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The Canadiens recently announced that two more jersey numbers will

be retired and raised to the rafters for all eternity; Larry “Big Bird”

Robinson’s #19 and Bob “Bo” Gainey’s #23.

This will bring a total of 13 jersey numbers retired by the legendary

Canadiens hockey club, honouring 14 legends of the game.

This is the first jersey retirement celebration that has been announced

in the NHL for the 07/08 season, but unfortunately, more will follow.

Jersey retirement celebrations have been flat out abused in the NHL in

the last few seasons and now mainly consists of marketing ploys

called “special nights” to draw more attention to the team and the gate


Lost in all of this selfishness is what it truely means to have your

number retired by an NHL team, and still know that it is deserved. This has

not been the case in the last few years and it is time the NHL steps in

and takes control of this process before it turns into more of a cash

grab then it already is.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m all for players being immortalized in the

rafters of the team(s) they played for, but only if they are indeed

deserving of such an honour.

From 2006 through to 2007 there have been 17 jersey numbers retired

around the league (including the recent Robinson and Gainey

announcements) and no less then 13 of those are undeserving, possibly


The entire idea behind hanging the numbers of players in the rafters

and taking the number out of team circulation is because that player

was so special that they can never be replaced (hence the jersey

number) and the hall of fame just isn’t enough of an honor for

everything they accomplished.

To me, this is a player that is the greatest of all time (at that point of

history) like Howe, Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux, and yes, even Patrick Roy; or

a player that completely changed the way the game is played while

putting a hall of fame career together like Plante and his mask,

Geoffrion and the one-timer, Mikita and curved stick blades, Gainey and

introducing the 2-way forward position. An arguement could be made

for the best players of all time at thier positions as well, but why split

hairs at this point.

In 2006 St.Louis retired the jersey numbers of Brett Hull and Al

MacInnis. Both players were perennial allstars, always among the

leagues leading scorers, and leaders for any team they played for.

Taking a quick look at thier accomplishments, they both are very

deserving of being inducted into the hockey hall of fame, but thats as far

as it should go.

There are many other examples out there (Montreal included) that don’t

cut the mustard, but the most glaring and almost farcical is that of

Calgary’s Mike Vernon in 2006. Vernon isn’t worthy of being inducted

into the hall of fame (and for good reason ) and yet he has his number

immortalized by the Flames. Vernon’s career numbers are at best

average, and won only one Stanley Cup and a second team allstar

appearance while playing for the Flames. Vernon also has a very bland

career goals against average of 2.98, and a save percentage of .890.

These numbers would be considered terrible today and only average for

his era. All these statistics include having his best years on a

powerhouse Detroit Red Wings team for three seasons in the mid 90’s. Is

the reason he had his number retired all because he won one Stanley

cup in Calgary?

Nope, It is likely a marketing ploy or a “keeping up with the Jones’ ”

situation; either way it is extremely unacceptable. These self serving

moves by NHL teams only cheapens the experience for the truely

deserving players when they can see a guy like Mike Vernon had his number

retired for being average.

If an NHL team can’t come up with a legitamate candidate for

jersey retirement, then stop looking right there. Don’t, for any reason,

make it less meaningful to the past icons of the game that did earn it .