It’s never easy for a team or fan base when one of its best players leaves. Whether it’s via trade, free agency or retirement, the void is particularly noticeable. Even in the case of Martin Brodeur, whose departure was softened by the presence of Cory Schneider, it’s weird not seeing that number–or someone else wearing it.

For the four years that followed Zach Parise’s free agency departure from the Devils, his number 9–still a common sweater worn by fans, was worn by a host of players. None of which inspired much hope, though they did offer fans an opportunity to work on duct taping abilities.

Here’s who has worn number 9 for New Jersey from 2012-13 to 2015-16: Bobby Butler, Jacob Josefson, Harri Pesonen, Mattias Tedenby, Joe Whitney, Mike Sislo Martin Havlat and Jiri Tlusty. Only one, Josefson (now 16) remains in the organization. Meanwhile none of the others are even in the NHL, though some are still mulling around the minors on two-way contracts.

It’s hard to really imagine something as trivial as a number adds such life to a jersey, but the lackluster ambiance of the number 9 was a reminder of what had left and how irreplaceable it was.

It’s been particularly intriguing this season to watch the number, now worn by Taylor Hall, begin to flourish yet again. New and old generations of fans are sporting more current no. 9’s, and for good reason, much like Parise during his tenure with the Devils, Hall is the driving force of the offense–leading the team in goals (3) and shots (21) through their opening five games of the season.

His most recent tally came in overtime versus Parise’s Minnesota Wild. As the one time captain of the team, now wearing 11, watched on from the bench, Adam Henrique and Hall made good on a cross move 29 seconds into OT.

So far, new no. 9 has ingratiated himself nicely to the N.J. faithful, all three of his goals have come at home, including two game winners. He’s also responsible for all but one of their four all goals scored in their first two home games.

“It’s fun to score any time, but certainly at home in overtime on a Saturday night where we have struggled to score,” Hall told reporters following the victory.

Even with Hall, New Jersey has struggled finding the back of the net–they’re the only team in the league to score single-digit goals (8) so far this season. Hall was brought in to help correct this issue following a season in which they finished 30th in league scoring.

On the bright side, New Jersey treated a second-straight sold out crowd to their second win of the season, many of whom have still not gotten over the summer of 2012, when Parise left the Devils to sign a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Wild. Fans littered the ice with boo’s every time the 7-year Devil came on for a shift, getting especially louder whenever he touched the puck.

Parise, who entered the game looking for his 300th career goal (194 scored with N.J.), has heard the boo-birds before, making two prior trips to his former home.

“I guess if they didn’t boo they probably didn’t care that I played here,” Parise said.

Parise’s final season with New Jersey was during Adam Larsson’s first in the league. Larsson was dealt in exchange for Hall in June.

“Good trade for (New Jersey),” Parise said. “I thought Larsson was a really good D-man, too. But you get a guy who can score like that, he’s a very good player.”

About The Author

Mad about being born into a Mets household during the Yankees dynasty, Neal McHale turned to something different after the 2000 World Series. He got NHL 2001 as a gift and it helped pioneer a hockey love affair. His first sportswriting gig was covering the historically-gritty Big East Conference. Since 2015, he's been with Inside Hockey covering the NHL.

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