Why has hockey never retired any jersey numbers?

Submitted by VictorsValiant09 on September 29th, 2010 at 5:50 PM

I'd like to consider myself a fairly passionate and knowledgable Michigan hockey fan, but this question stumps even me.

Right on down the line:

Gacek, Grant, Shiller, Berenson, Wilkie, Wakabayashi, Debol, Wiseman, Turco, Morrison, Cammalleri, Porter, etc.

All at lease somewhat eligible for the honor.  Just seems strange to me.


the_big_house 500th

September 29th, 2010 at 6:01 PM ^

retired the greats and left those numbers never to be used again but in college hockey or football the numbers never really change. Although I'm pretty sure 98 for football has been retired for good right?

Bando Calrissian

September 29th, 2010 at 6:06 PM ^

Because doing so would pretty much obliterate the pool of numbers.  Ever seen a Michigan hockey player with a number higher than 39?  Michigan traditionally issues numbers between 2 and 39.  And has to assign most of those in a given year given the number of guys on the roster.

Mr. Robot

September 29th, 2010 at 6:26 PM ^

Just because we don't normall issue numbers higher than 39 doesn't mean they CAN'T. Even if we didn't have any retired football numbers, every major college team has over 100 players and has to have some duplicates (Leading on occasion to the penalty we took against BG for two #9's on the field).

I don't know that number pool is the problem. There are way less people in a hockey team, and should never exhaust the pool of 100 even if you do retire a bunch of numbers. Repeating numbers isn't possible in hockey since every player dressed generally plays at some point, but given the limted number of players that are allowed to be dressed for a game, I doubt we would ever retire so many numbers that'd we'd run into problems there.

Bando Calrissian

September 29th, 2010 at 10:29 PM ^

Because Michigan doesn't issue numbers past 39.  It's actually not all that common for college hockey programs to issue wacky high numbers.  So if you're going between 2 and 39, and have 30-some guys on the roster to begin with, there's no wiggle room there.  

In a related note, does anyone remember what number RR wore when he dropped the puck at Yost after his hire?  It was, as I recall, #33, the only number left unissued.

While I think the football program could afford to (and should) retire a couple more numbers, Michigan hockey really doesn't need to start now.


September 29th, 2010 at 6:21 PM ^

Why don't we retire the #1 jersey?  Then we wouldn't have to worry about who gets it and then everyone could look at it in a glass case!



the_big_house 500th

September 29th, 2010 at 6:36 PM ^

I mean look at Modano playing in Detroit now. He wore 9 in Dallas but has to change to 90 as a sign of respect to Gordie Howe. As a Red Wings fan I would be upset if anybody wore 9 or 19 in Hockeytown. Those numbers are not just numbers they are names of legends too. 99 to of a lot hockey players is considered holy. It should stay wear it's at and that is immortalized.


September 29th, 2010 at 8:36 PM ^

If the tradition was that numbers like Howe's weren't retired but instead were treated like our #1 Jersey then Modano wouldn't have been able to wear 9 when he came to Detroit. Isn't it still respectful to make his number the number for the best person on the team? Anyone who wears our #1 jersey is still remembered and talked about here as some of the best players we have ever had.  European soccer is the best example.  Every player that wears whatever their team's "number" is is still treated like a legend.


September 29th, 2010 at 10:44 PM ^

That I like a lot better.  I love our #1 tradition and think it'd be cool for #2 to be reserved for a DB.  #7 has taken on a similar significance for QBs here (Leach, Henson, Henne, Gardner).  Players carry out the legacy of the greats before them by wearing their jersey.    


September 29th, 2010 at 11:27 PM ^

Yeah I do.  If you're going to retire Gretzky's number league-wide, then why not Orr, or Lemieux, or Howe, or Roy?

Gretzky was a very good player, probably the best in the league for most of the years he played.  But he wasn't clearly the best ever and it was a dumb reactionary move to take his number out of circulation.


September 30th, 2010 at 5:44 AM ^

are you kidding??? wayne gretzky is by far the greatest hockey play that ever lived... 99 was retired league wide as more of an honor for what he did for the sport of hockey, just like why 42 is retired in baseball... stats wise you can't even argue http://www.gretzky.com/hockey/career_stats.php ... and to put those in perspective.... mark messier who is 2nd all time in points would have to play another 10 year and average 100 points per season just ot catch him... and remember messier played for another 5 years or so after gretzky retired...

Mi Sooner

September 29th, 2010 at 6:23 PM ^

wore 9.  there have been several others who wore it during the berenson era like dave brown.  9 has become the hockey equivalent of football's #1; the probability of it being retired is small -- whos name would you attach to it?

Bando Calrissian

September 29th, 2010 at 10:33 PM ^

If the Hobey had been given out during Red's time (the award didn't start until the 80's), it's quite arguable he would have won it at least once, if not 3 times.  

I don't mean to deprive Morrison of his due, because he was something incredibly special to watch out there, but Red was just that good as a collegiate player.


September 29th, 2010 at 6:33 PM ^

I'm not a fan of retiring numbers in general, and especially not in college sports where careers are so short.  You don't want to run out of numbers.  (We saw one of the problems of number-sharing on Saturday.)   We've retired five numbers in football, but I bet we'll never retire any more. 


September 29th, 2010 at 6:57 PM ^

is that we've constrained ourselves to integers between 1 and 99. If two decimal digits were added, we'd have 100x the numbers available and could retire numbers at will.

"Hey, is that Odoms playing defense?"

"No, that's Courtney Avery, number 9.98. Tae wears 9.23"

"Thanks, man. Is there any more beer?"


September 29th, 2010 at 6:34 PM ^

you would have throw david oliver on that list also... but nice pull with brian wiseman, he is a LEGEND in the windsor area when it comes minor and junior hockey... so many people that i know who played against him before his michigan days say that he is the best player they have ever seen... the only thing that was holding him back was his size...


September 29th, 2010 at 6:39 PM ^

I personally think it's cool to see the jerseys retired - it gives an additional aura of tradition.

I would be interested to find out why Michigan does not do this.  Great question for John U. Bacon.

st barth

September 29th, 2010 at 6:48 PM ^

I don't like retiring numbers just because sports like football, hockey, etc. should be more about the team than individuals.  Yes, you can argue that it's a sign of respect for a great player but in another sense it's just one more giant ego stroke too.

The team, the team, the team, right?


September 29th, 2010 at 6:58 PM ^

is ok when its done right... and by right i mean only the greatest of great players who have played for your team should have their number retired... the wings have done it the right way with only retiring 5 numbers and each one of those players is legend in hockey... now look at a team like the canadians who have retired a ton of numbers, but its gotten to the point with them that they are just doing it to do it now...

M Fanfare

September 29th, 2010 at 7:04 PM ^

The simple answer is that every program is different. In the four major sports at Michigan, we see that the football team has retired 5 numbers all for players who played between 1925 and 1955 and no others, the basketball team has retired 5 numbers of players who most would agree were the best that the program has had (Cazzie, Tomjanovich, Buntin, Rice and Hubbard), hockey hasn't retired any, and baseball has retired six, two of which were in the last two years (Fischer, Lund and Benedict for their coaching careers, Abbott and Larkin as players). It comes down to the character of each program, and as others have pointed out there are some logistical concerns as well. In football, uniform numbers are generally restricted by position, not to mention that football rosters max out the available numbers already. College basketball is the same way (can only wear digits 0-5) but the rosters are small (though we have already retired 5 of the possible 30 numbers in CBB).

Michigan hockey is an interesting case because of the historical excellence of the program and the large number of great players. However, they would already run into issues with multiple players wearing the same numbers (for instance, Red Berenson, Brendan Morrison and Mel Wakabayashi all wore #9 and all would be prime candidates to have their number retired). It would be tough for hockey to start retiring numbers now after so many great players have rolled through. I always considered hockey's equivalent to retired numbers was the way old players are honored on the walls in Yost (behind the student section in the hall, for instance).  It's a nice way to honor a player's career without having to navigate the problems of running out of numbers.

Bando Calrissian

September 29th, 2010 at 10:38 PM ^

Yep.  The numbers have remained in circulation, and not just for players who were wearing them when they were "retired."  Two of them are currently being worn (22 and 45).

It's also been said that Michigan has instituted a rule that a player must have graduated (not necessarily finished their eligibility, but graduated at some point) in order to have their number retired.  


September 29th, 2010 at 7:28 PM ^

Hunwick will start this Saturday, with a rotation to follow: http://michigan.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1132876


On the same topic, I think it's certainly possible to honor great players without retiring their numbers.  I think that if you're going to retire numbers, you have to be REALLY careful and that the retiree should have had some impact beyond just playing well.  Like coming back and coaching/otherwise working for the team, community service, leadership, generally well-liked by the public and things like that.   I don't think it's particularly necessary, but I don't mind it, as long as it really is somebody that deserves it in all facets of their playing careers.  Especially in terms of college, the person in question would HAVE to have some post playing career, close interactions with their school, in order to have thier number retired, in my opinion, 4 (at max) and done just isn't enough of a connection for me to consider having their number retired.

On a third hockey note, Coach mentioned yesterday on the radio that two players had minor concussions already.  We now know that those players are senior F Ben Winnett (took a puck to the head) and freshman F Jacob Fallon (headaches).  Winnett will probably not play on the weekend, while Fallon will probably play just one of the two games.  http://michiganhockey.net/


September 29th, 2010 at 7:33 PM ^

I would imagine that #9 is retired to honor Red Berenson some time soon.  There have been many outstanding players in Michigan hockey history, but by all reports Berenson's college career was head and shoulders above them all (yes, including Morrison).  Now consider his coaching career on top of that.  Red Berenson, for the last 50 years, is Michigan Hockey.  It would be no insult to Wakabayashi or Morrison, or anybody else, to have a single retired number hanging up in Yost.


September 29th, 2010 at 7:47 PM ^

While I could get behind retiring Red's number, I also like that Red and Morrison both wore #9.

Want to honor Red, retire the blazer/sweater/tie combination, aka "The Unit", when he retires from coaching.


September 29th, 2010 at 10:24 PM ^

Thanks  for the responses, guys.  Really interesting discussion.

I agree, it is a very sensitive thing to do, you have to be careful.  It's not like it's pertinent or anything, but I think we should at least be considering something like this at this point for hockey.