Nobody wants to be a zero. For 26 games during the 1987-88 season, defenseman Neil Sheehy was the only NHL player to wear No. 0 since 1950.

Sheehy was traded to the Hartford Whalers (by the Calgary Flames) on January 3, 1988, but due to a groin injury, he had to sit out his first ten games with the team. Sheehy told the Hartford Courant, “You never feel accepted until you’re in the lineup. The guys have been great to me, but you still don’t feel an integral part of things until you play.”

Finally, on January 24, Sheehy took the ice wearing No. 0. Hartford’s equipment manager, Skip Cunningham, had had to help Sheehy and at least one other player with their new numbers. Although Sheehy was given No. 6, he “asked for and received No. 0.” He had worn the number while playing for the Moncton Golden Flames in the minors, and his college and Calgary numbers (15 and 5) were already taken by other Whalers. At the time, Sheehy joshed, “Everybody think I’m wearing number zero. Actually, when my grandparents came over, the name was O’Sheehy. I’m reclaiming the O.”

That first game took place at the Civic Center, where 14,267 fans watched the Whalers take on the Detroit Red Wings. On his first shift of the night, captain Steve Yzerman gave Detroit an early lead. Hartford tied up the score during a power play at 18:53 in the first period. The rest of regulation remained scoreless, despite Hartford’s 41-17 advantage in shots on goal. Sheehy’s contribution was to get a minor penalty for delay of game at 14:45 of the first period and a major for fighting at 7:58 of the second. Both times, he was dancing with Bob Probert. The Whalers scored with 2:39 left in overtime to win their fifth consecutive game. All Coach Jack Evans had to say was, “Well, we’re finally over .500. The game was nerve-wracking.”

Sheehy’s specialty was being tough, so it comes as little surprise that in his 26 games, he only had one goal and four assists. On July 6, 1988, Hartford traded him to the Washington Capitals, but he only played for them for two partial seasons. After a final 35 games with Calgary, in 1992 Sheehy retired, while wearing No. 15.

 Additional Sources:

In her personal history, Kyle Hurst hated her toe picks and wanted to skate on a hockey team like her brother. With age comes wisdom, and realizing how poorly she skates, she now much prefers watching the professionals. Writing about history for her day job, Kyle enjoys combining her two loves by writing hockey history. She still hates toe picks.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.