Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Retiring numbers

Both A Theory of Ice and Tom Benjamin have jersey retirements on the brain, so I figured it was a good time to point out the incredible number of ceremonies there'll be this season.

The three most high profile ones are likely to be those of Patrick Roy in Montreal, Trevor Linden in Vancouver and Mike Gartner in Washington but no less than seven other players' numbers will also be retired this season:

Carolina, No. 2, Glen Wesley
Chicago, No. 3, Pierre Pilote
Chicago, No. 3, Keith Magnuson
Edmonton, No. 9, Glenn Anderson
N.Y. Rangers, No. 3, Harry Howell
N.Y. Rangers, No. 9, Andy Bathgate
N.Y. Rangers, No. 9, Adam Graves

Seems like quite a few, no?

I love sitting in an arena and seeing the old names hanging up high, like those in Joe Louis Arena or even the barn back in Kamloops. After hundreds and hundreds of junior hockey games, I still remember the four the Blazers have retired even though I haven't been back for a game in ages: Dean Evason, Greg Evtushevski, Mark Recchi and Greg Hawgood.

And I wasn't yet 10 years old when they left town.

I think retiring numbers is a great way to connect the past with the present, for the fans and the players on the ice. It's just unfortunate that, at this rate, we'll be running out of ones to give those still in the game.
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18 Comments:

At 4:58 AM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Joe said...

It'd be nice if they stopped retiring the numbers of players who are not exactly what you think of as elite players at their position when they played. I mean, Glen Wesley? Come on.

It makes me laugh to see one of the most storied franchises in NHL history in the Wings only have 6 numbers retired now, IIRC, while some other teams have considerably less history to be proud of, and decide to use that to be less discriminating.

Another interesting retired number note that has always bothered me: Ray Bourque is retired in both Boston and Denver. Why? Sure, he won a cup in Denver, thats nice. But frankly, he played what, two years there? You don't have a guy for two years and retire his number. Bourque's 77 should only be hung up in Boston.

 
At 6:40 AM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Brett Gee said...

I agree with the first comment. Way too many players getting their jerseys retired. The Oilers are getting close to the limit with Anderson.

I like that Detroit only has 6. Makes it mean something.

I've always said that retiring jerseys is like conceding that there will never be another player better, ever. If the game goes on for another 500 years and people get better and better, then retiring these "normal" players jerseys would look silly. Oh, and why is Al Hamilton's jersey retired? I think it should be based on hockey skill, stats, and accomplishments alone.

I say that they should start with league wide retiring. For example, 99, 66, 4, 9. Those numbers are retired because they were the best ever, no debate needed. Then you can let the individual teams retire their own.

 
At 6:41 AM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Brett Gee said...

Oh, and how can New York retire the #9 twice?

 
At 8:04 AM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Going Five Hole said...

The Leafs might have it right by "honoring" numbers instead of retiring them for good.

 
At 8:37 AM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Oh, and why is Al Hamilton's jersey retired?

1) He was the team's first captain.
2) He holds a good number of team records for the WHA eara.
3) His career was cut short by an eye injury in 1980.

Maybe if they knew at the time just how things would play out, they'd have been a bit gun-shy on his #3, but given the context of the day, it made good sense. And because we're not the Red Wings, we're not going to pull the banner down. (In fact, there wasn't even a banner up there until 2001, even though the number had been pulled from circulation in 1980.)

Oh, and how can New York retire the #9 twice?

You can't, as such. It's just honouring two names. The Habs did this with Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer (#12). But then again, you have to do it at the same time, or it doesn't make any sense, so Aurel Jolait and Newsy Lalonde (#4) and Georges Vezina, George Hainsworth, and Bill Durnan (#1) are all SOL, in terms of banners.

 
At 8:40 AM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Jim said...

re: Glen Wesley and "non-elite" players

I disagree. Unlike the HHOF, which should only be about elite talent and impact, I think that number retirement should be about value to the franchise.

A perfect example is Ken Daneyko in New Jersey. A lot of people scratch their heads at that one, however I can't imagine a single Devils fan who would ever want another player to wear #3. He was just that emblematic of the franchise and totally deserving of the honour.

I suspect that the situation is similar with Wesley and the Canes (I know that he moved with them from Hartford).

Jim

 
At 8:42 AM, October 08, 2008, Blogger B.C.B. said...

I think if teams like Carolina or Vancouver want to retire an average player (whom meant something to their fans) it is OK. Linden and Wesley are above-average players, not elite, but mean something more to their fans.

BG: Detroit only has six numbers retired, and the Oilers also have six (seven with Anderson) but other then Hamilton, those where some of the best player ever to play: all those players would have had their numbers retired if they put up those stats and won one cup on almost every team in the league. And if you want to add numbers to the league wide retiring I'd suggest 11 to go with the fine four you choose.

 
At 10:48 AM, October 08, 2008, Anonymous Steve said...

Other then Hamilton, I believe the Oilers will only retire a jersey (so far) of a player that has been inducted to the HOF.

I may be incorrect on that though

 
At 11:01 AM, October 08, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

It makes me laugh to see one of the most storied franchises in NHL history in the Wings only have 6 numbers retired now, IIRC, while some other teams have considerably less history to be proud of, and decide to use that to be less discriminating.

Detroit has history in that they've been around a long time, but really, they only have two eras to be terribly proud of: the Gordie Howe era, and the current one (which has been an extended one). If Detroit had been any good in the 1970s and 1980s they might have more than 6 numbers up there. But they weren't.

It's only since the post-WW2 era (in hockey terms, Original 6) that retiring numbers has become fashionable. For Detroit, it's not that the standards are ridiculously high, it's just that there really aren't a ton of candidates that haven't had their number retired already. I guess the debate will come up soon for Detroit: what about Fedorov? Shanahan? Heck, even Osgood might come up in discussion. Lidstrom is a given. No player has worn Konstantinov's #16 since his accident, not even Brett Hull, but that's not counted as "retired".

Georges Vezina, George Hainsworth, and Bill Durnan (#1)

I was under the impression that Vezina never even wore a number. I was never sure of Hainsworth.

I say that they should start with league wide retiring. For example, 99, 66, 4, 9. Those numbers are retired because they were the best ever, no debate needed. Then you can let the individual teams retire their own.

So who exactly gets #4 and #9? Don't answer if you know what's good for you. :)

League wide retirement is just silly, and should stop at Gretzky. Gretzky is the exception that proves the rule... E's write-up at Theory of Ice is exactly why no number should be off limits. It's fine that no one will ever wear #99 again for Edmonton, LA... significantly less so for the Rangers and Blues. The Leafs would "honour" Wilf Paiement's #99 if they had a sense of humour.

 
At 11:27 AM, October 08, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>> "The Leafs might have it right"

I never thought I'd see those words in that order, and agree.

We must be in the Twilight Zone.

 
At 11:42 AM, October 08, 2008, Blogger rickibear said...

Having Linden as more notable than Anderson. That is like comparing a quarterhorse to a one of the great thoroughbreds. Each has great meaning to there respective farms, but only one can get you the Derby.

Andrerson:
"His name can be found among the Oilers career leaders in games (3rd), goals (3rd), assists (4th), hat tricks (2nd with 20), powerplay goals (1st with 126), game winning goals (1st with 73) and multiple point games (4th with 240)."

"Anderson was brilliant in the post-season. The winner of six Stanley Cups, including five as an Oiler, Anderson ranks as the fourth leading scorer in Stanley Cup Playoff history with 93-121-214 in 225 games. He is ranked among the NHL’s all-time post-season career leaders in goals (5th), assists (7th), overtime goals (3rd with five) and game winning goals (5th with 17)."

 
At 1:10 PM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

I was under the impression that Vezina never even wore a number. I was never sure of Hainsworth.

Numbers weren't added to players' backs in the NHL until 1912; Vezina wore #1 and Lalonde wore #4 from then on. (Glove-tap to Robert L for that tidbit.)

The Leafs would "honour" Wilf Paiement's #99 if they had a sense of humour.

I would laugh at that. A lot.

 
At 1:29 PM, October 08, 2008, Anonymous Nig said...

I think the Leafs do have it right by honouring numbers, but they are doing it wrong this season by honouring Wendel and Dougie.

Both were beloved, for sure. Dougie was amazing, but only played for a few seasons in T.O. People loved Wendel for his tenacity and his ability to punch people when they had fallen, but didn't have the production to warrant an honouring.

 
At 1:45 PM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Are we debating worthiness of not-retirement now? Good Lord, I think this whole process just jumped the shark.

 
At 2:17 PM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Joe said...

It's only since the post-WW2 era (in hockey terms, Original 6) that retiring numbers has become fashionable. For Detroit, it's not that the standards are ridiculously high, it's just that there really aren't a ton of candidates that haven't had their number retired already. I guess the debate will come up soon for Detroit: what about Fedorov? Shanahan? Heck, even Osgood might come up in discussion. Lidstrom is a given. No player has worn Konstantinov's #16 since his accident, not even Brett Hull, but that's not counted as "retired".

Yes, the "dead things" era did not really produce much in the way of potential number retirements, but theres still several hall of famers who played on those old Wings teams, and aren't retired by the team. There were lots of other good players on those teams, besides the 6 sitting up in the rafters, but because Detroit doesn't retire the numbers of "good but not great" players, there's not as many banners.

Red Kelly is "honored" by the Leafs, but he played a good portion of his career with the Wings in the 50's. Larry Murphy is a HHOF'er, and would probably make the cut for a lot of other teams (he was certainly better than Glen Wesley), but neither the Leafs or Wings have retired his number. Syd Howe, Marcel Pronovost, and Ebbie Goodfellow are all Hockey Hall of Famers who were part of either the 30's/early 40's cup runs, or the late 40's/50's runs, and aren't retired by the team. And that's just scanning through the HHOF listings for old Red Wings players. I'm not even gonna start busting out the non-HHOF players from those teams, which other teams seem to be so fond of retiring.

 
At 2:43 PM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Koz said...

I agree with some of the comments about "semi-stars" having their numbers retired as a bit overkill.

As a Penguins fan, I hope to see the day when 68 is retired. I booed him mercilessly when he faced the Pens as an opponent, but once his career is done, Jagr has earned the right, I think. It would be a nice way of burying the hatchet and honoring an all-time great who also served as team captain for several years.

I think Ron Francis' #10 would be appropriate as well, but I could live without it.

 
At 7:44 PM, October 08, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have problems with non-HHOF stars having numbers retired - I think of it as a different level of recognition than selection to the Hall of Fame. Although I do think that league-wide retirements are silly (especially having a nuber retired by a team that didn't even exist when the player recognized was active).

And we will never run out of numbers as long as math nerds stay creative: there are always Roman numerals (granted, the bigger numbers are a bit cumbersome, such as LXXXVII), and numbers like pi, e, and i. Or just go to three digits - Miroslav Satan could finally have the number 666 which he was always meant to have. :)

 
At 10:50 PM, October 08, 2008, Blogger Brett Gee said...

So who exactly gets #4 and #9? Don't answer if you know what's good for you. :)

Actually, there is no need to answer that question. Just retire the numbers. They could represent more than one player.

Thanks for the warning;)

To be clear, I still think that retiring numbers is silly and will only continue to get sillier as people continue to defend reasons why some of the "non-superstars" should be retired.

Thanks for the info on Al Hamilton.

 

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