This will be the third installment of which Penguins player has the distinguished honor of being the best player to ever wear a specific number for the Penguins. We’ve already gone through number 3 and number 25, and this article will feature number 1 for the Penguins.
In case you’re new here or haven’t read the previous articles, here’s a quick introduction from the original post in 2017:
There have been many memorable jersey numbers given out in the history of the Penguins franchise. Only two numbers in the Penguins franchise have been retired, No. 21 of Michel Briere, whose life was unfortunately cut short at the young age of 21 when he was involved in a car accident in 1970. No player has ever worn the No. 21 for the Penguins since, and Briere’s jersey was officially retired in January of 2001. The other number retired is of course the No. 66 of former great Penguins player, and current team owner, Mario Lemieux. There are no words necessary to explain the reasoning behind his jersey hanging in the rafters, as he’s one of the greatest athletes of all time. The next number to be retired is most likely going to be Jaromir Jagr’s famous No. 68, which there’s plenty of time to argue one way or the other as Jagr may play until he’s 68 if a team is willing to give him a contract.
According to hockey-reference.com, the Penguins have given out 77 [80 as of 2019] out of
9998 possible numbers. Numbers 1-52 have all been assigned to current or former Penguin players. That brings me to the question, who wore it best?
According to hockey-reference.com, twenty-two players have donned the No 1 jersey for the Penguins starting with Hank Bassen in the Penguins’ inaugural season in 1967 to Casey DeSmith who currently wears the number for Pittsburgh. Not surprisingly, each player to wear the number has been a goaltender. There are several well-known names on this list that will certainly bring back a nostalgic feeling.
The list will go in chronological order and will only feature players who played in 25 or more games for the Penguins while wearing the number. Be sure to vote on which player you think wore it the best at the end and feel free to explain why in the comment section!
Hank Bassen, 1967-68
25 GP, 7-10-3, .909 SV%, 2.87 GAA, 1 shutout
- Traded to Pittsburgh on September 7, 1967 by Detroit for goalie Roy Edwards. Edwards would be claimed on waivers by Pittsburgh in 1971 and would go on to play in 15 games for the Penguins in 1971-72 while wearing No. 1. Edwards would then be traded by Pittsburgh back to Detroit on October 6, 1972 for cash.
- First player to wear No. 1 for the Penguins.
- Played his final year in the NHL with Pittsburgh in 1968 at the age of 35.
- Played 157 games in 9 seasons with three teams (DET, CHI, PIT) going 47-65-31 with a .899 SV% and 2.98 GAA with 5 shutouts.
- Traded in package deal on July 23, 1957 from Chicago to Detroit for Hall of Fame forward Ted Lindsay and Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall.
- His son, Bob Bassen, played 765 regular season games and 93 playoff games in the NHL over 15 seasons with six teams.
Joe Daley, 1968-1970
38 GP, 11-18-6, .908 SV%, 3.14 GAA, 2 shutouts
- Claimed by Pittsburgh from Detroit in 1967 Expansion Draft.
- Claimed on waivers by Buffalo in June, 1970.
- One of the last goalies in the NHL to not wear a mask.
- Played in 105 games in four seasons for three teams (PIT, BUF, DET) going 34-44-19 with a .899 SV% and 3.37 GAA with 3 shutouts.
- Won the Avco Cup with the Winnipeg Jets in final two years of the WHA before NHL-WHA merger in 1979.
Jim Rutherford, 1971-74
115 GP, 44-49-14, .899 SV%, 3.14 GAA, 4 shutouts
- Claimed by Pittsburgh from Detroit in 1971 Intra-League Draft
- Played all four games for Pittsburgh in 1972 playoffs against Chicago - Penguins lost series 4-0.
- Traded from Pittsburgh to Detroit on January 17, 1974 with Jack Lynch for Ron Stackhouse.
- One of the first goalies in the NHL to (reluctantly) display artwork on his mask with Detroit in 1976.
- Played in 457 games in 13 seasons with four teams (DET, PIT, TOR, LAK) going 151-227-59 with a .879 SV% and 3.66 GAA with 14 shutouts.
- Named General Manager of Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes in 1994 and won Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006.
- Named General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014 and still holds position. Won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017.
- Won General Manager of the Year Award with Pittsburgh in 2016.
- Member of the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame (as a builder)
Denis Herron, 1972-79, 1982-86
290 GP, 88-133-44, .886 SV%, 3.88 GAA, 6 shutouts
- Drafted by Pittsburgh in the 3rd round of the 1972 NHL draft, 40th overall.
- Played in 10 playoff games with Pittsburgh in 1977 and 1979, going 3-7 with a .896 SV% and 3.51 GAA.
- Ranks third in franchise history with 290 games played in net behind Marc-Andre Fleury (691) and Tom Barrasso (460).
- Played three seasons with Pittsburgh before being traded to the Kansas City Scouts with defenseman Jean-Guy Lagace for goalie Michel Plasse on January 10, 1975. Plasse would play in 75 games with Pittsburgh going 33-24-14 in two regular seasons and 1-2 in three playoff games in 1976.
- Re-signed with the Penguins in August, 1976 after playing two seasons with Kansas City.
- Traded to Montreal on August 30, 1979 with Pittsburgh’s 1982 2nd-round draft pick (Jocelyn Gauvreau) for RW Pat Hughes and goalie Robbie Holland. Holland will be mentioned below. Hughes would play 134 games with Pittsburgh for two seasons before being traded to Edmonton for LHD Pat Price.
- Traded back to Pittsburgh by Montreal on September 15, 1982 for Pittsburgh’s 3rd-round pick in 1985 NHL Draft. Montreal would trade pick to St. Louis.
- Played 462 games in 14 seasons with three teams (PIT, KCS, MTL) going 146-203-76 with a .899 SV% and 3.71 GAA with 10 shutouts.
- Won 1981 Vezina Trophy and 1982 William M. Jennings Trophy with Montreal. The awards were given to all members of the winning team instead of individual awards as the Vezina is given now. The Jennings Trophy is still usually awarded to multiple players of the same team.
Robbie Holland, 1979-81
44 GP, 11-22-9, .861 SV%, 4.09 GAA, 1 shutout
- Traded to Pittsburgh by Montreal on August 30, 1979 with RW Pat Hughes for goalie Denis Herron.
- Won his first game with Pittsburgh on October 14, 1979 in 4-1 victory at Boston.
- Finished his career 3-17-6 in final 26 games with Pittsburgh.
- Rights traded to New York Islanders on September 28, 1981 for future considerations.
- Retired after playing in the minor league circuit in 1987 at 29 years old. Played entire career in the NHL with Pittsburgh.
Pat Riggin, 1987-88
39 GP, 15-14-7, .875 SV%, 3.65 GAA, 0 shutouts
- Traded to Pittsburgh by Boston on February 6, 1987 for goalie Roberto Romano. Romano played in 125 games with Pittsburgh going 46-62-8 with an .880 SV% and 3.97 GAA with 4 shutouts. Romano would return to Pittsburgh for two more games in 1993-94.
- Played first game with Pittsburgh on February 14, 1987 in a 3-3 tie at home against Vancouver.
- Won first game with Pittsburgh on February 22, 1987 in 4-2 win at New York Rangers.
- Finished career in the NHL with Pittsburgh in 1988.
- Played in 350 career games in 9 seasons with five teams (ATF/CGY, WSH, BOS, PIT) going 153-120-52 with a .879 SV% and 3.43 GAA with 11 shutouts.
- Played in 6 Stanley Cup Playoffs and went 8-13 with an .895 SV% and 3.25 GAA with three teams (CGY, WSH, BOS) in his career.
- Named an All-Star in 1983-84 with Washington while leading the league in GAA and shared the Walter M. Jennings Trophy with goalie Al Jensen.
Wendell Young, 1988-92; 1994-95
111 GP, 42-47-5, .876 SV%, 4.14 GAA, 1 shutout
- Traded to Pittsburgh on September 1, 1988 by Philadelphia with Philadelphia’s 1990 7th-round pick (Mika Valila) for Pittsburgh’s 1990 3rd-round pick (Chris Therien).
- Played one playoff game for Pittsburgh in 1989.
- Won first game with Pittsburgh on October 7, 1988 in the season opening 6-4 win at Washington.
- Claimed by Tampa Bay in the 1992 Expansion Draft.
- Traded back to Pittsburgh by Tampa Bay on February 16, 1995 for future considerations and played 10 games with Pittsburgh in 1995.
- Played 187 games in 10 seasons with four teams (VAN, PHI, PIT, TBL) going 59-86-12 with an .876 SV% and 3.94 GAA with 1 shutout.
- Nicknamed “Ringmaster” for being the only player in hockey history to win The Memorial Cup, Calder Cup, Turner Cup and Stanley Cup.
- Member of back-to-back Stanley Cup winning teams in 1991 and 1992, and has his name on the Stanley Cup for both years.
- Currently serves as General Manager of the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. Chicago lost to the Charlotte Checkers in the Calder Cup Finals this spring.
Peter Skudra, 1997-2000
74 GP, 26-22-11, .894 SV%, 2.71 GAA, 4 shutouts
- Signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh on September 25, 1997.
- Played first game with Pittsburgh on November 5, 1997 in 5-2 loss at home against Dallas. (Bob Bassen, son of former Pens goalie Hank Bassen featured above, fought Penguins forward Tyler Wright with 14 seconds left in this game, six seconds after Bob Errey scored the second to last goal in his NHL career. Hockey is weird.)
- Won first game with Pittsburgh on December 6, 1997 in 5-2 victory at home against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
- Finished NHL career with 146 games played with four teams (PIT, BUF, BOS, VAN) going 51-48-20, .894 sv%, 2.76 GAA and 6 shutouts.
- Only played 27 seconds with Buffalo in 2000 before returning to the Boston Bruins on waivers.
Johan Hedberg, 2001-03
116 GP, 46-57-12, .901 SV%, 2.86 GAA, 7 shutouts
- Traded to Pittsburgh by San Jose on March 12, 2001 with LHD Bobby Dollas for LHD Jeff Norton. This was the second time Dollas was traded to Pittsburgh but only played in five games with Pittsburgh in 2001, playing in 75 total games with Pittsburgh.
- Was playing for former Penguins player, and then Manitoba Moose head coach, Randy Carlyle in the IHL before being traded to Pittsburgh and reporting directly to the NHL.
- Nicknamed “Moose” for wearing his blue Manitoba Moose helmet with Pittsburgh and the nickname stuck with him throughout his career.
- Started career with Pittsburgh going 7-1-1 in the regular season before outlasting Olaf Kolzig and Dominik Hasek and helping the Penguins reach the Eastern Conference Final in 2001 before being eliminated by Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.
- Played in 18 playoff games with Pittsburgh in 2001 going 9-9 with a .911 SV% and 2.30 GAA with 2 shutouts.
- Holds franchise records for most losses in a single season with 34 losses coming in 2001-02. Also holds record for most losses in a single playoffs with 9 losses coming in the 2001 playoffs. He also is tied for the most shutouts in one playoff, posting three shutouts in the 2001 playoffs.
- Traded to Vancouver by Pittsburgh on August 25, 2003 for Vancouver’s 2004 2nd-round pick. The Penguins used that pick to draft LHD Alex Goligoski.
- Retired from the NHL after the 2013 season and played in 373 games with five teams (PIT, VAN, DAL, ATL, NJD) going 161-143-36 with a .901 SV% and 2.82 GAA with 22 shutouts.
- Currently is an assistant coach with San Jose, serving as the goaltending coach.
Brent Johnson, 2009-12
62 GP, 29-18-6, .907 SV%, 2.61 GAA, 1 shutout
- Signed as a free agent by Pittsburgh on July 21, 2009.
- Played final three years of his career with Pittsburgh from 2009-12.
- Had one of the most memorable goalie fights this millennium with Rick DiPietro. That game was the catalyst for one of the ugliest games in Penguins history 9 days later against the Islanders.
- Grandson of Hall of Fame forward Sid Abel. His father, Bob Johnson played 12 games with Pittsburgh in 1974-75 and also wore No. 1.
- Played 309 games in 12 seasons with four teams (STL, PHX, WSH, PIT) going 140-112-31 with a .904 sv% and 2.63 GAA with 14 shutouts.
- He is currently a studio analyst for NBC Sports Washington.
Casey DeSmith, 2017-19
50 GP, 21-15-6, .917 sv%, 2.66 GAA, 4 shutouts
- Signed as undrafted free agent with Pittsburgh July 1, 2017.
- Played first game with Pittsburgh on October 29, 2017 in 7-1 loss at Winnipeg.
- Won first game with Pittsburgh on January 18, 2018 in 3-1 win at Los Angeles.
- Signed three year extension with Pittsburgh on January 11, 2019.
Number 1. Who wore it best?
This poll is closed
Hank Bassen, ‘67-68
Joe Daley, ‘68-70
Jim Rutherford, ‘71-74
Denis Herron, ‘72-79
Robbie Holland, ‘79-81
Pat Riggin, ‘87-88
Wendell Young, ‘88-92; ‘95
Peter Skudra, ‘97-00
Johan Hedberg, ‘01-03
Brent Johnson, ‘09-12
Casey DeSmith, ‘17-19