activated from injured reserve, the Lightning assigned Torgaev to Detroit of the International Hockey League. He chose not to report and was suspended. Following the holidays, he was released from his contract and went on to sign with the Long Beach Ice Dogs. He played a few more seasons in Russia before retiring after the 2004-05 season.
10. Viacheslav Butsayev (2 games, 0 goals, 0 assists)
Another Russian forward from the 1999-00 season, Butsayev had an even briefer career with the Lightning than Torgaev. Foreshadowing the Gabriel Dumont waiver battle of 2017-18 by almost a decade, Butsayev was claimed off of waivers from the Ottawa Senators on September 27th of 1999. He lasted a month with the Lightning before they tried to send him down and the Senators claimed him back on October 28th. He had a solid season for Grand Rapids in the IHL, posting 63 points in 68 games, but only played two more games in the NHL.
He was a solid player in the IHL, posting 297 points in 303 games and has an Olympic goal medal from 1992 as part of the “United” team comprised of players from the former Soviet Union. He just never really made a mark in the NHL.
9. Dan Boyle (394 games, 66 goals, 187 assists)
What? Why is one of the best blueliners to suit for the Lightning ranked so low? Well, what jersey number do you see when you picture Dan Boyle? It sure isn’t 29, which is what he wore when he first came over in 2001. We’ve already touched on his contributions in the update on his slightly more familiar number.
8. Craig MacDonald (65 games, 2 goals, 9 assists)
Another long-time NHL veteran who had a brief stop in Tampa, McDonald was one of the last draft picks of the Hartford Whalers as he was drafted in the 4th round of the 1996 draft before the franchise was relocated to Carolina.
It was a rough tenure for MacDonald in Tampa as he not only lost nine teeth and sustained a hairline fracture to his lower jaw by stopping a Hal Gill shot with his face, he also had this happen to him:
While he didn’t make much of a mark on the scoresheet for the Lightning, he may have set a record for distance a glove traveled following a hit when Fedor Tyutin unloaded on him. I’m going to guess that if that happened today, Mr. Tyutin is getting a call from the league.
7. Janne Niskala (6 games, 1 goal, 2 assists)
Niskala was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia during the 2008 offseason. He was supposed to be a smooth-skating, offensively-gifted defender that would help the Lightning generate offense from the blue line. He played well in preseason and started the season decently, but lost playing time to Lukas Krajicek and Marek Malik.
So he invoked an option in his contract that allowed him to return to Europe to play. GM Brian Lawton let him go because anytime you have to choose between a 33-year-old Marek Malik and a defenseman who can actually skate, you go with Malik everytime. Niskala is still playing with Lukko Rauma in the Finnish hockey league.
6. Brendan Mikkelson (45 games, 1 goal, 3 assists)
Mikkelson was brought into the organization in January of 2012 in a trade involving eternal prospect Blair Jones. With Victor Hedman on the sidelines, the Lightning needed some help on the defense and Mikkelson was supposed to be someone who could help fill that hole and be part of the future moving forward as he was only 24-years-old.
He was also a large individual at 6’ 3” and 205 lbs and he kick-started Steve Yzerman’s brief infatuation with young, tall defenseman. Within a month of the Mikkelson deal, the Lightning would also trade for 6’6” defenseman Keith Aulie and 6’3” defender Brian Lee. The following season all 6’8” of Andrej Sustr would be added to the roster.
Mikkelson, the son of a NHLer, didn’t last too long in the Lightning organization although he was part of the stacked 2012-13 Syracuse Crunch team that made it to the Calder Cup Finals. Following that season, he would sign with the Penguins and play for their AHL team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for one season before moving on to the Toronto Marlies. For the last few seasons he’s been in Europe, most recently playing for the Mannheim Eagles in Germany.
5. Shawn Chambers (145 games, 23 goals, 64 assists)
Another left-shot defenseman who is probably remember more for wearing the number 22 than the number 29, Chambers was a rugged stay-at-home defender who was part of the inaugural Tampa Bay Lightning team.
He is also known for a slightly less glorious accomplishment. It’s amazing that any player in the history of any video game was given a rating of “1”. On the actual ice, Chambers had a good season with the Lighting in 1992-93, posting 10 goals and 29 assists to lead Lightning defensemen with 39 points. Five of those goals game on the power play.
Chances are the programmers were focused more on the knee injuries that wiped out his one year in Washington or, they were disgruntled North Stars fans who were really upset with his defense on this particular goal in the Stanley Cup Finals.
In the end, he had the last laugh as his name appears on the Stanley Cup twice (once with New Jersey and once with Dallas).
4. Joe Reekie (115 games, 3 goals, 22 assists)
Another less-than-mobile defenseman from the early days of the Lightning organization, Reekie had a long NHL career (905 games) despite battling knee injuries of his own for most of his career. He has the distinction of being the first player to wear number 29 in Lightning history.
3. Dmitry Afanasenkov (186 games, 19 goals, 20 assists)
One of the fastest skaters in the history of the Lightning, Afanasenkov was a key depth part of the 2004 Stanley Cup team, killing penalties and providing a little bit of scoring (6 goals, 10 assists) as a bottom-six forward.
He was drafted in the third round of the 1998 draft, a draft that included four players that lifted the Stanley Cup (Afanasenkov, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Martin Cibak) and he lit up the QMJHL in his post-draft season scoring 56 goals in 60 games for the Sherbrooke Castors, but never was able to transfer that scoring success to the professional leagues.
Afanasenkov was one of those players that always looked like he was on the verge of breaking out into a very good NHL player, but never seemed able to make the jump. Some nights he would absolutely wow you with his skill, and then he would disappear for the next week.
Following his playing career he has gotten into coaching and was in the Lightning’s development camp this summer working with the young prospects.
2. Slater Koekkoek (85 games, 5 goals, 9 assists)
The current wearer of the number, Koekkoek is a modern-day, defensive version of Afanasenkov. For the past three seasons, Lightning fans have been waiting for the emergence of Koekkoek as the puck-moving defenseman he was drafted to be. And yet we still wait, as he waits, often in the press box, for that to happen.
On one hand, he’s outlasted other defensive prospects such as Sustr and Jake Dotchin, who have come and gone during his time with the organization. But on the other hand. he himself hasn’t progressed that much.
Yes his counting stats have gotten better over the last few years and he has been on the roster for the last few seasons without getting demoted to Syracuse. But for all of the gains he’s made, it seems like he is stuck in limbo with the organization. The recent injuries to Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman seemed to be a chance for him to earn a little more playing time but he’s been passed on the depth chart by rookie Erik Cernak, much like Dotchin passed him two seasons ago.
Could this be the year he’s finally traded and given a chance to restart his career in a new environment?
1. Alex Selivanov (304 games, 78 goals, 77 assists)
The title-holder for games played and points scored while wearing number 29 for the Lighting, Selivanov also provided the first iconic memory in franchise history: the overtime game winning goal in Game 3 of the 1996 playoffs.
No, it wasn’t the first game-winning goal in franchise playoff history, that belongs to Brian Bellows who had done it in Game 2, but it was the first game-winning goal on home ice in franchise playoff history.
Only three years after coming into the league, and playing in a converted baseball stadium, the Lightning were taking on the big, bad Flyers and holding their own. They had split the first two games in Philadelphia (thanks to the aforementioned OT goal from Bellows) and returned to the sun and fun of Florida and a record crowd of 25,945 fans for the first home playoff game in franchise history.
The game went back and forth with Petr Klima scoring three minutes into the game. The Flyers scored the next three goals, before the Lightning battled back with two goals from Rob Zamuner. Eric Lindros gave the Flyers the lead again in the third before Bellows tied it with less than two minutes to go in the contest.
Then Selivanov blew the roof off of the building with his overtime, rebound goal and the Lightning were leading the number-one seeded Flyers two games to one in the series. It wasn’t to be as Jeff Reese, subbing for an injured Daren Puppa, lost game four 4-1. Puppa tried to come back for games 5 and six, but was obviously hampered and the dream of the upset died.
Selivanov never quite regained the form he had in 1995-96, where he scored 31 goals and added 21 assists. But he was still a consistent 30-point producer as the Lightning descended into some bad seasons. He was eventually traded to Edmonton in a three way deal that netted the Lightning Alex Daigle and had one more good season, posting 27 goals and 20 assists for the Oilers. He had one last season with the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets before returning to play in Russia and Germany.
Still, that one goal, in front of so many fans, made him a legend in Tampa and earning the title as the most recognized player to wear number 29 in Lightning history.
Who do you remember first when you see the number 29?
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