The 2018-19 NHL regular season is almost upon us. With Lou Lamoriello now the GM for the New York Islanders, we knew some very Lou changes were coming. Today, it seems they’re here.
Lou Lamoriello has been running hockey teams for longer than some of us have been alive. In that time he’s developed a peculiar set of rules for the teams he runs. We knew that these rules were coming to the New York Islanders when Lou was hired. And it seems that these rules are finally being enforced.
All of these rules aren’t anything serious. Notoriously Lou doesn’t allow facial hair or long hair. Lou doesn’t like beards, mustaches, or long hair like Matt Martin used to have. Clean cut is the way a team needs to be. That’s why Andrew Ladd’s beard was chopped off earlier this summer.
Ladd wasn’t waiting for the new boss to tell him to cut it off. He did it proactively. Unlike Nick Leddy who was going to wait for the boss to tell him he had to shave it off.
But today it seems Lou’s second most famous rule was being enforced. And it’s all about jersey numbers. So we know about the hair rule, it’s pretty straightforward. But what about this numbers deal. What are the rules and why do they matter so much to Lou?
Pens Fans Will Rejoice
Simply put Lou Lamoriello doesn’t like high numbers on the back of jerseys. He likes numbers to fall between two and 30. With very few exceptions to the rule.
One exception is for goalies who can still continue to wear numbers such as: 1, 30, 31, 35 and 40. Although 31 is Billy Smith’s retired number so Lou doesn’t need to worry about that.
There’s also an exception for players coming up temporarily. Say the New York Islanders called up Steve Bernier for a few games from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He’d still get to wear his usual number 38 for those few games. That’s not an issue for Lou.
But for players like Anthony Beauvillier (no.72) and Josh Ho-Sang (no.66) this means they’ll have to pick new numbers. Much to the delight of Pittsburgh Penguin fans who loathed Ho-Sang for wearing the number of their sacred Mario Lemieux.
Lastly, Lou doesn’t like the number 13. When Mike Cammalleri was acquired by the New Jersey Devils as a free agent back in 2014 Lou wouldn’t allow the forward to keep the number he had worn for most of his career. So what does that mean for Mathew Barzal who currently wears number 13?
Will the New York Islanders Calder winning rookie have to change his number in 2018-19? Or will Lou soften his stance on this “unlucky” number? Hopefully, it’s the latter.
Lou has made concessions for great players in the past. He let Jaromir Jagr continue to wear his 68 when he got to New Jersey.
But if that can’t be accommodated, a number isn’t the end of the world and won’t have an impact on Barzal taking a huge step forward in his NHL career.
Ever hear of the old adage: “the crest on the front is more important than the name on the back”? How about: “no one is bigger than the club”? When you are part of a team your individuality is superseded by the collective. That’s likely why Lou does it.
Nothing is more important than the crest you play for.
It’s an old-school mentality, sure, but that kind of talk resonates. Players and even fans respond to that type of clan mentality. Tribalism in the NHL is very real, and Lou’s rules around numbers is confirmation of that.
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Are his rules ridiculous and outdated? No. Maybe. But in crafting a new culture for the New York Islanders by building an accountability to the crest on the front of the jersey rather than the back is the perfect place to start.