Thursday, February 3, 2022

Every team’s retired numbers, ranked

The NHL saw two legendary players have their numbers retired over the weekend, as Henrik Lundqvist’s 30 went to the rafters in New York and Sergei Zubov’s 56 went up in Dallas. Both players were obviously worthy of the moment, one that ranks as just about the highest honor a team can bestow on a former star. It’s one of the few things in the hockey world that everyone can enjoy.

So, needless to say, I’m going to take this opportunity to make a lot of you mad about it.

Today, we’re going to rank all 32 NHL teams based on their retired numbers. But this isn’t just a list of which teams have honored the best players, because that would be too easy. No, we want to look at the whole picture. Who’s been honored? Who hasn’t? Has the team been weird about who they choose and when? Do they just retire numbers like a normal team, or do they insist on complicating things with some weird team-specific rules that nobody likes? And most importantly of all: Given what they have to work with, are they getting it right?

A few quick notes. We’re not counting the leaguewide retirement of 99, but will count upcoming retirements as long as they’ve already been announced. We’re ranking based on numbers that have formally been retired and removed from circulation, although we’ll make note of numbers that have been honored in other ways. And we’ll be going by the list on Wikipedia, because this right here is a professional operation.

Is there an objective, quantifiable way to rank something like this? Of course there is. Will we be using that method? No we will not. Will you agree with my ranking of your team’s most beloved players? (Checks to see if I ranked all 32 teams as tied for first.) No, I’m guessing you won’t, but that’s half the fun.

Worst to first, all 32 teams but you’re just going to CTRL+F for your own, let’s do this…

32. Seattle Kraken

Numbers retired: 32, for their fans


Look, call me cold-hearted if you want, but retiring a number for your fans is just lame. And it’s especially lame if you choose the number based on how many ticket deposits you sold. Also, the banner that they retired for their fans doesn’t even mention their fans – it just says “Kraken”.

There’s no shame in being a new team without any banners hanging. You don’t need to force it. If your fans wanted to watch a number ascend up to the heavens, they could just look at Phillip Grubauer’s goals against average.

31. Florida Panthers

Numbers retired: Roberto Luongo’s 1, plus the number 37 for Wayne Huizenga and 93 for Bill Torrey

They get one point for retiring Luongo, who was awesome. We’ll be neutral on Torrey, who wasn’t a player and was better associated with another franchise but was still a legitimate legend. And we’ll subtract roughly one million points for honoring an owner, a move that no other NHL team has tried. I’m sure Huizenga was a lovely guy and he had a distinguished career in the waste management/Florida Marlins business, but come on. Even Harold Ballard didn’t think to retire a number for himself, so this is awful.

30. Calgary Flames

Numbers retired: Lanny McDonald’s 9, Jarome Iginla’s 12, Mike Vernon’s 30

There’s nothing wrong with the three numbers the Flames have retired. But you’ll notice that there are some big names from the team’s history that are missing, including Al MacInnis, Joe Nieuwendyk, Theo Fleury and Miikka Kiprusoff. That’s where things get messy, because the Calgary Flames apparently can’t decide what they’re supposed to be doing with their numbers.

Here’s the thing: The Flames are the first of several teams we’ll meet that also have “honored” numbers. In their case, that’s MacInnis and Nieuwendyk, both of whose numbers hang in the rafters in Calgary under a new “Forever a Flame” system. But they’re not retired… sort of. It’s been almost 20 years since anyone wore MacInnis’s number 2 for the Flames, and given that it’s an extremely common number for defenseman, we can consider it unofficially retired. So is Fleury’s 14 and Kiprusoff’s 34, neither of which was never given to anyone after those players left. So we have a pattern… except that Nieuwendyk’s 25 has been in circulation pretty much constantly, including being worn by Jacob Markstrom right now.

What the hell?

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