Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters- Boston Bruins

By: Nick Lanciani

I continue to explore an important element of the game and what retired numbers around the league may look like in the future. While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.

Many thoughts went through my head in each and every consideration. Feel free to agree or disagree- I want to know what you, the fans, consider worthy when evaluating a player, their career, and whether or not their number should be retired by a franchise. I am interested in seeing what you have to say, assuming you are actually a fan of the team and/or player that you argue for or against. Drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.

For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.

UnknownBoston Bruins

Current Retired Numbers- 2 Eddie Shore, 3 Lionel Hitchman, 4 Bobby Orr, 5 Dit Clapper, 7 Phil Esposito, 8 Cam Neely, 9 John Bucyk, 15 Milt Schmidt, 24 Terry O’Reilly, 77 Ray Bourque

Recommended Numbers to Retire-

16 Derek Sanderson

Honestly, there’s got to be somebody out there wondering why the Bruins haven’t retired Sanderson’s number 16 yet, despite his short tenure with the Bruins (and overall short NHL career). If anything, his off the ice story is the ultimate combination of tragic and inspirational- and the work he does now is remarkable. Wouldn’t it be great to say one day to your kids at the TD Garden “and there’s number 16, which was worn by Derek Sanderson, a man who overcame many things, just like how you can overcome anything and make your dreams come true if you work hard enough and never give up hope.”

Sanderson was sensational on the ice, having won two Stanley Cups with the Bruins in 1970 and 1972. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1968 and had a career high 146 penalty minutes in his 2nd season with Boston in the 1968-1969 season as the ultimate definition of tough in the spoked-B.

His fast track to success was marred by his equally fast track to nearly destroying his life. If it weren’t for his new found faith and good friend Bobby Orr, Sanderson would be a distant memory in a tragic loss of superstar talent.

Since he turned his life around, Sanderson has become a financial advisor and a mentor to many young athletes in the sport as well as an immortal legend in Boston for his time spent with NESN alongside Fred Cusick in the mid ’80s to the mid ’90s.

It’s time the Bruins truly honored Sanderson for the remarkable man that he’s become off the ice. Sanderson and Orr defined not only a decade in hockey, but an entire era and playing style. It’s only fitting that they are equally honored by Boston.

37 Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron just turned 30- hard to believe- and has already spent a little over a decade in the league. It’s looking like Bergeron will be another legendary player in the category of “spent all of his time with one organization,” so it will be deserving of the current definition of what it means to be a Bruin.

Patrice Bergeron is the current definition of what it means to be a Bruin and what it means to be part of Boston sports lore. (Getty Images)
Patrice Bergeron is the current definition of what it means to be a Bruin and what it means to be part of Boston sports lore. (Getty Images)

While he’s not Milt Schmidt, Bergeron could share the “Mr. Bruin” nickname with Schmidt by the end of his career.

Bergeron became the 25th member of the Triple Gold Club, having completed the trifecta in 2011 after having won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins. He’s won three Selke Trophies, a King Clancy Memorial Trophy, and the NHL Foundation Player Award in his career thus far.

The two-time member of Team Canada in the Winter Olympics has also won two gold medals in 2010 and 2014. The only question for Bergeron someday will be, what hasn’t he done or been a part of?

Bergeron is adored by Boston fans for every little thing he does in what could otherwise be best summed up as perfection.

The perfect leader, the perfect teammate, the perfect two-way center, and even the perfect well respected rival- when it comes to facing the Montreal Canadiens. His impact on the franchise is insurmountable, considering he was barely penciled in on the roster, at 18 years old, for the 2003-2004 season.

33 Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara should see his number 33 raised to the rafters of the TD Garden as one of the best defensemen and leaders in the locker room in franchise history. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Zdeno Chara should see his number 33 raised to the rafters of the TD Garden as one of the best defensemen and leaders in Boston’s locker room in franchise history. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Chara often gets a bad rap for no reason from some Boston fans. The fact of the matter is that Chara is one of the best defensemen in the league. He’s a six-time Norris Trophy Finalist (2004, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014) having won in 2009.

If it weren’t for Niklas Lidstrom’s swan song season, Chara would have at least another Norris Trophy. Do I need to mention he’s the current record holder of the Hardest Shot competition with a blistering 108.8 mph slap shot?

Aside from being able to speak seven languages and sell real estate in the State of Massachusetts, Chara was the first player born inside the Iron Curtain to captain his team to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.

Without a doubt, there is no question surrounding his leadership off the ice and in the locker room. On the ice he’s well respected by league officials, perhaps supplemented by his 6’9” (7’0” on skates), 255-pound, stature.

He’s aging, yes, but what player doesn’t age after every season? He’s still insanely fit and athletic and capable of holding his own as a top-2 defenseman for the Boston Bruins. While it might take some convincing of Boston fans currently, Zdeno Chara absolutely deserves to have his number retired by the Bruins someday. He remains an influential piece to their turnaround and run to the Cup from 2006 to 2011 and leadership in their current roster and front office transition.

Tim Thomas will be best remembered for chasing a dream and reaching its mountaintop. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Tim Thomas will be best remembered for chasing a dream and reaching its mountaintop. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Gerry Cheevers backstopped some legendary teams in Boston and had the mask to match their toughness. Photo: Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images
Gerry Cheevers backstopped some legendary teams in Boston and had the mask to match their toughness. (Photo: Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Honorable Mention

30 Gerry Cheevers/Tim Thomas

By this point, it’s probably a long shot for the Bruins to retire number 30 out of respect for Gerry Cheevers. He played remarkably well for a dominate Boston team in the 1970s and if it weren’t for the World Hockey Association having diluted the NHL’s talent pool, probably would’ve led the Bruins to some more greatness.

Likewise, Tim Thomas overcame a lot of doubt to be at the top of the NHL mountain as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner and 2011 Stanley Cup champion. It would certainly be a classy move by the organization, but one that likely will never happen for either (or both) former sensational Boston goaltenders.

Other Notes

Personally, I wouldn’t be opposed to setting aside Mark Recchi’s number 28. Not necessarily retiring it, but only using it for special players, which I guess is kind of the reason why nobody has been assigned number 28 on the Bruins since Recchi retired. Same goes with Marc Savard’s number 91.

It’s a shame that good players don’t always get to have extravagant careers. Players like Savard or Norm Léveillé will always be remembered for how they played on the ice by diehard Boston fans.