The days when retiring a National Hockey League player's jersey number was one of the ultimate honors seem to be over.
We're in an age where teams are hurting at the gate, and an easy way to sellout your building is to bring a player from the past back by either a jersey honoring or retirement. More often than not, the player in question is truly deserving of the honor, but, should there be some sort of minimum standard for a number to hang from the rafters forever, never to be worn again, as Tyler from NHL Digest questioned:
While it is certainly wishful thinking to believe that a set criteria would be agreed upon league-wide, there is an expectation by fans that franchises should be responsible in their selections of players to honor. Just as with the selections for the Hockey Hall of Fame, there are players whose accomplishments are (at least statistically) greater than some of those players who have been honored.
Two recent examples Tyler uses are Glen Wesley, whose No. 2 was retired by the Carolina Hurricanes last week, and Adam Graves, who saw his No. 9 placed along side names like Giacomin, Leetch, Messier and Richter amongst others atop Madison Square Garden for the New York Rangers.
The determining factor between both ceremonies seemed to be that Wesley and Graves were part of a Stanley Cup championship run and were good people off the ice, but should there be more to the standard?
The line is thin here because ceremonies like these are planned on a team-by-team basis and not through a League-wide directive. While these decisions are sometimes based on whether or not a player is Hall of Fame worthy, there should be some discrepancy between taking a player's number out of circulation for good and just outright honoring it -- like the Toronto Maple Leafs do with their 13 honored numbers.
At this rate, by the year 2109 -- when Gary Bettman's great, great grandson is running the League and our own grandkids kids are stuck watching hockey on Versus Ocho -- some teams like the Montreal Canadiens (who have 15 retired numbers) could be down to using decimal points, or break out a third digit ... which leaves us hope that Miroslav Satan's future kin will be able to don the "666" jersey while following in the family footsteps of being "soff."
Tyler foresees a day in the NHL when jersey retirements become commonplace instead of being reserved for special occasions if a minimum standard isn't put in place by teams:
Yes, I realize that there are more criteria than just statistics, trophies and records that can be used to determine the value of a player to the organization. However, without any basic criteria teams may eventually find more ways than not to draw in a crowd for special game featuring the jersey retirement of (Insert name here).
Somewhere, Dan Cloutier is holding out hope that the Los Angeles Kings fall back onto hard times and in need to get butts in the seats, raise his No. 39 will hang from the rafters of Staples Center. A boy can dream ...
Throwing it back to our Puck Daddy Urban Achievers/Puck Buddies: What say you?
Would you like your favorite team to adopt some sort of policy when it comes to retiring or honoring numbers? Has there been a recent retiring that you thought was questionable?
If you're looking for an idea of a possible policy to put into place, check out Bitter Leafs Fan and the criteria he came up with.