I don't have a definate answer but I wonder if the numbers thing goes back to the 1890s and prior to a goalies wearing different/special equipment. From the little hockey history I've read, prior to the NHL (1917) goalies weren't allowed to lie, sit or kneel but were allowed to use their hands to stop the puck while in the goal. At the time, goalies didn't wear different equipment so maybe they were either required to wear or just started wearing certain numbers to allow officials to differentiate the goalies from the regular players???
I've never found the answer to this and I was wondering if any of you know the history or supertstition. Why do most goalies wear the #'s 30-35?
Back in the old days, before the jersey number explosion, jerseys only went up to 30. Goalies took either the lowest number, 1, or the highest. At some point, I even think that the league mandated that certain positions could only wear certain numbers, like in football. Don't forget that the addition of names to the back of jerseys is a relatively recent addition, and that numbers were the best way to identify players.