The Sweater Series (or Notable Numbers): #9 Brian Holzinger
A famous number in pro hockey history, Holzinger is a cog from days gone by that many Lightning fans would not associate with the number, let alone remember. Follow @Johnny_fonts
Certain numbers stand out in hockey history, and the number 9 is one of them. Gordie Howe was #9 and a lot of players donned the number in homage to him, or other great players in NHL history to wear the number.
With the Lightning, there have been many a player to wear #9, and two may immediately stick out to people (former wing/firecracker Steve Downie and current Good At The HockeyTM center Tyler Johnson) but those are only two of 12 total players to wear it and that list includes hockey hall of famer Denis Savard (who played 105 games with the Lightning during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons).
Instead of giving attention to the most recent names, or the most famous player to wear the number 9 for the Bolts, let me invoke the name of a forgotten asset to the club through some of the trying times and build-up years before the 2004 Stanley Cup championship: Brian Holzinger.
As Nolan noted a few days ago, 1997-98 was bad, and 1998-99 was worse. When Rick Dudley took over the Lightning in the 1999 off-season, he started playing around with assets - moving players and picks at will. Perhaps you could have called it "throwing things against the wall and seeing what stuck"? Almost a year later, in the spring of 2000, Dudley took the biggest veteran asset he had to play with - center Chris Gratton - and dealt him and a 2001 2nd round draft choice to the Buffalo Sabres (in a deal Dudley claimed he couldn't refuse) for Wayne Primeau, young defensive prospect Cory Sarich, Holzinger and a 3rd round draft choice in 2000. Sarich was, long term, the centerpiece of this deal but Primeau and Holzinger were integral in the fact they raised the team's depth and compete level long-term.
‘Zinger played 14 games with the Lightning to close out 1999-00, scoring 3 goals and 3 assists (remember, this was a woeful club; they went 4-11-2 in their final 16 games of the season.) Gratton, on a more potent Sabres club, finished the regular season with 1 goal and 7 assists.
It was the speed of Holzinger that piqued Dudley's interest. Brian ended up re-signing in the 2000 off-season with the club (around the same day a little known free agent forward named Martin St. Louis got a contract with the Bolts) In 2000-01, he produced a respectable 46 points (11 goals, 35 assists) in 70 games.
Unfortunately, from that constructive season in Tampa, things went south by way of injury issues for Holzinger. The 2001-02 season was snuffed out in early January by a shoulder injury. He played only 23 games that season prior to the incident, recording a goal and 2 assists.
Returning for the 2002-03 season, things went to hell quickly for Brian as he broke his left leg at the Ice Sports Forum during an informal skate prior to training camp. And while Holzinger worked his ass off to get back to the Bolts (who would make the playoffs that season, the second time in team history), his tenure in Tampa Bay was just about over. ‘Zinger returned to the club in November 2002, well ahead of schedule, but was optioned to the Springfield Falcons soon after. He played five total games for the Lightning that season before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Marc Bergevin.
Holzinger played one more season in the NHL, with Pittsburgh in 2003-04 before calling it a career.
I think it's notable that Holzinger was a part of the process of becoming for the Bolts over their growing-pains years from 2000 through 2003. While he was brought in during a morbid time for the team, he left as the franchises ascent continued. On the way, many of the cogs of the 2003-04 team came together (and other notable names in team history that the fans cling to). Brian might never have been the guy you'd associate with the #9 sweater in Tampa, but he shouldn't be completely overlooked.
(Other players to have worn #9 for the Lightning: Dave Capuano, Shayne Stevenson, Anatoli Semenov, Denis Savard , Jason Wiemer, Jeff Toms, Michael Nylander, Jeff Shevalier, Eric Perrin, Steve Downie, Tyler Johnson)