Feb 18, 2007

Too many NHL jerseys being retired?

Columnist Rick Wile asks this question in Kamloops This Week: "Is there glorifying for the sake of image and marketing? Jersey retirement nights in hockey are far more prevalent than they are in the other major sports of football, baseball, and basketball. Is it overkill in hockey?" (via Kukla's Korner)

I think Rick is on to something here - it seems like since the NHL lock-out, we've had a jersey retired about once every month.

When/how/why should teams retire jerseys?

After his #29 jersey was retired in Montreal last month, Ken Dryden said:
"It used to be ... that when a special rookie arrived in a team's training camp, that player would be given No. 9 or 7 or 2, whatever the number that was special to that team. One of the great and surprising thrills for me was seeing goalies wearing No. 29 after me. For a few, it may have been because I wore that number, but over time it became a goalie number."
And in Toronto, they prefer to "honour" players, rather than retire jerseys:
It was felt that not retiring player sweaters gives the Leafs the flexibility of honouring more of these individuals than would be the case if the Leafs took the sweater numbers out of circulation.

The consulting group determined that the former player’s number would be deemed an “Honoured Number” but remain in circulation. As a means of adding significance to this, the sweater of the current Maple Leaf that has the “Honoured Number” wears a special shoulder patch with the honouree's name inscribed for the balance of that season. The special banner for the honouree remains on permanent display at Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs historically only retired numbers of distinguished players that have died or had their career shortened due to tragic or catastrophic circumstances while being a member of the team. Irvine (Ace) Bailey (No. 6) and Bill Barilko (No. 5) are the two represented in this category.

What criteria should be used for retiring numbers? Here's an idea from the "Bitter Leaf Fan Page" blog:
...to be eligible to have a number retired, the player has to meet both of the following two baseline criteria:

1. Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame
2. Spent the majority of their NHL career as a Leaf...

In addition to the above, the player would also have to meet at least 2 of the following 3 criterion:

1. Won or been nominated for one of the major NHL trophies such as the Stanley Cup, Hart, Vezina, Jennings, Calder, Rocket Richard, Conn Smythe, Norris or Lady Byng while playing as a Leaf
2. Lead (or have lead) the Leafs organization in at least one major statistical category (e.g. career games played, career goals, career assists, career +/-, career points, shut outs, GAA, wins, etc.)
3. Been a pioneer or transformational player for the organization

I think the team should also have special dispensation to retire a number in the event that a player had promising career cut tragically short a la Tim Horton, Bill Barilko...

What do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I have no problewm with numbers being retired, the marketing has become overkill. It was enough just to raise a banner and have the team play a game. Now the team wears patches, use game pucks with special logos just for that night, and the league now sells the pins, patches, pucks, and mini banners. Enough of the merchandise already.