My favourite NHL player growing up will surprise you.
Yes, he played for my favourite team, the Montreal Canadiens. But it wasn’t Guy Lafleur or Ken Dryden or Larry Robinson or Serge Savard or Chris Nilan.
It was Murray Wilson.
Yes, Murray Wilson, native of Toronto, played six seasons with the Habs, mostly as a third- or fourth-line forward. Won four Stanley Cups.
I liked him because he wore No. 17, my favourite number.
I had my mom knit the No. 17, in grey yarn (hey, it’s all she had at the time), on my white Habs sweater, and I pretended to be Wilson in stirring games of road hockey with buddies near West Vernon School. Even stapled myself to the road hockey bench to be like him.
According to the Montreal Canadiens’ guide book, Wilson was the 17th player to wear No. 17.
Of the 16 players who wore the number before Wilson, the list includes Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau for a time in 1951 (before switching to No. 4). Twelve players have worn it since Wilson joined the L.A. Kings for his final NHL season, 1978-79.
The number is currently worn by Rene Borque but only Benoit Brunet wore it as long as Wilson did, five seasons.
I have no idea why Wilson chose No. 17. He was born on Remembrance Day, Nov. 11. Maybe it’s because he was the 17th player to wear the number? Maybe he scored 17 goals in a month in junior?
Maybe it was Wilson’s favourite number because of fun facts, like it takes 17 muscles to produce a smile.
The Parthenon, dedicated to Greek goddess Athena, is 17 columns long.
King Tut was wrapped in 17 cloths.
The stegosaurus had 17 bony plates on its back.
Friday the 13th is considered unlucky in North America, but in Italy, Friday the 17th is supposed to bring bad luck.
In the wonderfully hilarious film Chicken Run, the chickens hatched most of their schemes in Hut 17.
Stalag 17, of course, is an epic film about prisoners of war.
Sherlock Holmes’ residence at 221B Baker Street had 17 steps leading up to the door.
The No. 17 has been immortalized in song, with nobody lamenting turning 17 more than Janis Ian in her 1975 classic At 17, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts.
I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
The song combats the sweet and sugary 16 songs from Neil Sedaka (Happy Birthday Sweet 16), The Crests (16 Candles), Chuck Berry (Sweet Little 16) and Johnny Burnette (You’re 16, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine).
Research (OK, clicking onto 17 Fun Facts and Myths website) states that 17 was the original title of the Beatles’ song I Saw Her Standing There.
Well, she was just 17 You know what I mean…
I got married on the 17th of September. While that didn’t work out, it did produce one awesome son, whose birthday is…not today but later this month.
Today, of course, is Oct. 17 and it happens to be my birthday, which is why 17 is my favourite number.
It’s my 51st birthday or, as a dear friend pointed out to me, it’s my third time being 17.
For a guy refusing to grow up, that sentiment is certainly apropos.