Lamoriello's exit from Devils means Mike Cammalleri can switch to No. 13

Mike Cammalleri can now wear No. 13 for the New Jersey Devils. (USATSI)
Mike Cammalleri can now wear No. 13 for the New Jersey Devils. (USATSI)

When a player changes his number it's usually not that big of a deal to anybody other than the player himself and the fans that spent $100 on a replica jersey. 

But when the New Jersey Devils announced on Wednesday that veteran forward Mike Cammalleri would be switching to No. 13 for the 2015-16 season it was actually a pretty significant moment in Devils history.

Until that change, no player in franchise history -- at least since the team moved to New Jersey in 1982 -- had ever worn the number.

And it wasn't for a lack of requests.

Players simply weren't allowed to wear it. Not because it was retired by the organization to honor a legendary player, but because that was the one of the many small rules in place under former team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.

While the "No. 13 rule" is tied to Lamoriello, it is believed that he was simply carrying on the tradition that was started by original team owner Dr. John McMullen who did not want to issue the number to any player (likely due to superstition). Prior to Lamoriello's time with the team no Devils player had worn No. 13 other than Robin Burns when the franchise was based in Kansas City in 1975 and 1976, before McMullen purchased the team.

In a Q & A with fans back in February Lamoriello was asked why the players weren't allowed to grow facial hair or wear No. 13. This was his response.

"The word is called tradition. That's the identity of the Devils organization. Those are part of the systemic points that have given us our identity, like our home and away jerseys. Whether you look at the Yankees or the old Montreal Canadiens and their identity, this is the identity of the Devils. I look at it as something the players, and hopefully the fans, take pride in."

Over the years there had been several players that joined the Devils and had worn No. 13 for most of their careers only to switch during their time in New Jersey, including Bill Guerin (No. 12 with the Devils) and most recently Cammalleri who showed up on his first day with the team and found No. 23 hanging in his locker stall. 

At the time, Cammalleri downplayed the change even though he had worn No. 13 since he was a kid by saying, "it's just a number."

It's obviously more than just a number since Lamoriello was barely out the door before he changed back to the number he has worn for most of his hockey playing career. 

Lamoriello left the Devils organization this summer to become the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs after more than two decades with the team. Before resigning he had stepped down from his GM duties and was replaced by former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero. 

Along with not allowing players to wear No. 13, the Devils have also very rarely given out any number higher than No. 40.

That, too, is changing as defenseman Eric Gelinas also announced on Wednesday that he will be wearing No. 44 this season. He will be just the 10th different player to wear anything higher than 40 in franchise history.

There have been some notable exceptions to that one over the years, including Jaromir Jagr (68) and Alexander Mogilny (89).

The Devils will allow fans to exchange their old Cammalleri, Gelinas and Jordin Tootoo (he is also changing his number for this season to 22) jerseys for ones with the correct number free of charge just as long as they are officially licensed NHL merchandise and had been purchased at the Devils' team store or on the shop.

CBS Sports Writer

Adam Gretz has been writing about the NHL and taking an analytical approach to the game since the start of the 2008 season. A member of the PHWA since 2015, he has spent more than three years covering... Full Bio

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