So seeing how I grew up with mostly handball and football, and their pretty low shirt numbers (I’ve demanded #15 in every sport I’ve ever played and it was almost the highest number every time), I’ve always scratched my head a little when it comes to hockey numbers. I mean #99? Is there so many players on the team? Is it supposed to represent the amount of body parts they broke or teeth they’ve lost on their way to the top?
But no. They actually got the sweetest reason for doing it, other than “pick your favorite number between 1 to 100”. Currently in the NHL, there are 122 retired numbers, 7 former retirements, and 23 honored numbers.
A retired number is a jersey number that is taken out of circulation by a team as a way of honoring a former member of that team who wore that number. Honored numbers are similar to retired numbers, except that they remain available for use by other players.
Wayne Gretzky’s number 99 is the only one that has been retired league-wide, although the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings separately retired Gretzky’s number, just in case.
Retired numbers are a great way of honoring players, but upon joining the league in 2000, the Minnesota Wild had a ceremony retiring number 1 from circulation as a tribute to their fans.
Only six players have had their number retired by two different NHL teams:
- Bobby Hull – Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes
- Gordie Howe – Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes
- Wayne Gretzky – Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings (also retired league-wide)
- Ray Bourque – Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche
- Mark Messier – New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers
- Patrick Roy – Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens
Five numbers have been retired by a team in honour of two different players:
- Number 12 by the Montreal Canadiens for Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer
- Number 16 by the Montreal Canadiens for Elmer Lach and Henri Richard
- Number 3 by the Chicago Blackhawks for Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson
- Number 5 by the Canadiens for Bernie Geoffrion and Guy Lapointe
- Number 9 by the New York Rangers for Andy Bathgate and Adam Graves