The Other Number Nine

1973-74 Chicago Black Hawks Postcards – Dale Tallon

1973-74 Chicago Black Hawks Postcards - Dale TallonA number is more than just a number when it comes to sports . Many times, it becomes synonymous with the player itself. Thus, it is unwise to give a new player number last worn by a superstar. Those are some big skates to fill, and fans are always going to draw comparisons. But the Chicago Black Hawks ignored that logic in 1973 when they issued Dale Tallon number 9 – the very same digit made famous by Bobby Hull for 15 seasons.

1973-74 Chicago Black Hawks Postcards - Dale TallonIn 1972, the Chicago Black Hawks stood by and watched when Hull left the NHL to go play for the Winnipeg Jets of the newly-formed World Hockey Association. Hull was a Black Hawks legend – arguably the most popular athlete in Chicago – and was coming off of a 50-goal season. Not keeping Hull with the Black Hawks drew the ire of fans for many years to come.

A year later, the Black Hawks acquired Dale Tallon from the Vancouver Canucks and gave him number 9 – perhaps because Tallon wore 9 in Vancouver, perhaps as a subtle slap in the face to Hull for finding greener pastures, or perhaps as a way to tell fans to “get over it.”

Regardless of their reason, Black Hawks management saw Tallon as someone who would become Hull’s replacement. Tallon was the second overall pick in the 1970 draft and could play either forward or defense. The ‘Hawks not only gave him Hull’s old number, but they put Tallon – who played mostly defense in Vancouver – at forward. When the Black Hawks issued their team postcards for the 1973-74 season, Tallon was even photographed wearing the infamous integer.

Giving the number made famous by The Golden Jet to the new guy was nothing short of being a terrible idea. Black Hawks fans, the taste of Hull’s departure still fresh in their mouths, booed Tallon during the one preseason game he played wearing Hull’s old numeral. Afterwards, he ditched wearing 9 because, in Tallon’s words, “they forgot the decimal point.” ■

Sources:

Hockey Draft Central website entry on Dale Tallon:
http://www.hockeydraftcentral.com/1970/70002.html

Chicago Tribune – Young Chicago Blackhawks in heady territory
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-05-17/sports/0905160022_1_stan-mikita-hockey-heaven-territory

NOTE: The Blackhawks spelled their team name “Black Hawks” (two words) until 1986.

Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

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