If the Montreal Canadiens keep retiring the numbers of everyone who deserves it, they'll look more like a football team than a hockey team in a few years.
The Canadiens, who do these ceremonies far better than anyone else in the NHL (are you watching, Maple Leafs?) are set to retire their 12th number Monday night when Larry Robinson's No. 19 is raised to the rafters of the Bell Centre. That will be followed by Bob Gainey's No. 23 in February with it all but certain the Canadiens will retire Patrick Roy's No. 33 next season when they celebrate their 100th anniversary.
Already or soon-to-be retired by the Canadiens are Nos. 1 (Jacques Plante), 2 (Doug Harvey), 4 (Jean Beliveau), 5 (Boom Boom Geoffrion), 7 (Howie Morenz), 9 (Maurice Richard), 10 (Guy Lafleur), 12 (Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer), 16 (Henri Richard), 18 (Serge Savard) 19 (Robinson), 23 (Gainey) and 29 (Ken Dryden).
Once Roy's number is retired, that will give the Canadiens 14 retired numbers among the first 33 digits, which makes the pickings slim when it comes to choosing sweater numbers for incoming players. Until somebody better comes along, here are the greatest Canadiens who wore each of the remaining numbers:
3 – Emile (Butch) Bouchard played 15 seasons in Montreal and captained the team to the first of its five straight Stanley Cups in 1956. An homorable mention to (Bad) Joe Hall, whose influenza death cancelled the Stanley Cup final in 1919.
6 – Prior to being a legendary coach for the Canadiens, Toe Blake played 11 seasons with the Habs, won four Cups and was a premier offensive player.
8 – Doug Risebrough was an outstanding checking center for the Canadiens and was a vital cog on the team that won four straight Cups in the late 1970s. Little known fact: Jean Beliveau wore the number briefly in 1970-71.
11 – Yvon Lambert and Marc Tardif were terrific, but you have to give it to current captain Saku Koivu. Only Beliveau has worn the 'C' longer in Montreal.
13 – Billy Boucher spent the first of his five-plus seasons with the Canadiens in the 1920s wearing No. 13.
14 – Not a great coach, but Mario Tremblay spent 12 industrious seasons wearing No. 14 and won five Cups.
15 – Bobby Smith had two 30-goal seasons and three of 80-plus points and won a Cup with the Canadiens in 1986.
17 – Murray Wilson was an underrated, honest player who won four Cups with the Canadiens in the 1970s.
20 – Discarded by Detroit, Pete Mahovlich came to the Canadiens in 1969 and put up five 30-goal seasons. He also contributed to four Cups.
21 – You could make a case the Canadiens should retire Guy Carbonneau's No. 21 some day. He won one fewer Selke than the four won by Gainey and was a member of two Cup-winners in Montreal before winning a third in Dallas.
22 – Steve Shutt was one of the most prolific scoring left wingers of all-time and a worthy Hall of Famer who won five Cups in Montreal.
24 – Chris Chelios won one of his three Norris Trophies in Montreal and won one of his two career Stanley Cups with the Canadiens.
25 – Jacques Lemaire was one of the best two-way centers of his generation, a Hall of Famer and an eight-time Stanley Cup winner.
26 – Mats Naslund put up two 40-goal seasons in his brief, but terrific career with the Canadiens and had 19 points in 20 playoff games in Montreal's Cup run in 1986.
27 – Another number that could be retired by the Canadiens belonged to Frank Mahovlich from 1970 to 1974. Mahovlich scored 129 goals with the Canadiens in just three-plus seasons and only his defection to the WHA in in 1974 prevented him from truly becoming one of the Canadiens' all-time greats.
28 – Eric Desjardins was a lynchpin defenseman for the Canadiens for almost six years and was a member of the 1993 Cup team.
30 – Gump Worsley also wore No. 1, but began his career with the Canadiens wearing No. 30 and led them to two Stanley Cups.
31 – Mark Napier registered two 40-goal seasons and a 35-goal campaign in Montreal and was around for the last of their four straight Cups in the 1970s.
32 – Claude Lemieux was an enormous pain in the ass to play against and saved his best work for the playoffs.
34 – Donald Dufresne was a solid support defenseman for the Canadiens in the late '80s and early '90s.
35 – Mike McPhee was another underrated worker bee who was a key component of the run to the Cup in 1986.
36 – Sergio Momesso wore the number for three seasons. That's about all we can say on this one.
37 – Steve Penney was spectacular for the Canadiens in their surprising run to the Eastern Conference final in 1984, played 54 games the next season, then pretty much fell off the map.
38 – Vladimir Malakhov wore the number from 1994 to 2000.
39 – Current goalie Cristobal Huet is making a strong push, but the distinction still belongs to Brian Skrudland, a heart-and-soul guy who won a Cup with Montreal in 1986.
40 – Andre Racicot wore this number, but we like Dominic Campadelli better just because of his name.
41 – Brent Gilchrist wore this number for four seasons and worked his butt off every time he put the sweater on.
42 – Darcy Tucker's better days as an NHLer came after Montreal, but we'll give it to him by default.
43 – Patrice Brisebois was often maligned by fans in his first go-round in Montreal, but he did have some offensive flair wearing No. 43.
44 – Sheldon Souray was very good for Montreal, but he's not a two-time 50-goal scorer for the Canadiens the way Stephane Richer was.
45 – Gilbert Dionne did something with the Canadiens that his more famous brother, Marcel, could never do – he won a Cup.
46 – We'll give it to current Canadien Andrei Kostitsyn on potential alone.
47 – Stephan Lebeau was a crafty player and decent facoff guy who won a Cup in 1993.
48 – Jean-Jacques Daigneault was a solid support defenseman for the Habs for seven seasons and won a Cup in 1993.
49 – Brian Savage played eight years in Montreal and put up some decent numbers.
50 – It's open. Never been worn.
51 – We'll give it to current defenseman Francis Bouillon.
52 – Craig Rivet. Only player who has ever worn it.
53 – Rory Fitzpatrick in a close one over Andre Racicot and Sylvain Blouin.
54 – Patrick Traverse over current Hab Mikhail Grabovski.
55 – Igor Ulanov. Enough said.
56 – We'll give it to Stephane Robidas because he wore it the longest.
57 – Chris Murray wore it for two seasons. That's good enough for us.
58 – It's open. Never been worn.
59 – Martti Jarventie. Only player who has ever worn it.
60 – Jose Theodore is the only player who has worn it, but he did win the Hart and Vezina Trophies with it in 2002.
61 – Jason Ward. Only player who has ever worn it.
62 – It's open. Never been worn.
63 – Craig Darby. Only player who has ever worn it.
64 – Armand Mondou in a close one over Jean-Phillippe Cote.
65 – Ron Hainsey. Only player who has ever worn it.
66 – It's open. Never been worn.
67 – It's open. Never been worn.
68- It's open. Never been worn.
69 – Yup. Never been worn. Wonder why?
70 – It's open. Never been worn.
71 – Mike Ribeiro had some decent success with Montreal before moving on to Dallas.
72 – It's open. Never been worn.
73 – Michael Ryder. Only player who has ever worn it.
74 – It's open. Never been worn.
75 – Five guys wore it in 1934-35. You pick one and we'll go with it.
76 – Jozef Balej. Only player who has ever worn it.
77 – Pierre Turgeon. Only player who has ever worn it.
78 – Eric Landry. Only player who has ever worn it.
79 – Andrei Markov. Only player who has ever worn it. And he's really, really good, too.
80 – It's open. Never been worn.
81 – Marcel Hossa. Only player who has ever worn it.
82 – Donald Audette. Only player who has ever worn it.
83 – Eric Bertrand. Only player who has ever worn it.
84 – Guillaume Latendresse. Only player who has ever worn it.
85 – It's open. Never been worn.
86 – Jonathan Ferland. Only player who has ever worn it.
87 – It's open. Never been worn.
88 – Chris Higgins wore it briefly before going with 21.
89 – It's open. Never been worn.
90 – Joe Juneau. Only player who has ever worn it.
91 – It's open. Never been worn.
92 – It's open. Never been worn.
93 – Doug Gilmour. Only player who has ever worn it.
94 – Yanic Perreault. Only player who has ever worn it.
95 – Sergei Berezin, but only if you remember him ever playing for the Canadiens.
96 – It's open. Never been worn.
97 – It's open. Never been worn.
98 – It's open. Never been worn.
99 – Joe Lamb, Desse Roche and Leo Bourgeault all wore it in 1934-35. They must have thought they were Wayne Gretzky or something.
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