Lightning defenseman Matt Carle wanted it clear he did not request to wear jersey No. 25 on a whim. He understands what the number — worn for four years by revered captain Dave Andreychuk and by no one since his 2006 retirement — represents to the team and its fans.
So when Carle, signed in July as a free agent, asked for the number, it was done delicately.
"It started with some discussions with (GM) Steve Yzerman, and we got Dave's blessing as well," Carle said Friday. "That was a big thing for me."
"It's just a number to me," said Andreychuk, team vice president of fan and business development. "I know you relate the number to the guy, but … (Carle is) comfortable with that number. He had a good couple of years in Philly. I know how he feels."
Carle wore 25 in four years with the Flyers before becoming one of the summer's most sought-after free agents. He said he began wearing the number when he was 8 and wore it at the University of Denver. He gave it to veteran Mike Grier for two seasons with the Sharks, and during his 12 games with Tampa Bay in 2008-09 he wore No. 5.
The reason? "It did have something to do with Dave Andreychuk," Carle, 27, said. "They were going to do something to honor him, and back then I was a little bit younger."
Andreychuk, who said he originally wanted to wear No. 23 to honor Canadiens great Bob Gainey, wore 25 for 10 seasons with the Sabres through 1992-93.
He did not wear it again until 2001, when he joined the Lightning, which he helped to the 2004 Stanley Cup. He scored his 600th career goal with Tampa Bay and topped off his NHL-record 274 power-play goals.
So profound were his contributions, including helping a young team understand accountability and how to win, there was a belief No. 25 would be retired. It eventually could be, though the team was vague: "The organization fully recognizes Dave Andreychuk's impact as a Lightning player and as captain of the 2004 Stanley Cup champions," spokesman Bill Wickett said. "We look forward to properly saluting and celebrating him for his contributions to the franchise."
"Obviously, every player would love to have their number retired, but it's not a big deal," Andreychuk said. "When you think of (owner Jeff Vinik) and what (CEO) Tod Leiweke and (chief operating officer) Steve Griggs did and how they respected me, that to me is more important."
As for Carle: "I just want to reiterate what the number means to me and what an honor it is for me to be the first guy to wear it since him."