Which Blackhawks Number Should Be Retired?
It’s always fun when a date on the calendar leads to a fun conversation on social media. And this week — yesterday and today, to be exact — we’ve had two birthday that have stirred some chatter amongst Blackhawks fans.
Today is Ed Belfour‘s birthday. And yesterday was Brent Seabrook‘s birthday. In celebration of Biscuit’s birthday yesterday, I tweeted the following:
Which led to some replies and conversation about which numbers should be retired by the Blackhawks. We’ve had this conversation at times in the past, especially around Marian Hossa’s number going into the rafters in November. But there are two more immediate reasons to revisit the discussion.
Seabrook’s contract, which was traded to Tampa for Tyler Johnson and their second-round pick in this year’s draft, expires at the conclusion of this season. He is retired from playing, but the contract ending will make it official.
The other reason chat about this is the possibility/likelihood that Jonathan Toews calls it a career this summer. His contract is also expiring this summer, and we already know his days in Chicago have come to a close.
I think we can all safely assume no Chicago Blackhawks player will ever wear 19 again. But what other numbers should be in the rafters? Here’s my take. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments.
There are two numbers that are long overdue for retirement: 24 and 28. You already know how I feel about Steve Larmer if you’ve followed my writing about the Blackhawks for more than 30 days. But the fact that Doug Wilson has been rightfully inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame — another honor that’s well overdue for Larmer — should have his number strongly considered for the rafters.
Wilson appeared in 938 games for the Blackhawks, the fourth-highest total among all Chicago defensemen behind Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Bob Murray. His 779 regular-season points are still the most for any defenseman in franchise history. And he won the Norris Trophy after the 1981-82 season. He was one of the all-time great defensemen in franchise history and it’s long overdue that the organization recognizes him.
From the dynasty era, there are four numbers that shouldn’t be worn again in my opinion. But one should be retired for a couple reasons. We’ll start there.
The Blackhawks retired No. 3 for both Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnusson. Pilote was a legend who helped the Blackhawks win a championship. He was among the best of his generation. Maggie was the heartbeat of the franchise and later became a driving force behind the Blackhawks alumni becoming an important part of the team’s impact in the community.
My opinion is the Blackhawks should retire No. 7 for both Seabrook and Chris Chelios. Yes, I know the way things ended with Chelios didn’t rest well with most of the fan base and some still hold a grudge after watching him parade the Stanley Cup around Wrigley Field in a Red Wings jersey. But he was a tremendous leader for the Blackhawks and one of the best defensemen in the NHL while he was skating for his hometown team.
The three other numbers I would take out of circulation from the dynasty era are 2, 19 and 88.
Keith’s 1,192 regular-season games played is the second-most in the nearly 100 year history of Chicago’s Original Six franchise. He won individual awards — the Norris and Conn Smythe — won three Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals, and was one of the best defensemen of his era. That feels easy. He’s already retired and, now that Seabrook and possibly Toews join him in the “former player” category, it’s time to plan the night to celebrate his achievements.
It also feels easy to say Patrick Kane‘s number should join Toews’ in the rafters. The two faces of the franchise arrived together as teenagers and they were the driving forces behind the three championships. Kane’s 1,225 points are second in franchise history behind only Stan Mikita.
Yesterday as we discussed on social media, cases were made for 10 (Patrick Sharp and Tony Amonte), 4 (Niklas Hjalmarsson) and a few others. But, to me, those are the six numbers that should have banners at the United Center.
The Blackhawks have talked about having a team hall of fame at the United Center around the team’s 100th anniversary in a couple years. There will be places for other great players in franchise history like Sharp, Amonte, Belfour, Hjalmarsson, Jeremy Roenick, Corey Crawford and others in that space. But retiring a number means more. It’s more permanent. And, to me, the guys who earned that distinction are Larmer, Wilson, Toews, Seabrook, Keith, Toews and Kane.