When asked about it, players in any sport will often tell you that the best moment of their career was when they won a Championship. When they didn’t have that luxury, top-end players will say that it’s the day that they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. In hockey, teams retire jerseys and raise them to the rafters, along with Stanley Cup banners. For those players, it can also be a very memorable moment, an honour.
Who knows more about retired numbers than the most storied franchise in history? With 24 Stanley Cups in counting, only the New York Yankees (27 World Series) have won more championships than the Montreal Canadiens amongst pro sports in North America.
Honouring the past
Lately, there has been a push to get former team captain Guy Carbonneau‘s jersey retired, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. We know that Carey Price will find his number 31 up there one day, alongside Jacques Plante and Patrick Roy. What do you do with Andrei Markov? Should number 11 be retired as Saku Koivu was captain of the Canadiens for 10 seasons? I mean, if we continue with the same tradition, there won’t be any numbers left to wear!
The purpose of retiring jerseys and numbers is to honour the greats from the past, and recognize their great contribution to the franchise. It’s an individual accolade. The ultimate ‘Thank You‘ from the organisation to the player. So why is the team penalized by not being able to use that number for someone else, really? I know, I know… no one else will ever wear that number in honour of the great ones. But why?
A fresh approach
What if, instead of retiring the number, we honoured the players only by raising their jersey, name and number, to the rafters, without preventing anyone else from wearing the number itself? Aren’t there three jersey numbers retired for two different guys? Number five (5) is retired for Bernard Geoffrion and Guy Lapointe. Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer both have their number 12 retired. Number 16 has been retired to honour two great players in Elmer Lach and Henri Richard. I highly doubt that any of them have or would have any issues with it. The honour to them is the same.
If you retire and honour Saku Koivu for example, you’re wanting to thank him for his contribution to the Canadiens over the course of his long career. Does it really change anything if the team was to retire his jersey instead of his number? Do you honestly think that the player will be opposed to that? Does it make it less of an honour? Not if you ask them, I can guarantee you that.
So please, let’s get with the program here and bring that slight change to this way of honouring the greats of the past, the present and the future. They won’t mind as if they were that selfish, they wouldn’t be up there anyway. Allow to make the decision easier to honour Carbo, Marky and maybe even Pleky (Tomas Plekanec), who has spend all but a few games in a uniform other than the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge. It will still be the Sainte-Flanelle and just as much of an honour to those players, I am convinced. Go Habs Go!