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THN.com Blog: Avs should properly honor retired Nordiques numbers

Michel Goulet had 548 goals and 1,152 points in 1,089 career NHL games with Quebec and Chicago.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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Michel Goulet had 548 goals and 1,152 points in 1,089 career NHL games with Quebec and Chicago. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The nice part about the after-glow of putting out a collector’s edition magazine like THN’s Greatest Jerseys of All Time is hearing the feedback from readers who get completely absorbed in the issue.

Louis-Pierre Smith Lacroix is one such reader from Quebec City. He had many good things to say about Greatest Jerseys and also pointed out what he thought was an error in the “retired numbers” section. Mistakes are bound to happen in a 170-page issue, but not this time.

Wrote Louis Pierre: “Right now Marc Tardif's No. 8 is worn by Wojtek Wolski, Hall of Famer Michel Goulet's No. 16 by Darcy Tucker and Hall of Famer Peter Stastny's No. 26 by his son, Paul, while J-C Tremblay's No. 3 has been worn in the past by such luminaries as Aaron Miller, Lawrence Nycholat, Karlis Skrastins and Pascal Trepanier.”  

I had to check with the Avalanche to see if those numbers should have been termed “honored” – the way the Toronto Maple Leafs honor nine numbers, but still let active players wear them – rather than “retired.”

Nope, the Avalanche have seven numbers “retired” – Joe Sakic’s No. 19, Patrick Roy’s No. 33 and Ray Bourque’s No. 77, in addition to Tardif’s No. 8, Goulet’s No. 16, Tremblay’s No. 3 and Stastny’s No. 26 – but only the three who played in Colorado have them truly retired in the sense no other player can wear them.

To me, that’s just not right and somewhat disrespectful to the other four who earned the honor when the franchise was based in Quebec (from 1979 to 1995).

Avalanche senior vice-president, communications and business operations Jean Martineau, disagrees with me and says the organization does the utmost to honor the accomplishments of Tardif, Goulet, Tremblay and Stastny.

“We’ve honored all of their stats amongst our leaders, we recognize them in our media guides and we maintain their numbers are retired,” Martineau said. “But what they accomplished were for the Nordiques in Quebec and our fans here never saw them play.

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“When we moved here in 1995-96, we stated what we were doing (in terms of not having the four Nordiques sweaters hang from the rafters in Colorado and allow other players to wear those numbers) and the Quebec media was OK with it. And Michel Goulet worked in our organization another 12 years and he was OK with it.”

Still, that doesn’t seem right to me. If you’re going to honor their stats and include them among leaders, why not maintain that consistency and keep their numbers truly retired and hung from the rafters?

And I don’t buy the argument Colorado fans didn’t know the Tardifs and Goulets of the organization’s early years, therefore it’s all right to multi-purpose their numbers. I didn’t know Sir John A. Macdonald and there isn’t an American alive who knew Abraham Lincoln, but that doesn’t mean we don’t honor them as iconic figures generation after generation.

Also, for what it’s worth, the Phoenix Coyotes don’t allow any players to wear the retired numbers of Bobby Hull (9), Dale Hawerchuk (10) or Thomas Steen (25) from their Winnipeg Jets past. (Although Brett Hull wore his father’s number for five games late in his career.) Same for the Dallas Stars and the retired numbers of Neal Broten (7), Bill Goldsworthy (8) and Bill Masterton (19) from their Minnesota North Stars days.

When those organizations retired those numbers, they stayed retired, despite the fact the team moved to a different city. I wish the Avalanche had done the same.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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