RECONSIDERING ROENICK, LARMER: Should Their Numbers Be Retired?

Since we're mired in the monumental stillness that is the NHL Lockout, this page has been more than a little quiet. Now that things are seemingly heating up, there is more hockey discussion showing up in various circles - including a report, later denied by the team, that the Vancouver Canucks were making plans to retire Pavel Bure's number, as soon as they could decide if they were going to hang 10 or 96.

There have been discussions here in Chicago in the past regarding numbers 27 and 28, for Jeremy Roenick and Steve Larmer, respectively.

Let's start with JR. One of the greats, scoring 513 goals and adding 703 assists for the Hawks, Coyotes, Flyers, Kings and Sharks. He was the total package as a player - great hands, physical player, busted his ass on the ice. Everything you could ever want in a hockey player.

Roenick will probably never be honored by any team for two reasons - he never played more than 7 years with any team (Chicago) and he never got to tell the Stanley Cup engraver that it's R-o-E-n-i-c-k.

Sure, it would have been great if he had been the guy to stick around here for 15 years. And the Hawks' not winning a Cup while he was here certainly wasn't his fault - he was an absolute beast in that wild Game 4 in 1992, getting 2 of the Hawks' 5 goals. Sadly, Pittsburgh got 6 goals, and that was that. Still, at the end of the day, JR only got 267 of his goals as a Blackhawk.

Sure, it's good for 7 years and change - hell, he got 40 4 years in a row. But the next two guys above him on the all-time Blackhawks list are Tony Amonte and Dennis Hull. Damn fine players, sure. But there's no way you'd see two 10s in the United Center rafters for those guys. JR deserves a big ovation whenever he's in the United Center. He certainly deserves the love and gratitude of Blackhawks fans for his time here. But his 27 pretty much will be where it belongs when the Blackhawks resume play - on Johnny Oduya's back.

Gramps is a tough one. He quickly became my favorite Blackhawk after Stan Mikita retired, putting together a game of incredible workmanship and endurance, putting together a streak of 884 consecutive games played until Bob Pulford neither signing him nor trading him prior to the beginning of the 1993-94 season ended it. 

There was no greater poetic justice than when Larmer not only had a Larmer-type year (60 points in 68 games), but also a solid postseason (another 16 points) before raising the Stanley Cup as a New York Ranger that season . Not to mention, his scoring on a penalty shot at the Stadium was a very emphatic middle finger from all of us to Pully and Dollar Bill.

When you look at where he stands among Blackhawks all-time, there's a case to be made...3rd all-time in goals (406, behind Bobby Hull and Mikita), 4th in points (923, behind Mikita, Hull and Denis Savard), winner of the Calder Trophy in 1983, member of the Party Line with Savard and Al Secord.

But you know what? He just misses the Hall of Fame, and without being honored in Toronto he just misses here as well. The other thing is that on June 9, 2010 the standard for Blackhawks greatness changed. Not only are there players now who are all-stars and trophy winners, they brought the Stanley Cup to Chicago. At this point, being a Blackhawks who doesn't win a Stanley Cup will have a hard time getting honored - in fact, the number of a former Blackhawk that probably should be retired and is never mentioned is 8 for Bill Mosienko; but that's never going to happen now.

When you look at the current Chicago Blackhawks, once they reassemble, you'll see the last players who will ever wear 2, 19, and 88 for the Chicago Blackhawks. Remember when I mentioned Dennis Hull and Tony Amonte? By the time Patrick Sharp is done here, he might be worthy of the honor as well. It will also take a pretty special player to ever wear 7 or 81 again. So with both JR and Gramps, we can all lift a glass to them, and regale the youngsters with tales of their glory. But the rafters should stay as-is until the current players begin being honored.

 

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