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July 15, 2011

By the Numbers: 44




by Nathan Skytta

During the 2011 off-season, stay tuned to norfolkadmirals.com and facebook.com/norfolkadmirals for regular installments of "By the Numbers." In these articles and photo galleries, the Admirals will take a look at jersey numbers in AHL Admirals history, listing each player to have worn a specific number while highlighting one particular player.

Click here for more photos of #44The number 44 can be seen on interstate signs running from Texas to Missouri. In the sporting world, it could have also been spotted on the jerseys of Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey and Reggie Jackson during their Hall of Fame careers. In the NHL, 44 has been recently adorned the backs of defenseman Chris Pronger and forward Rob Niedermeyer. In Norfolk Admirals history, three players have donned the number 44.

Aaron Downey
Aaron Downey/Photo by Yvonne PaxsonThe first Norfolk Admiral to wear 44 was fan-favorite Aaron Downey. Downey, who turned pro with the ECHL's Hampton Roads Admirals during the 1995-96 season, wore the number 47 in his first stint with the Admirals. When he returned in 2000, Downey joined the Norfolk Admirals for their inaugural season in the AHL and donned the number 44. His jersey also featured the first captain's 'C' in AHL Admirals history.

In 208 games played with the Admirals, Downey logged 26 goals and 36 assists for 62 points. But it wasn't his scoring that made Downey a fan-favorite in Norfolk. Downey's 947 penalty minutes, which rank second all-time in Admirals history behind Shawn Thornton's 1,208, were what made him a fan-favorite at Scope. Whether he did it to stand up for a teammate or whether he did it to get his team back in the game, Downey would seemingly drop the gloves with any opponent.

After making his NHL debut in 1999, Downey went on to play in 243 career NHL games. He registered eight goals and ten assists to go along with 494 penalty minutes. Downey played for four of the original six NHL teams, including the Bruins, Blackhawks, Canadiens and Red Wings. In 2007-08, Downey dressed in 41 regular season games with the Red Wings, and therefore his named was engraved onto the Stanley Cup when the Red Wings defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the final.

Last October, Downey was hired by the Red Wings as a part-time strength and conditioning coach.

Danny Richmond
Danny Richmond/Photo courtesy of Chicago BlackhawksThe number 44 was also worn by a pair of Admiral defensemen. Danny Richmond wore the number 8 in 2005-06, his first season in Norfolk, and then switched to the number 44 for the 2006-07 season. In 88 games with the Admirals, Richmond netted 14 goals and 32 assists for 46 points with 186 penalty minutes.

Richmond has played in 49 career NHL games, most recently with the Blackhawks in 2007-08. He has three assists and 75 PIMs in those 49 games.

Earlier this month, Richmond signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Washington Capitals. Admirals fans may see Richmond as a visitor at Scope with Hershey in 2011-12.

Vladimir Mihalik
Vladimir Mihalik/Photo by John WrightThe most recent Admiral to don the number 44 was 6'8" defenseman Vladimir Mihalik. A former first round draft pick (2005, 30th overall), Mihalik made his professional debut with the Admirals on October 15, 2007 at Philadelphia while sporting the number 27. Just four days later, Mihalik netted his first professional goal in his first career game at Scope.

Mihalik took over the number 44 at the beginning of the 2008-09 season and has worn it the last three seasons. Mihalik, who ranks sixth in AHL Admirals history with 270 games played, netted six goals and 52 assists for 58 points to go along with 300 penalty minutes in his Admirals career.

Mihalik made his NHL debut on October 4, 2008 as the Lightning took on the New York Rangers in the Bridgestone NHL Premiere in Prague, Czech Republic. In 15 NHL games, he has recorded three points and eight penalty minutes.

Mihalik became an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, after not being given a qualifying offer by the Lightning. Recent reports have indicated that Mihalik has signed with Lev Poprad of the KHL near his hometown of Presov, Slovakia.

Also worn by the likes of Todd Bertuzzi and Sandis Ozolinsh, the number 44 has been stitched on the back of jerseys throughout major league sports. With the 2011-12 season fast approaching us, it will be interesting to see if any of the new Lightning acquisitions will take on the role that Downey, Richmond and Mihalik have given to the athlete wearing their number.



Players wearing #44 in AHL Admirals history:
Aaron Downey (2000-02)
Danny Richmond (2006-07)
Vladimir Mihalik (2008-11)





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