With Eric Lindros' No. 88 officially on the road to being retired, we take a look around the history of the NHL and recognize players that deserve to have their number retired.
We have picked one from each team with one rule, their tenure with the team must be over. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be retired, they just need to be elsewhere in the league. We didn’t include the Vegas Golden Knights, because that’s ridiculous, but the other 30 teams should get their flag strings and banner clips ready, because there are some seriously deserving players that have yet to see their name and number hanging from the rafters.
Anaheim Ducks - Paul Kariya - #9
This seems obvious. Currently the Anaheim Ducks franchise only has one retired number, Teemu Selanne’s No. 8, but when you think of Selanne’s time in Anaheim it automatically comes paired with Kariya’s No. 9. The two are one of the most iconic duos in hockey history, and the fact that Selanne has had the honour and Kariya hasn’t seems like a disservice to the former Mighty Duck left winger.
Arizona Coyotes - Shane Doan - # 19
This was one of the easiest choices on the whole list. Shane Doan has been on the Coyotes forever, showing a team that has seen its share of struggles that loyalty exists no matter what in some players. He served as the ‘Yotes captain from 2003 through until 2017, a time length longer than a lot of player’s careers. He should have his number retired soon after he decides to hang up the skates.
Boston Bruins – Rick Middleton - #16
Rick Middleton, the man they call “Nifty”, played 881 games in the Bruins’ black and yellow. In this time he recorded 898 points, which currently stands 4th on the Bruins’ all-time list. Not known for the bruiser style of play that is associated with most Bruins players, Middleton quickly became a fan favourite and recorded five straight seasons of scoring at least 90 points. On top of this, Middleton was honoured with a Lady Byng trophy in 1982, a testament to the style of play that landed him only 157 penalty minutes in 1005 total NHL games. The No. 16 retirement is long overdue from a franchise that has already retired 10 numbers.
Buffalo Sabres – Dave Andreychuk - #25
Dave Andreychuk was a key part of the Buffalo Sabres’ offence for most of 12 seasons. The powerplay specialist also played for the Leafs, the Devils, the Avalanche, and the Lightning (where he finally won a Stanley Cup), but the team that he spent most of his career commited to was the Sabres. He stands second on the Sabres’ all-time assists list, third in goals, first in powerplay goals, amongst other high-rankings in statistics. Andreychuk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017, yet his number still hasn’t been retired in Buffalo.
Calgary Flames – Jarome Iginla - #12
Jarome Iginla is a shoe-in for number retirement. First he just has to go through actual retirement. The former Flames captain leads the franchise in just about every offensive statistical category. Iginla played 1,219 games with the Flames, more than any other player, and remains beloved in the city. A player known for his heart and grit, “Iggy” is sure to have his numbers in the rafters soon enough.
Carolina Hurricanes – Eric Staal - #12
Similarly to Iginla, this retirement is merely waiting Eric Staal’s actual retirement. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native that comes from one of the most successful hockey families of all-time, with three of his brothers also gracing the NHL ice at some point (albeit Jared Staal only for two games), and was a staple in the Hurricanes organization for almost 12 full seasons. Staal’s tenure with the Canes was highlighted in 2006 when he led the franchise to its first and only Stanley Cup. Staal led all skaters in points during that post-season. If it weren’t for some guy named Ron Francis, Staal would essentially be the leader in almost every offensive franchise record.
Chicago Blackhawks – Steve Larmer - #28
Steve Larmer was basically Mr. Blackhawks for over a decade. In one streak, Larmer played 884 consecutive games for the ‘Hawks, the longest streak for any player to have played with just one team. He also averaged over a point a game during his tenure with the franchise (923 points in 891 games). Steve Larmer was never the superstar that Bobby Hull or Patrick Kane have proven to be, but his consistency and dedication is certainly worthy of a number retirement.
Colorado Avalanche – Milan Hejduk - #23
Milan Hejduk had somewhat of an up-and-down career with the Avalanche. For the most part, he was a productive top liner that had the privilege of playing on Avalanche teams that included offensive juggernauts such as Paul Stastny, Peter Forsberg, and Joe Sakic. This likely helped pad the stats for the Czech forward, but nonetheless he played his role well. In the 2002-03 season Hejduk won the coveted Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy and also won a Stanley Cup in 2001 with the team. His retirement was only 3 years ago, so don’t be surprised if you see his #23 raised at some point in the near future.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Rick Nash - #61
Just go look at a webpage that displays Blue Jackets’ records and you’ll understand how obvious it is that Nash’s name will be raised to the rafters. He played 674 games with the franchise, over 100 more than any other player, and he was the best player on the team for most if not all of those games. It’s been five seasons since he played for the franchise and it still doesn’t quite feel right seeing him in a Rangers jersey.
Dallas Stars - Brian Bellows - #23
Technically, Bellows was a part of the Minnesota North Stars, which eventually turned into the Dallas Stars. He played in 10 seasons with the North Stars, totaling 753 games, in which time he put up 722 points. He made three all-star games as a member of the organization and was a consistent contributor to the franchise. He is not as much of a shoe-in as most on this list, but his production was certainly crucial for a franchise in transition.
Detroit Red Wings – Pavel Datsyuk - #13
The recently departed Datsyuk was beloved in the city they call “Hockeytown”. He spent his entire 953 game NHL career with the Red Wings franchise and racked up 918 points in that time. Known for his wizardry on offence, Datsyuk was also one of the games top two way forwards, winning him three Selke trophies, along with four consecutive Lady Byng trophies for his sportsmanship and high-level ability. These honours showcase how dedicated to the game the Russian forward was, and the endless highlights of “Datsyukian dekes” you can find exemplify the special talent he brought to the city of Detroit. Two Stanley Cups later and Datsyuk should be well on his way to a retirement ceremony.
Edmonton Oilers – Kevin Lowe - #4
Kevin Lowe’s jersey retirement is long overdue. Lowe played more games in an Oiler uniform than any other player and helped the franchise win five Stanley Cups (his personal total is six). He captained the team for a year and has also since moved up the chain of command off the ice in the Oiler’s organization, eventually making his was to President of Hockey Operations. That duty has since been passed on, as has his #4 jersey (Taylor Hall asked permission to wear it during his time with the Oilers), but many believe that Lowe’s number should be next on the Oiler’s retirement list.
Florida Panthers – Pavel Bure - #10
This is somewhat of an odd pick because Bure’s No. 10 is already retired in Vancouver. If the Panthers were to retire his number, he would become the 8th player to have his number retired by two different franchises. While Bure only played a total of 223 games with the Panthers, he was so good in that time that he sticks out as the player most deserving. He managed to rack up 152 goals and 251 points during his tenure and was always a problem for teams to defend. The Panthers haven’t had many legitimate superstars come through the Sunshine state, but with to Rocket Richard trophies and two all-star appearances as a member of the franchise, Pavel Bure was certainly one.
Los Angeles Kings - Jonathan Quick - #32
While this list is mostly aimed at people that have finished their tenure with the team that owes them a retirement, the Kings have done such a good job of retiring numbers that deserve it that we’re going to cheat for this one and just talk about Jonathan Quick. Hands down the most accomplished goalie in franchise history, Quick leads the Kings in almost all goalie statistics including games played, wins, save percentage, goals against average, and shutouts. No other player in the Kings history really stood out (are we really going to retire Ziggy Palffy’s #33?), so we’re taking the cop-out and settling for the obvious choice in Quick.
Minnesota Wild – Niklas Backstrom - #32
This may seem like somewhat of an odd choice, but Backstrom’s goaltending was actually pretty good for the young franchise looking to find its place. During each his first three seasons with the Wild, Backstrom finished in the top six for Vezina trophy voting and managed to win the William M. Jennings trophy alongside Manny Fernandez. He currently leads the Wild’s franchise goaltending categories in games played (409), wins (194), and shutouts (28). He also maintained a respectable .915 save percentage while playing for a team that often hung him out to dry. While he may not stand out as an obvious choice, his quiet production helped the young franchise find its legs.
Montreal Canadiens – Jacques Lemaire - #25
Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have retired more numbers than the Montreal Canadiens’ 18 retirements. Somehow, Jacques Lemaire has been left off that list. Not only did he play 853 games with the organization at almost a point-per-game pace (835 points), he also coached the team for two years, winning the Jack Adams award for best coach in his second year. He was a key part of eight (!!!) Stanley Cup winning teams, which ties him for the 4th most championship in NHL history (all three in front of him were also teammates of his). It’s incredible that Lemaire has yet to be honoured by the franchise.
Nashville Predators – David Legwand - #11
David Legwand was Nashville’s most recognizable player. He played with them during a time that he was basically the entire team. The young franchise doesn’t have many numbers that are retireable, but Legwand’s unquestionable leadership and dedication to the team earns him a spot in Predators’ lore. He leads the team in most offensive categories and even managed to stay a +19 on a team that often finished in the cellars of the West.
New Jersey Devils – Patrik Elias - #26
This will happen, it just hasn’t been long enough yet. Patrik Elias retired from his 20-year tenure with the team just last year, after managing to rack up 408 goals and 617 assists (1st on franchise lists for both), and two Stanley Cups. Last season didn’t seem the same without their reliable left winger on the ice. Elias predominately served with the A on his chest, but he did captain the team for two seasons as well. Elias is certainly next in line to have a ceremonial night, it’s just a matter of time.
New York Islanders – Brent Sutter - #21
Brent Sutter played parts of 12 seasons with the Islanders, captaining them for five of those seasons. He racked up 610 points in 694 games and was a model leader that wasn’t afraid to stand up for his teammates. He managed a +121 rating during his time with the team, but still has yet to see his number retired. Whether or not we will is a question that we’ll have to patiently wait on, but nobody would disagree if the team did decide to honour their former leader.
New York Rangers – Jean Ratelle - #19
This one was long overdue, but it's finally going to happen this season as the New York Rangers made the announcement earlier in the day on Monday.
Ottawa Senators – Wade Redden - #6
Wade Redden was an important part of the Senators blue line for the better part of 11 years. In that time he climbed his way up the all-time point standings, making his way all the way to 2nd, an impressive feat for a blueliner. He now sits 5th all-time with 410 points, 4th in assists with 309, 4th in games played with 838, and 1st in +/- with +159. On top of that, he loved the city of Ottawa. He even offered to take a hometown discount when his contract was up after the 2007-08 season.
Philadelphia Flyers – Ron Hextall - #27
Ron Hextall is one of the most memorable goalies in NHL history. Known for his fiery attitude and goal scoring prowess, Hextall left his mark on the city of brotherly love by winning 240 games for the franchise (opposed to his 172 losses). His numbers weren’t terrific, but he did manage to win a Conn Smythe Trophy, along with a Vezina trophy, during a time that goal scoring was running rampant through the league. To put it into perspective, his .902 save percentage during the 1986-87 season topped the league. Hextall has since become a member of the Flyers’ upper management, currently serving as their general manager. There aren’t many Flyers that are more iconic than Hextall, and with Lindros having his number retired soon enough, it’s time the team recognized that with a raising of his No. 27 as well.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Jaromir Jagr - #68
Easy. Jagr is a symbol of the city of Pittsburgh (despite playing for seven other teams during his long and hopefully ongoing career). Not only was his mullet the most fantastic hair hockey has ever seen, but his standing in almost all Penguins offensive categories falls somewhere between first and third (keep in mind he’s competing against legendary Penguins Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin. Despite spending 15 NHL seasons playing elsewhere, Jagr still has the second most games as a Penguin under his belt. He made six all-star teams during his 11 years with the organization and won numerous trophies including the Hart, the Lester B. Pearson, the Ross, and two Stanley Cups.
San Jose Sharks – Patrick Marleau - #12
Since we’re doing players that have finished up their tenure with the team, Marleau’s signing with the Leafs couldn’t have come along at a more perfect time for this article. He has recorded 1082 points with the club and was a key part of the Sharks’ core since his drafting to the team in 1997. The loyal Shark was beloved in the city of San Jose as his quiet demeanor and point production won their way into the rapidly-expanding fanbase’s heart. While he is signed on for the next three years as a Leaf, there is no doubt he will end up in the rafters of the Shark tank.
St. Louis Blues – Pavol Demitra - #38
Pavol Demitra hopped around the league a bit, but he will always be best known for his time with the Blues. He came close to joining the 500 games – 500 points club with the franchise, but fell just short with 494 and 493 respectively. He was another one of those players that was quietly productive, and his time with the Blues peaked with a 93 point campaign in 2002-03. He wasn’t the flashiest or the loudest player, but he consistently got the job done. When you think of the Blues during the turn of the century, you think of Demitra as a key part.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Brad Richards - #19
While the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL have retired Richards number, the Lightning still have yet to hang #19 from the rafters. The team has only retired two numbers (#4 for Vincent Lecavalier, and #26 for Martin St. Louis), but next in line should be Richards. He finishes in the top five for games played, goals, and assists. He was also a member of the franchises only Stanley Cup championship, during which he won the Conn Smythe trophy for most valuable player. In that post season, Richards scored a record seven game winning goals to help the Lightning to the cup. While he did spend time on other teams, Richards’ time with the Lightning is where he deserves to be honoured.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Ron Ellis - #6
The Leafs have retired a whopping 19 jersey numbers (although there are a few repeat numbers). Of those, Ellis’ No. 6 has not been honoured (although Ace Bailey’s #6 has). Only four players have played more games as a Leaf than Ellis’ 1,034, and only five players have more points (all of whom are honoured). Ellis also sits fifth in plus/minus with a +67 rating. Despite leaving the team twice for retirement on relatively sour notes, his contributions to the franchise, and the fact that he was a part of their last Stanley Cup in 1967, are worthy of a nod from the historical franchise.
Vancouver Canucks – Roberto Luongo - #1
Roberto Luongo’s time in Vancouver was interesting to say the least. He was spectacular for the most part, and was even the 7th goalie all-time to be named a captain of the team (although that is forbidden so they had to tip-toe around some of the rules). His win-loss ration with the franchise was an impressive 252-137, while he maintained stellar .919 save percentage and 2.36 goals against averages as a Canuck. He got into a weird situation with the emergence of Cory Schneider, who outperformed Luongo late in his tenure, and was eventually dealt back to the Florida Panthers. Luongo remains a fan favourite across the league due to his hilarious social media presence and continued success as an NHL goalkeeper, and upon retirement we expect that the Canucks would honour the beloved backstop they call ‘Lu.
Washington Capitals – Olaf Kolzig - #37
Olaf Kolzig was a solid goalie for the Capitals for 16 seasons. That is a long, long, long time for a goaltender to play with one organization. During that time, he took the Capitals to the Stanley Cup finals, won a Vezina Trophy, and added a King Clancy Memorial Trophy recognizing his humanitarian activities. He played just eight NHL games for another team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and is still a valuable member of the Capitals organization as the goaltender coach (an organization that is currently the home of Vezina Trophy runner-up Braden Holtby). Ollie the Goalie has been out of the crease for long enough now, it’s time for the Capitals to recognize their former netminder.
Winnipeg Jets – Ilya Kovalchuk - #17
Technically, Kovalchuk was an Atlanta Thrasher. But that organization has since become the new Winnipeg Jets. It’s hard to see this actually coming to fruition. Not only did he play for a different city, but he also left the NHL in haste. This development hampers his chances of ever getting permanently recognized in an NHL arena, but his potential return to the NHL could swing the league back in his favour. If this does happen, his production is certainly worth recognition. In 594 games, Kovalchuk recorded 615 points and was feared across the league for his deadly snipes. Kovalchuk was the first Russian to ever be drafted first overall, and is still considered to be a dangerous weapon if he does come back. It will be interesting to see how this situation develops, but for now we will appreciate the undeniable skill of a talented hockey player.