On Jersey Number Retirements

The Red Wings announced yesterday that they will retire the #4 of Leonard “Red” Kelly prior to their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 1, 2019.

Kelly won four Stanley Cups as a defenseman with the Red Wings in the early 1950s, was the team’s captain later in the decade, and then was traded to the Maple Leafs during the 1959-60 season (as punishment for disclosing that he had played on a broken ankle, something Detroit general manager Jack Adams was keeping secret).  He switched to playing center with Toronto and won four more Stanley Cups.

After retiring in 1967, Kelly was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.  The Maple Leafs honored his number on October 4, 2006, and fully retired it on October 15, 2016, in a celebration of the team’s 100th anniversary.


Retiring Red Kelly’s number makes sense but I still can’t shake a cynical feeling about it.

It’s an honor that should have happened in the early 1990s.  The Red Wings retired Ted Lindsay‘s #7 and Alex Delvecchio‘s #10 in 1991, Terry Sawchuk’s #1 in 1994, and Sid Abel’s #12 in 1995.  Kelly would have fit perfectly into that group as the core of the team’s early 1950s Stanley Cup Championships.  That his number wasn’t raised to the rafters then seemed to show that it wouldn’t be.

Since then we’ve seen Steve Yzerman‘s #19 and Nicklas Lidstrom‘s #5 raised, with much pomp and circumstance leading up to the events.  The dates were announced before the start of the season and ticket packages were sold around them.

So to see Kelly’s number retired now, with the announcement tucked into a pregame press availability, gives me a bad vibe.  It feels to me like a ploy to get people to come down to a game between a bad team and a very good team.

That said, as I Tweeted last night, the timing makes more sense than the Wings usually give to jersey retirements.  Toronto is the perfect opponent to raise Kelly’s number against, while history shows the team preferring to do so against a lesser draw on a weeknight to boost their ticket sales.  So if there’s a reason to give the team the benefit of the doubt, it’s that.

Whatever the reason, a deserving number is going to the rafters, righting the wrong of it not having been up there already.


But if I’m talking about wrongs, I have to mention Larry Aurie.  The franchise’s first star player, Aurie led the Red Wings in their early days, including when the team was known as the Cougars and the Falcons.

Jack Adams thought enough of Aurie that his #6 was retired in 1939, when Aurie hung up his skates.  It was later brought back into circulation so that Aurie’s cousin, Cummy Burton, could wear it, then put back into retirement.

Gordie Howe‘s #9 later joined Aurie’s #6 as unavailable, but in old arenas like The Olympia, teams rarely raised numbers to the rafters.

That changed with the team’s move to Joe Louis Arena and Mike and Marian Ilitch buying the team from the Norris family.  Howe’s #9 was the first number given a banner.  Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuk, and Sid Abel would follow.  Aurie did not.

At some point, the team’s story became that the core of the 1950s Cup Championship teams were all Hall of Famers and that only those in the HHOF would get banners.  Aurie never made it to the Hall, so his number would be retired but not honored.

Then the 2000-01 NHL Guide and Record Book came out, with Aurie’s #6 no longer listed among the team’s retired numbers.  Suddenly it was not only not honored but not even retired at all.

Despite this seeming lost of status, #6 was not assigned between 2000 and 2010, when Mike Modano signed with Detroit.  Modano – unable to get his usual #9 due to it’s retirement for Howe – asked about #6.

“I wanted No. 6, but they told me about Larry Aurie,” said Modano, referring to Aurie, who played between 1927-39, and had his number retired by former Wings owner James Norris.

“I thought it would be easy to just flip 9 to 6,” Modano said. “I would have loved 6, but maybe 90.”

If the all-time leading American scorer can’t have the number, that sure sounds to me like it’s retired.

They may not have raised banners to celebrate that in the 1930s, but we do now, and it’s time for Aurie’s number to have that honor.


And then there’s Sergei Fedorov.

There was buzz over the summer that Fedorov’s #91 might be retired this season, something that didn’t come to happen.  Chris Ilitch commented on that when Kelly’s number retirement was announced.

“Obviously Sergei was an outstanding Red Wing. He was a big part of bringing three Stanley Cups to Detroit. He’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Ilitch answered. “The subject of number retirement, it’s an important subject, it deserves a lot of conversation, a lot of thought. We’re continuously evaluating that with our organization. Related to 91 and 40 (Henrik Zetterberg), let’s see what the future holds.”

It wasn’t what Ilitch said, though, that really explained where Fedorov stands with the organization.  That was Jim Devellano.

“There are other things that I’m not going to get into,” Devellano said. “Do you realize that he wanted out of the Red Wings (organization) on two occasions? Are you familiar with that? Did you know he turned the owners down on a 5-year, $50 million contract? Did you know he signed an offer sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes and we had to match with a $24 million signing bonus?”

What this makes clear is that this is an organization that holds grudges.

You buy a team, you get to run it how you want, and that means you don’t have to honor any players you don’t want to.  We’ve seen that with Aurie (for whatever reason) and we’ll see that with Fedorov.  We’ll probably see it with Pavel Datsyuk.

Pregame: Avalanche @ Red Wings – 3/6

I’ll be heading down to Detroit for Lidstrom Night shortly so I figured I’d throw together a whole bunch of stupid notes leading into it…

The Red Wings are 3-2 all-time on nights that they formally retire a player’s number. They lost, 3-2, when Gordie Howe‘s number was retired. It was a 6-4 win twenty years later when Alex Delvecchio and Ted Lindsay were honored. In the only other March 6th jersey retirement, they dropped a 3-2 decision as Terry Sawchuk’s banner was raised. When Sid Abel’s number went up, they won, 4-2. Most recently, they won, 2-1, for Steve Yzerman Night.

The only players in the Detroit lineup tonight who dressed for Yzerman Night are Niklas Kronwall and Johan Franzen.

Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg all played on Yzerman Night but are out of the lineup now.

Pavel Datsyuk is the only player to have been hurt for both ceremonies.

This is only the second jersey retirement in team history to come after the NHL’s trade deadline. The other was Abel’s during the lockout-shortened 1995 season.

Ceremony time is 6:30 PM on FSD. Game time is 8:00 PM.

Red Wings, Maple Leafs Each Add Four to Alumni Showdown Rosters

The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs announced on Thursday the addition of four players to each of their rosters for the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park on December 31.

The Red Wings have added Petr Klima, Dallas Drake, Garry Unger and Paul Ysebaert to their alumni roster.

Klima was one of the Red Wings many eastern European draft selections of the 1980s.  He was selected in the fifth round of the 1983 draft and defected from then-Czechoslovakia in 1985.  He played in 293 career games with the Red Wings before being dealt to the Edmonton Oilers in 1989.  After stints in Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh, he ended his NHL career with a return to the Red Wings for 13 games in the 1998-99 season.

Drake also started and ended his career with the Red Wings.  Selected by Detroit in the 1989 draft, he made his NHL debut for the 1992-93 season.  Drake was traded to the Winnpeg Jets the following year and moved with the team to Phoenix.  He played six seasons for the St. Louis Blues before returning to the Red Wings to close out his career with a Stanley Cup in 2008.

Like Drake, Unger also played for both the Blues and the Red Wings.  Acquired from the Maple Leafs during his rookie season of 1967-68, Unger would play parts of four season with Detroit before being dealt to St. Louis.  He played nine seasons with the Blues and closed out his career with campaigns for the Los Angeles and Edmonton.

Ysebaert played parts of three seasons with the Red Wings from 1990 to 1993.  He started his career with New Jersey before being traded to Detroit, then moved on to Winnipeg, Chicago and Tampa Bay.

The four players added by the Maple Leafs were Joe Niewendyk, Borje Salming, Frank Mahovlich and Mats Sundin.

The following players are confirmed to appear at the Alumni Showdown:

Red Wings
Red Berenson
Jimmy Carson
Dino Ciccarelli
Alex Delvecchio
Dallas Drake
Kris Draper
Sergei Fedorov
Petr Klima
Joe Kocur
Martin Lapointe
Igor Larionov
Ted Lindsay
Kirk Maltby
Darren McCarty
John Ogrodnick
Dennis Polonich
Mickey Redmond
Garry Unger
Luc Robitaille
Paul Ysebaert

Chris Chelios
Paul Coffey
Mathieu Dandenault
Jiri Fischer
Viacheslav Fetisov
Mark Howe
Vladimir Konstantinov
Larry Murphy
Aaron Ward

Chris Osgood
Mike Vernon

Maple Leafs
Dave Andreychuk
Wendel Clark
Russ Courtnall
Vincent Damphousse
Bill Derlago
Tie Domi
Ron Ellis
Doug Gilmour
Gary Leeman
Kevin Maguire
Frank Mahovlich
Brad May
Lanny McDonald
Joe Nieuwendyk
Gary Roberts
Darryl Sittler
Mats Sundin
Darcy Tucker
Rick Vaive
Tiger Williams

Dave Ellett
Jim McKenny
Bryan McCabe
Bob McGill
Borje Salming

Johnny Bower
Curtis Joseph
Mike Palmateer
Felix Potvin

Wings, Leafs Announce More Alumni Showdown Additions

The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs announced seven more players who will appear in the Alumni Showdown between the two teams in December on Thursday.

The Red Wings added Aaron Ward, Red Berenson, Jimmy Carson and Dennis Polonich.

Ward started his career with the Red Wings in 1993-94 and played seven seasons with the team, winning the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998 before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2001.  He won another Cup with Carolina in 2006.  He closed out his career with four seasons split between the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, another stint with Carolina, and the Anaheim Ducks.

Berenson, the legendary University of Michigan head coach, spent parts of five seasons with the Red Wings in the 70s.  He also played for the Montreal Canadiens, Rangers, and St. Louis Blues over 987 career NHL games.

Carson played part of four season with the Wings in the early 1990s.  He started his career with the Los Angeles Kings before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers in the Wayne Gretzky deal.  The Oilers traded him to the Red Wings early in the 1989-90 season and the Wings sent him back to LA in 1993.  He closed out his NHL career with stints in Vancouver and Hartford, then retired from hockey after two years with the IHL’s Detroit Vipers.

Polonich played his entire NHL career in Detroit, serving as team captain during the 1976-77 season while Danny Grant was injured.  He was famously injured by Wilf Paiement of the Colorado Rockies in a 1978 game when Paiement smashed him in the face with his stick.  Polonich was sent down to the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings in 1983 and never made it back into the NHL.  He closed out his career with two season’s with the IHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks in 1986 and 1987.

The Maple Leafs added Tie Domi, Brad May, and Dave “Tiger” Williams.  May and Williams also spent time with the Red Wings over their careers.

The following players are confirmed to appear at the Alumni Showdown:

Red Wings
Red Berenson
Jimmy Carson
Dino Ciccarelli
Alex Delvecchio
Kris Draper
Sergei Fedorov
Joe Kocur
Martin Lapointe
Igor Larionov
Ted Lindsay
Kirk Maltby
Darren McCarty
John Ogrodnick
Dennis Polonich
Mickey Redmond
Luc Robitaille

Chris Chelios
Paul Coffey
Mathieu Dandenault
Jiri Fischer
Viacheslav Fetisov
Mark Howe
Vladimir Konstantinov
Larry Murphy
Aaron Ward

Chris Osgood
Mike Vernon

Maple Leafs
Dave Andreychuk
Wendel Clark
Russ Courtnall
Vincent Damphousse
Bill Derlago
Tie Domi
Ron Ellis
Doug Gilmour
Gary Leeman
Kevin Maguire
Brad May
Lanny McDonald
Gary Roberts
Darryl Sittler
Darcy Tucker
Rick Vaive
Tiger Williams

Dave Ellett
Jim McKenny
Bryan McCabe
Bob McGill

Johnny Bower
Curtis Joseph
Mike Palmateer
Felix Potvin

Four of “Russian Five” to Appear at Alumni Showdown

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday that four members of the famous “Russian Five” will appear at the Alumni Showdown on December 31 at Comerica Park.

The Russian Five was the first group of five Soviet-trained players to play as a unit in the NHL.  Assembeled by coach Scotty Bowman – who will be behind the bench at the Alumni Showdown – in 1995, the line consisted of Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Vladimir Konstantinov and Viacheslav Fetisov.

All but Kozlov will be at the outdoor game against alumni from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In addition to the four Russians, the Maple Leafs announced six new players who will appear: Gary Leeman, Russ Courtnall, Bill Derlago, Bob McGill, Vincent Damphousse, and Dave Ellett.

Confirmed participants for the two teams are now as follows, with more to be announced:

Detroit
Chris Chelios, Dino Ciccarelli, Alex Delvecchio, Kris Draper, Sergei Fedorov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Mark Howe, Joe Kocur, Vladimir Konstantinov, Igor Larionov, Ted Lindsay, Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty, Larry Murphy, John Ogrodnick, Chris Osgood, Mickey Redmond, Luc Robitaille, Mike Vernon

Toronto
Dave Andreychuk, Johnny Bower, Wendel Clark, Russ Courtnall, Vincent Damphousse, Bill Derlago, Dave Ellett, Ron Ellis, Doug Gilmour, Curtis Joseph, Gary Leeman, Kevin Maguire, Bob McGill, Jim McKenny, Mike Palmateer, Felix Potvin, Darryl Sittler, Darcy Tucker, Rick Vaive

Operation: Bobblehead – The Larry Aurie Write-In Campaign

The Red Wings announced today that, following the success of last year’s fan voting to determine what players would be made available as bobbleheads during the 2011-12 season, they would do it again for the coming year.  The twist this time around is that voting will be for Red Wings alumni, with an impressive list of players on the ballot.

From the press release…

The first bobblehead to be distributed as part of this special Edition will depict former captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion Steve Yzerman. As part of Operation: Bobblehead – Alumni Edition, the remaining five former Wings to be featured in the promotion will be determined by an impending multi-week online voting campaign, which will be conducted through a formspring page accessible via DetroitRedWings.com.

Hockeytown Heroes appearing on the ballot for Operation: Bobblehead – Alumni Edition include Sid Abel, Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuck, Ted Lindsay, Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, Joe Kocur, Kirk Maltby, John Ogrodnick, Luc Robitaille, Dino Ciccarelli, Chris Chelios, Larry Murphy, Mark Howe, Igor Larionov, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Chris Osgood, Scotty Bowman and more. Write-in candidates are also encouraged. Voting will begin on Tuesday, July 31, at one minute past noon and will be conducted on a week-by-week basis, closing at noon every Sunday. The following day (Tuesday) at 12:01 p.m., voting will begin anew with the winning player being removed form the ballot. No votes cast the previous week will count towards each player’s total. There is no limit on how many votes fans are able to cast each week. Twitter users, meanwhile, are invited to champion their favorite player’s bobblehead by using the hashtag #HockeytownHero throughout the duration of this campaign.

As seemingly always, when it comes to the Detroit organization acknowleding the team’s history, an important name is missing from that list: Larry Aurie.

I’ve ranted about lack of recognition for Aurie before.  It’s a shame that his number isn’t in the rafters and it’s even more of a shame that the Red Wings organization won’t explain why.

That said, the Wings control those rafters and they can do what they want there.  If Operation: Bobblehead really is about letting the fans decide, then this is the opportunity to get the team’s first real star honored.

The Wings say they encourage write-in votes.  When voting opens on Tuesday, cast yours for Larry Aurie.  It won’t get his #6 to the rafters where it belongs but it’s a start.

Update, 7/31: Voting is now open on the Red Wings’ web site.

Partial Rosters Announced for Red Wings – Maple Leafs Alumni Game

In a Comerica Park press conference on Wednesday, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs announced a handful of the players who will participate in the Alumni Showdown in December.

The Alumni Showdown will consist of two games to accommodate all of the players interested in appearing.  No details on how the games will be broken down are known at this time.

The confirmed Red Wings’ alumni are as follows:

Chris Osgood
Mike Vernon
Dino Ciccarelli
Alex Delvecchio
Ted Lindsay
Joe Kocur
Kirk Maltby
Kris Draper
Darren McCarty
Mickey Redmond
John Ogrodnick
Luc Robitaille
Larry Murphy
Mark Howe

The team will be coached by Scotty Bowman.

Among the confirmed Maple Leafs players are former Red Wings Curtis Joseph and Wendel Clark, Felix Potvin, Darcy Tucker, Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk.

On Unretiring Jersey Numbers

I’ve had my head in code all week so I’m getting to this a little late but I wanted to take the time to say a few words anyway.

On Wednesday night, Jamie Samuelsen posted to his blog at the Freep that maybe certain numbers currently retired by Detroit-area sports teams should be unretired to allow new players to honor those who the numbers were retired for in the first place.  Yesterday, Michael Petrella over at TPL touched on it as well.

Personally, I’m against unretiring numbers unless the number never should have been retired in the first place (subjective, I know).  Sometimes teams do stupid things and there should be an option of undoing that.  I hate the fact that the Minnesota Wild have #1 retired in honor of their fans, for example, and would love to see a player go there and wear it.

As much as I’ve complained about what goes in the rafters at the Joe, the Red Wings have a higher standard for jersey retirement.  Maybe too high, as Larry Aurie’s #6 isn’t up there and should be.  As such, I can’t see any reason for one of the Wings’ six (or seven once you include Aurie) retired numbers being returned to use.

Samuelsen asks of a hyothetical question from his six-year-old son…

But if I have a hard time explaining to Josh why the second baseman doesn’t actually stand on second base, I’ll have a much harder time explaining the theory behind a retired number. Wouldn’t I?

And I say that’s your opportunity to teach your team’s rich history.  You explain that there was a player so important to the team that his number has been reserved for him forever.  New players wearing an past great’s number doesn’t teach that

That said, I have a specific case where I think the Red Wings should open up a currently-unavailable number for use again, and given what this week is I expect it to be unpopular.

I think that when Tomas Holmstrom eventually retires as the last of his remaining teammates, Vladimir Konstantinov‘s #16 should be returned to circulation.  Not handed out to some rookie at training camp, but available if an established player came to the team and wanted it.

Konstantinov’s injury was tragic and clearly inspired his teammates on their 1998 Stanley Cup run, but he’s not Gordie Howe or Ted Lindsay or Terry Sawchuk or Alex Delvecchio or Sid Abel or Steve Yzerman or Larry Aurie.

If tragedy is enough to inspire a permanent number retirement, why is Brendan Smith wearing #2 in Detroit?  Jiri Fischer may have a better life than Konstantinov but his career ended just as suddenly, with the added impact of coming in the middle of a game.

Coming the week of the fifteenth anniversary of the car crash that ended Konstantinov’s career, it feels wrong to suggest that the Wings’ honor him less.  That said, I’ve always felt like his number being held out of circulation was more about keeping him a part of the team he was pulled away from.

When Holmstrom retires – whether this year or next – the last remnant of that team will be gone.  It’ll be time to make #16 available again.

Red Wings Beat Canadiens in Original Six Matchup

On a night when their Original Six rivalry was honored with a pre-game ceremony, the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1.

Former Canadiens Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Jean-Guy Talbot, Stephane Richer, and Claude Lemieux and former Red Wings Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Marcel Pronovost, and Marcel Dionne were all on hand for the ceremony. Current Red Wing and former Canadien Chris Chelios also participated.

The game began with scoring chances by each team but neither would get on the board until there was only 3:20 left in the first period.

After a giveaway in the Montreal zone, Pavel Datsyuk grabbed the puck and outwaited a Canadien defenseman, freezing him and putting a shot between his legs, slipping it between the pads of goalie Carey Price to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead.

Christopher Higgins evened the game up at 4:15 of the second on a broken play. Saku Koivu‘s shot from the left circle defected to Higgins off the skate of Aaron Downey. From the bottom of the circle, Higgins lifted a shot over goalie Dominik Hasek.

Datsyuk put the Wings out in front again with 8:58 remaining in the middle period, scoring on a wrister from the top of the right circle.

Niklas Kronwall extended the Detroit lead just 2:37 later, scoring on a fluttering shot from the blue line that may have been deflected on its way to the net.

Henrik Zetterberg wrapped up the game’s scoring on the power play with 6:10 remaining in the game, beating Price with a quick wrister from the high slot.

Price made 30 saves on 34 shots against and Hasek stopped 14 of 15.

Zetterberg’s goal was the lone power play goal for either team. The Red Wings had three chances with the extra attacker and Montreal had five.

Wings Hold off Oilers for Second Win

After blowing a two-goal lead on Saturday night, the Detroit Red Wings held off a late charge from the Edmonton Oilers on Monday to earn a 4-2 win.

Mikael Samuelsson opened up the game’s scoring just 6:51 into the first period, just as a Detroit power play expired. From behind the net, Samuelsson reached around and banked a shot off of Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson‘s skate and into the net.

Chris Chelios, who was without a goal throughout the 2006-07 regular season, scored with 5:50 remaining in the first to put the Red Wings up by two. Chelios picked up the puck from Samuelsson while jumping up towards the net, whacking away at it twice before Roloson went down and he could put the third shot over the sprawling goalie.

Only 19 seconds later, Shawn Horcoff got the Oilers on the board with a blast from the slot on a defensive breakdown by the Red Wings.

Tomas Holmstrom scored 27 seconds into the second and 14 seconds into a power play to put Detroit back up by two. A hard pass from the blue line by Lidstrom was tipped on to Holmstrom from Henrik Zetterberg in the slot. Holmstrom pounded away from the top of the crease, shoveling the puck into the net.

Rookie Andrew Cogliano scored his first career goal with 10 seconds remaining in the middle frame but it wouldn’t be enough for the Oilers. Kris Draper added an empty net goal for Detroit to hold on for the win.

Detroit’s power play went one-for-five and the Oilers were without a goal on four attempts.

Hasek made 18 saves on 20 shots while Roloson stopped 31 of 34 in the Edmonton net.

The Red Wings will be back in action on Wednesday when they host the Calgary Flames in the second game of a three-game homestand.


With an assist on Samuelsson’s goal, Nicklas Lidstrom passed Peter Forsberg for second place all-time among Swedish-born players in NHL scoring… Chelios skated in his 1550th career game, breaking a tie with Alex Delvecchio for eighth place in career games played.