The Boston Bruins have retired the numbers of 10 players, but none of them were goaltenders.
Think about that for a moment. They're the only one of the NHL's Original Six that hasn't raised a goalie's banner to the rafters:
- • Blackhawks - Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall
• Red Wings - Terry Sawchuk
• Maple Leafs* - Turk Broda, Johnny Bower,
• Rangers - Eddie Giacomin, Mike Richter
• Canadiens - Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy
* The Leafs have a fucked-up policy of "retiring" numbers. Only those "who have made a significant contribution to the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club and have experienced a career-ending incident while a member of the Maple Leaf team" are eligible. So far only Bill Barilko and Ace Bailey have qualified; Neither were goalies. For other players, the Leafs used the "Honoured Number" system and have recognized 15 players wearing 9 numbers.
So WTF?? Let's take a look:
* The Bruins have had three Hall of Fame goalies who spent most or all of their careers with the team: Tiny Thompson, Frank Brimsek and Gerry Cheevers.
* The first two played in an era when Bs goalies didn't wear numbers on their backs. I guess everyone was pretty much able to figure out who they were.
* Cheevers donned both 30 and 31, and each number has been worn by 15 other Bruins.
* Four B's goalies have won the Vezina Trophy: Thompson (4 times), Brimsek (2), Pete Peeters (1) and Tim Thomas (1).
* Some other stellar goalies have stood between the pipes for the black and gold, though their tenures in Boston weren't extensive: Most notably Eddie Johnston, Reggie Lemelin and Andy Moog. Moog wore #35 while Johnston, Lemelin and Peeters all wore #1.
There's no doubt in my mind that Thompson, Brimsek and Cheevers deserve to be recognized alongside Orr, Espo, Bourque, Shore, Hitchman, Clapper, Neely, Bucyk, Schmidt and O'Reilly. Moog remains the greatest goaltender I've ever seen in a Bruins' sweater, but he wasn't around here long enough and the team didn't achieve enough success in spite of his brilliance.
Many sports fans view the retiring of numbers as ridiculous, and it's hard to argue against that in terms of practicality. But it's more about the honor that comes with it. Any Bruins fan who witnessed Bourque shedding his jersey and handing it to a shocked Phil Esposito, or the 10-minute uninterrupted standing ovation for Orr, or the raucous roars for Bourque, Neely and O'Reilly, can't possibly deny that those were magical moments for this hockey team.
As a history buff, the important thing to me is that the team's best netminders get their just recognition, and since the raising of a banner to the rafters has become the status quo the club needs to find a way to get it done without disturbing that convention. It's long overdue. Hell, instead of a number for Brimsek and Thompson, they can just put a pair of crossed goalie sticks in the middle of the spoked emblem.