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Ever wondered why players have numbers on their helmets?

Dec 18, 2011, 8:20 PM EDT

Gaborik Getty Images

You’ve probably noticed that NHL players are wearing numbers on their helmets this season. But if you didn’t know why, here’s your answer – television.

Via the Toronto Star:

According to TSN production head Paul Graham, broadcasters had been asking the National Hockey League to add helmet numbers for some time. The reason is to help camera operators and directors find players on the benches.

When the director calls for a shot of Nikolai Kulemin sitting on the bench, camera operators often have difficulty finding him — especially as they became less and less specialized. Camera operators often do multiple sports and aren’t as familiar with the players as those who do hockey regularly.

“The more identification for the broadcasters, the better,” says Graham. “It helps the viewers identify players, too.”

Makes sense. It’s way easier to put numbers on the helmet than make every camera operator memorize each player’s face.

Besides, some people just aren’t as good at recognizing faces as others. For example, how many of you have had the “nice to meet you — yeah, we’ve already met” exchange? That happens to me all the time, and I hate it.

At the end of the day, people’s faces should be far different than they are right now. But until evolution makes the necessary changes, the NHL will have numbers on the helmets.

  1. Jeff - Dec 18, 2011 at 9:29 PM

    I thought the numbers were just new to the front. I didn’t know rear numbers were new too.

  2. hank10 - Dec 18, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    The numbers being discussed are for the front of the helmet. They’ve been wearing numbers on the back of their helmets for years. In fact your colleague Matt Reitz wrote about this back in September.

  3. sjsharksfan11 - Dec 19, 2011 at 12:01 AM

    The uniforms are becoming more clown like. When the league switched to Reebok Edge bs the logos and style of hockey went out the window.

  4. carol6645 - Dec 19, 2011 at 4:05 AM


  5. hanktheking - Dec 19, 2011 at 5:41 AM

    You kidding right? I, and other die hard, or even regular fans, could pick any single player out of a lineup of 50, yet the dudes who get paid to film them cant find them in a lineup of 12 on the bench? Maybe they should start taking their jobs more seriously.

  6. 1historian - Dec 19, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    “Ever wondered why players have numbers on their helmets?”

    I saw that title and I just couldn’t wait to get here to see some of the comments you folks have come up with!

    So far – nada.


  7. 1historian - Dec 19, 2011 at 7:34 AM

    I must admit that those helmets are probably necessary but I can’t help noticing that they are ALMOST as silly looking as the hats bikers wear.

    But NOTHING looks as silly as those bikers’ hats. The genius who thought them up is laughing all the way to the bank.

    When (if) I go biking I wear my old construction hard hat. Yeah I look silly/goofy but at least I didn’t pay through my butt to look like an idiot.

    I wonder what those things cost.

    Merry Christmas one and all

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