Neil Kane Sheehy was born on February 9, 1960, is a Canadian-born American professional ice hockey player with dual citizenship. He grew up in International Falls, Minnesota.
A defenceman and Harvard University graduate, Sheehy signed as a free agent in 1983 by the Calgary Flames. His tough defensive play would help guide the Flames to their first finals appearance in 1986. He has also played for the Hartford Whalers and Washington Capitals. He is one of two NHL players who wore the number 0, the other was Paul Bibeault. He now is a successful NHL sports agent.
Neil Sheehy played seven NHL seasons, but the number that’s perhaps best associated with him is zero.
On Jan. 24, 1988, Sheehy, a defenseman with the Hartford Whalers, became the first skater to wear No. 0 in an NHL game. The reason behind choosing that number dates to his tenure in the American Hockey League as a member of the Calgary Flames organization.
“I was sent to the minors to play for the Moncton Golden Flames and the trainer came and asked me if I’d wear this jersey and I said, ‘Yeah, it doesn’t matter what number,’” Sheehy said. “He started looking at it and saw it was No. 0. So I started laughing and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll wear it.’ Then Terry Crisp, the coach, came up to me and said, ‘You’re going to wear that jersey?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll wear it.’ And he said, ‘Well, I like you already.’”
Sheehy wore No. 0 in his 26 games with the Whalers during the 1987-88 season. The following season, playing for the Washington Capitals, he wore his traditional No. 15.
“I was No. 15 in college and I wore No. 5 in Calgary but when I went to Hartford, those numbers were taken by Ulf Samuelsson and Dave Tippett, so I asked the GM if I can wear No. 0 and it was hung in my stall,” Sheehy said.
Sheehy scored 18 goals with 47 assists and accrued 1,311 penalty minutes in 379 NHL games with the Whalers, Flames and Capitals. He was an important part of the Flames during their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1986 and his favorite NHL memory is Game 7 of their second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers.
“Game 7 (of the Campbell Conference Division Final) when we beat the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers in 1986,” Sheehy said. “They had won the Cup in 1984 and 1985 and we upset them in Game 7 and went on to the Cup Final where we lost to Montreal.”
Most memorable is the winning goal, which came early in the third period when Oilers defenseman Steve Smith put the puck into his own net.
“That moment when we won – the famous Steve Smith goal – it was certainly a highlight for sure. The team they had in Edmonton was a dynasty and we were able to knock them off.”
Sheehy didn’t know if he would make it in the League, so he got his education at an Ivy League school to prepare for another job if hockey didn’t work out.
“I wanted to play (in the NHL) but my whole decision in going to Harvard was I said, ‘where do I want to be if I’m not any good in hockey and I don’t have the ability to play.’” Sheehy said. “I said I wanted the Harvard education.”
Sheehy used that Harvard education to get into law school after his playing days were over and is now a successful agent. His clients include Matt Niskanen of the Washington Capitals, Nick Leddy and Anders Lee of the New York Islanders and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild.
“My first agent was Brian Burke and he was a Harvard grad, and my second agent was Bob Goodenow, and he was a Harvard grad,” Sheehy said. “So I had played hockey for 11 years and playing hockey is a lot like being king; it prepares you for nothing. All I had is my Harvard degree, and I decided I’d go to law school because Brian Burke was a lawyer and Bob Goodenow was a lawyer and I would just do what they did and follow in their path. So I went to law school and became an agent.”