A jersey number in sports. For some, it’s the number they were given by a coach, the number their favorite player wore while they were a kid or a chance to honor a family member or friend.
Whether it’s used as a tribute, a memory or motivation, those one or two digits stitched to the back of a jersey can be a great symbol or reminder of someone or something. When No. 22 became available on the Omaha roster at the end of last season, it was an easy decision for Jimmy Glynn to make the change to his old number.
“As soon as I got back home this summer my dad asked me and I told him I was getting 22 for sure, so he was very happy,” Glynn said. “He said ‘I’m glad to see you back in your old number’ and gave me a big hug.”
That old number holds a special meaning in the Glynn family, especially to Jimmy’s father, Mike. Mike’s older brother and Jimmy’s namesake, James Francis Glynn tragically passed away at the age of 30. Separated by four years, Mike was just in his upper 20’s at the time. The two grew up playing sports together and the person Mike called his “best friend” was always watching over him.
When Jimmy was born in February of 2000, Mike asked his father if he could name his son after his late brother. When Mike coached Jimmy’s youth hockey teams growing up, he gave his son the No. 22—his brother’s old football number. It’s been a continuous tribute to his brother over the years, but it’s now come full circle.
“When he was younger, I think it was more me that liked it, but I think as he got older and recognized the meaning more, it mattered to him,” Mike said. “To be honest though, I think it’s a sign of respect for me and our family too because he knows what it means to all of us. It really is a touching moment.
“To have your son play Division I hockey is a tremendous achievement on its own, but for him to still recognize something like this, you’re just so proud of him as a parent.”
Glynn, who wore No. 24 as a freshman, initially talked to the Omaha coaching staff about getting the number before he joined the program last season. However, he was unable to do so as Jordan Klehr returned to the program for one final season. Glynn said the coaching staff promised him he’d have the number once it became available.
The Illinois native admits he’s always played better with 22 on his back, saying it helps him from a mental standpoint more than anything. He was forced to initially switch numbers in juniors and hasn’t worn 22 since the 2018-19 season, but it’s an emotional and exciting feeling to have it back.
“At first I didn’t realize the significance of it when I was growing up,” Glynn said. “I knew that was his number growing up, but as a kid, I just thought it was a number. My dad told me when he (James Francis) played high school football at Marist (located in Chicago), his number was always 22. He always used to say he was ‘flying with the deuces’ on the field.
“That saying kind of has a different meaning to me and my dad now because we know that he’s flying high with that number right now.”
As a parent, Mike gets choked up hearing those words from his son, especially considering what he went through when his brother passed. More than anything, Mike said he sees the type of person his brother was in his son.
“It really makes you swallow hard,” Mike said. “To have your child appreciate you so much, it really makes everything feel right. He thinks it’s a tribute to my brother and all of us, but in my eyes, it’s a tribute to himself. It’s just a testament to how great of a kid Jimmy really is.”
The tribute hasn’t gone unnoticed throughout the rest of the Glynn family either.
“My nieces, my nephews, my cousins have all been asking if he got the number,” Mike said. “My sister joked ‘is he in the deuces?’ It’s a special feeling and it truly means a lot to our family. My niece just had a son and we got him an Omaha jersey, but we didn’t have any number put on it until this year. We’re going to put 22 on it now and he’s going to be flying with the deuces too.”
Mike and his wife, Jill, eventually got the chance to watch their son play in-person last year, but it was bittersweet missing Jimmy’s debut due to the COVID-19 restrictions that were in place at the start of last season.
Although Jimmy now has 25 games under his belt and Mike and Jill have both seen their son play, seeing that number on the ice for the first time this fall will be a special moment.
“It will be emotional,” Mike said. “I have to say, this last year with COVID and everything, not being able to see him take the ice for the first time or play in-person much was tough for my wife and I. When we were finally able to come last year it was special, but I think seeing that number is going to ratchet it up a little bit.”
When that moment comes, there will be a text waiting on Glynn’s phone before the game. It’s a short message he’s received from his dad for many years, but this time it will mean a little bit more—fly with the deuces.
“I never got to meet my dad’s brother, but I feel like this is a way that allows me to be with him and carry on his legacy,” Jimmy said. “It’s a big honor and it’s a great feeling to be able to wear a number that he made special, but more importantly it’s a great way to honor my family.”