Retired Numbers




(To take your minds of off the train wreck that has been the start of the Flames season, Robert Vollman of Puck Prospectus discusses the Flames questionable jersey retirement habits. Enjoy!)

The Calgary Flames have retired two players’ numbers, Lanny McDonald and Mike Vernon. Given that standard, who else should have their numbers retired?


First of all, should Mike Vernon’s number really be retired? While it’s true that Mike Vernon was fantastic in 1988-89, leading the league in Wins, earning the 4th best save percentage in the NHL (his highest ranking ever), and earning a spot on the NHL’s 2nd All-Star team en route to a Stanley Cup, is one season really enough to have his number hanging from the rafters?

Another goalie may have been more worthy of the honour – Daniel Bouchard. Bouchard had far more shut-outs in far fewer games, and while he pre-dates the era of recording save percentages, Bouchard bests Vernon 3.03 to 3.26 in goals-against average. According to GVT, which measures the number of goals a netminder has prevented relative to a replacement-level player, Bouchard isn’t the only goalie to contribute far more to the franchise than Vernon – remember Reggie “Let ‘em in” Lemelin?

Goalie – Calgary – Career

Daniel Bouchard – 139.0 – 170.2

Reggie Lemelin – 84.5 – 116.5

Mike Vernon – 51.8 – 93.0

As the goalie ranking a distant 3rd in franchise history, even when you include his time elsewhere, does Vernon truly deserve this honour just because of one great season?


As significant as Bouchard’s contributions were, there are two Flames who contributed far more while wearing the Flaming C but, believe it or not, neither one had a bushy red moustache.

I’m hesitant to disparage the selection of Lanny McDonald’s jersey for the honour given the Hall of Famer’s iconic stature, but it appears that once again a single season has been the decisive factor. In 1982-83 McDonald was a 2nd Team all-star, finished 2nd in the NHL in goal-scoring with 66 and earned the Bill Masterton trophy for his sportsmanship and perseverance.

At the risk of getting mugged on my way home, our legendary Captain was weak defensively, and the vast majority of his career production was while donning a blue Maple Leaf. What’s more, there are 8 other Flames with more productive careers, including the aforementioned puckstopper, all but one of which (Doug Gilmour) earned a greater share of their career GVT as a Flame. No, the two deserving Calgary Flames to which I’m referring are Al MacInnis and Theo Fleury.

Hall of Famer Al MacInnis does indeed have his number retired, but by the St. Louis Blues, where he spent far less of his career and earned far fewer of his accolades. His Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe were with Calgary, as were 5 of his 7 All-Star team recognitions. He was a Calgary Flame in 1990-91 when he had 75 assists (3rd in the NHL) and 103 points (9th), and was +42 (3rd). He’s the all-time leading Flame in assists and +/-, 3rd in points, and despite being a defenseman, he’s 7th in goals scored – just 2 behind Mr. McDonald.

Just ahead of MacInnis on the point chart is Theo Fleury, whose offensive accomplishments are exceeded by only Jarome Iginla in most categories, and has the 4th best career +/- among Flames. Fleury’s best season was either strike-shortened 1994-95, when he was named to the NHL’s 2nd all-star team, and finished 6th in goals and points, or else 1990-91, when his 51 goals were the league’s 2nd best, and he finished 8th in points, and led the league in +/-. Yes, Fleury’s defense is often ignored , but his integral role on the Flames penalty kill is obvious when you consider that he’s 9th all-time in short-handed goals with 35. Don’t let his off-ice struggles distract you, #14 should be waving at us from the rafters.

Player – Calgary – Career

Al MacInnis – 207.8 – 377.9

Theo Fleury – 184.8 – 225.7

Joe Nieuwendy – 131.1 – 240.7

Gary Suter – 125.7 – 209.5

Gary Roberts – 108.1 – 175.9

Paul Reinhart – 92.1 – 119.5

Kent Nilsson – 84.5 – 116.5

Guy Chouinard – 82.5 – 85.3

Joey Mullen – 80.4 – 189.6

Hakan Loob – 74.1 – 74.1

Jamie Macoun – 71.6 – 86.4

Eric Vail – 68.8 – 68.8

Tom Lysiak – 68.1 – 110.9

Doug Gilmour – 65.5 – 239.2

Joel Otto – 58.2 – 73.2

Lanny McDonald – 55.7 – 156.8

According to GVT there are perhaps 17 Flames that should be considered for the honour before Lanny McDonald, if you include the two goalies (Bouchard 3rd, Lemelin 9th). Since many of these players, including MacInnis and Fleury, both enjoyed single seasons as distinguished as Vernon’s and McDonald’s, and were part of the Stanley Cup season (heck, MacInnis was the MVP), there must be some other criteria we’re overlooking.

Sure, McDonald and Vernon were known for leadership and heart, but so too were so many of the statistically more deserving. Would it really be fair if these players are eliminated from consideration simply because they didn’t end their careers wearing red?

Closing Arguments

Make of it what you will, because at the end of the day the jerseys on the rafters don’t put points on the board. Regardless of whether or not your favourite Flames is ever selected for this honour, you do have to appreciate that the Flames are historically so deep in talent that players like MacInnis, Fleury and Nieuwendyk aren’t immediately hustled to the Saddledome. Most teams would be thrilled with even a Nilsson, Mullen or a Loob (hey, who wouldn’t be thrilled with a Loob?), whereas the Flames have several doors on which to knock first.

Nevertheless, if I may be so bold with my closing words: Send the 9 to Toronto, put up 2 and 14, and say the 30 is Bouchard’s.

  • Greg

    Suggesting that a goalie who played all of one season in Calgary deserves to have his number retired more than a guy who played 11 seasons, was from Calgary and was on the Stanley Cup winning team is foolish.

    Sure, Bouchard had years in the franchise, but is that meaningful to Calgarians, who would have to look at his name and number every game?

    As far as Lemelin goes. His stats don’t suggest he is a better goalie than Vernon at any level. Higher GAA, lower sv%, less games, less wins, less Stanley Cups, Less games played. No matter what you use as a measuring stick…he’s not as good.

    Until Kipper’s career is over. There isn’t one goalie who is more clearly associated with the Calgary Flames than Vernon. You could probably argue that strong association even further, to league-wide, if you consider the Flames short history and dearth of decent goaltending.

    • Greg

      Correction: Lemelin had a higher save percentage as a Flame than Vernon, though granted much of Lemelin’s career was before save percentage was officially recorded.

      Yes, he saw less action and had fewer games, fewer wins, etc – but if you adjust for era his goals-against average was equal to Vernon’s.

      What GVT shows us is that for much of his time with Calgary, Mike Vernon was contributing at a level at or slightly above what you’d expect from a replacement-level player, whereas Lemelin was contributing far more, but over a shorter period of time. Over-all Lemelin contributed more to the franchise than Vernon.

      • BobB


        Lemelin played 29 games as a Flame before sv% was recorded, which is not even one full season. It’s likely he wasn’t noticeably better in that 29 game span. We have sv% for over 95% of his career. Where is “much of”?

        How goals against in these Era’s is much different is dubious as well. Lemelin was a Flame from 80-87. Vernon from 85-94. Lemelin played well into the 90’s with Boston and still was no better, in fact worse, than he was with the Flames. We’re hardly comparing someone from the 20’s to someone from the 90’s.

        The Flames only numbers as I read them are:

        Lemelin 6982/7908 = .883 vs
        Vernon 12277/13892 = .884

        Vernon nearly doubles Lemelin in shots against with the Flames. I looked at career in my first calculation for Lemelin, but where is Lemelin’s sv% ever higher? It’s still lower only with the Flames, although, equal really.

        However, Vernon’s SA is much much higher. Again, his career sv% is higher. Plus, all the other previously listed comparables

        I’m not trying to demonstrate that Vernon was a great goalie, but I see nothing that demonstrates Lemelin was better other than your “adjusted metric” which could be all voodoo for all I know.

        I can tell you this. If your metric is telling anyone that Reggie “Let’em in” Lemelin should have his number retired. Then your metric is broken. What’s next? Andre “Red Light” Racicot? in the rafters of the forum?

  • everton fc

    @ Justin

    I was pulling for Fleury to make the team last year. He’s a victim. No doubt about it. A survivor. Perhaps you are right. Perhaps that earns him a spot in the rafters. I’m not 100% sold on the role model, though. But, like I said, I’m not one who ever hated Fleury. Certainly like him more than Brett Hull!

  • MC Hockey

    I pretty much agree with everything Greg said. One point on MacInnis, his crazy regular season stats like 103 points one year (and 80+ a few other times) are more than most “superstar forwards” score nowadays. Yes, a different era where goalies wore tiny pads, but still dudes, he deserves it! Fleury too was amazing and still gives Calgarians that emotional high like what Lanny does and does some great work outside hockey which tackles tough issues, takes a bold guy to go there. I agree that MacInnis and Newey working for other clubs makes the Flames say “wait and see” on retiring thier #s. But for garsh-darn sake, do the #14 already. You don’t let anyone where #2 and #14 anyways so might as well retire them right?

  • everton fc

    I’ll be one to disagree with Fleury. True, he was a great player here. But he also caused his share of problems. Particularly when his comeback didn’t materialize. He’s no role model. We need role models hanging from the rafters. For our kids…

    Iginla definitely deserves this honour. MacInnis, as well.

    No one else.

    • marty

      Apologies, but that may be one of the stupidest comments I’ve ever read.

      Fleury was sexually abused as a child. He was taken advantage of and had his career from the after effects of James’ actions. Instead of focusing on the problems he had, why not talk about how he was able to dig himself out of the hole? He’s been sober for ~4 years now and he came forward with his story. I can’t think of a better role model for people in the situation he was in. He has shown that you can get healthy, stay healthy, and take action against those who hurt you without repercussion.

      • Greg

        I’ll second that. Fleury, even now, isn’t exactly a “class act”. But given the childhood he had and abuse he’s suffered, I think he’s become a great role model and I’d gladly tell any kid his story and what can be learnt from it.

  • Greg

    Very interesting topic indeed. And very welcome distraction from the terrible start to the season (and Friday afternoon work). Here’s my thoughts:

    – MacInnis and Fleury should be absolute no brainers. I think it’s a shame they haven’t been retired already.

    – Gilmour should be a NO. Great player, but only 3.5 season’s with the Flames so he wasn’t here long enough to make a truly lasting impact on the franchise (where as Fleury, for example, WAS the franchise for almost a decade).

    – Sutter, Niewendyk, and Roberts should also be NOs. None of the three made a significant impact on the ’86 and ’89 runs, and none made the kind of impact Fleury did afterwards either. Niewendyks’ most lasting impact might have been getting Iginla in return for his trade (again, not a claim Gilmour can make! 🙂

    – I personally think Mullen and Loob should be given much more serious consideration. Both made (statsically) larger contributions that McDonald to the ’86 and ’89 runs, and even though they played fewer years for the Flames, had virtually the same regular season points as him. Mullen is the only other former Flame forward to also get into the Hall.

    – I’m OK with the Vernon selection. Back stopped the flames to 2 cup finals, won 1, 5 time all-star, won 8 playoff rounds, etc. I was like 10 when Lanny retired, so I can’t really comment, but looking back at stats I think it was questionable. Even so, I still associate him more with the ’89 cup than even Big Al, and his ‘stache is a Calgary icon. Even my 10 year old nephew who can’t sit still to watch 1 period knows who he is.

    – my reaction to Bouchard was, “who?” Looked him up and I still think the same.

    – for current Flames, I’d have to say regardless of what happens now, Iginla is a lock. Had the Flames managed another couple deep playoff runs, I think Kipper would have been too. But barring another sneak-into-the-playoffs-go-to-the-final run this year, I think he’s missed his chance. To be honest, I feel kinda bad for the guy considering how great a goalie he’s been for us in his time here and how little we’ve been able to capitalize on it. The franchise might not owe him a retired number, but probably owes him an apology for wasting his career.

    So in short I’d say it should be:

    Definitely Worthy:
    – McInnis
    – Fleury
    – Iginla

    Possibly Worthy:
    – Vernon
    – McDonald
    – Mullen
    – Loob

    Probably not Worthy, but should be otherwise somehow honored:
    – Gilmour
    – Niewendyk
    – Suter
    – Roberts
    – Kipper
    – Regher
    – Otto
    – Gelinas
    – Zarley Zalapski (just for his name)

    • MC Hockey

      Mullen and McDonald aren’t the only two former Flame forwards in the Hall of Fame – don’t forget Brett Hull. Played his first 57 games wearing the Flaming C before being dealt for a couple of key pieces of the ’89 Cup Run: Ramage and Wamsley.

      • Greg

        Haha. I was actually going to say in my post that as long as no one ever suggests that we should retire Brett Hull’s jersey, I can live with the rest of the decisions, but didn’t think it actually needed to be said 🙂

        Incidentally I think I’m flip flopping on Niewendyk and putting him in my maybe category, on par with Mullen and Loob. Jeepers, what a team that was eh?

  • BobB

    I beleive that MacInnis and Nieuwendyk aren’t in the rafters because they went to work with the teams they retired on. And macInnis wanted to go in HofF as a Blue… Not much Calgary pride coming from him.

    • Greg

      Good points. Although Boston and Colorado both retired Bourque’s jersey. MacInnis isn’t quite Bourque, but he did win a cup with us, and Conn Smythe, and should be in the rafters regardless. Time to right a wrong there.

      • Should have qualified my statements with, my opinion too.

        When you reflect back on those teams, the players that jump out the most were guys like MacInnis. I definately think he should be in the rafters. I believe that the only reason the team is still in Calgary during its tough times were thanks to guys like Theo and Iggy. So they should be in too. More for what they did for the Flames Brand, Recognition in the city, those types of things, less about how many goals and cups they brought here.

        Great point about Bourque though! Sure would be nice to have some pride in the past, especially when the future looks bleak.

  • Sorry Kent, you know I only read your name at the top, see the pic at the bottom, and kind of skim the rest. All that mathy stuff just makes my eyes burn.

    My point on Lanny still stands though. I can see that there deserves to be debate over retiring Vernon, MacInnis, Fleury and even Nieuwendyk, but I think the big red soup strainer has earned his place in the heart of the fans several times over.

  • Greg

    Just wanted to take the egg out of my mouth long enough to thank everyone for their comments.

    Go easy on Kent, this wasn’t his idea. In fact just the other day I saw him holding Vernon’s hand while skipping down the sidewalk.

    P.S. If it helps the stat-haters out there, just replace the objective arguments above for the following:
    – MacInnis is awesome, W00t!
    – Anyone who doesn’t like Theo obviously has a lemon up his butt LOL
    – Vernon is as useless as a third nipple.


    Joking aside – thanks to everyone who took the time to read and comment, including/especially those who disagreed.

  • icedawg_42

    I hate to play my “I was actually a Flames fan back when…” card, but those numbers deserve to be there, as do Theo Al and Joe! Not because of their stats (though some are very nice!) but because of the ride they took us on, and the heroes they were to the city. Stats guy can suck eggs 😉

  • Greg

    Poor Kent, sorry nobody else seems to notice that it was Rob Vollman that wrote the article.

    I 100% agree that Theoren Fleury and Al McInnis have long deserved to have their names flying high at the Dome. Not sure why when Fleury didn’t complete his comeback last year they didn’t retire his jersey at some point in the season. Makes no sense. One of those two should be honoured this year or next at the latest. Don’t know what the hold up has been about but the Flames need to do something to honour these two players. I guess Fleury did get the tryout but I don’t count that because he played well, possibly should have made the team.

    Niewy and Gilmore should also be in the talks to have their numbers retired as well.

    OH and Go Flames Go.

  • I agree in principle with the gist of this article – teams are too cavalier about retiring numbers.

    I don’t agree with retiring Vernon’s jersey but I would like to see both McInnis and Fleury be retired in Calgary.

    It’s a great way to honour a player but it takes away from the honour the more that teams do it. Reserve it for the very elite of your organization.

    I have heard of concepts such as a ‘Ring of Honour’ that I believe Vancouver has in their rink where they pay some homage to impact, high-profile players who may not be the jersey retiring calibre. I think this is a great idea and would love to see something like this in Calgary as well.

  • CitizenFlame

    i’ve taken on this subject, myself, historically —because i’m against the #30 banner, and CANT WAIT for #14 to go up in the rafters at the newly dubbed moneypit.

    (i just made that up cause it takes scotiabank saddledome and all the flames’ cap trouble and melts ’em into one concise name).

    anyhow, i would think that if the flames season continues on the current trajectory (ie: a whole mess of stink), we’ll see theo’s jersey retired sooner rather than later. i was in da house when he played pre-season v. NYI last year, and the fans were chanting his name and going apes**t when he scored in shootout. after the depressed booing last night, ken king would be an idiot not to give them something to cheer about.

  • Oh Kent, what can I say? Its been nice to know you. I’m pretty sure that somewhere in a little red and black temple, a fatwa is being issued with your name on it. Lanny? Really? I think it would have been safer to take on the Taliban.

    • CitizenFlame

      “…and this is why people hate ‘stat guy’.” That made me spit out my drink I laughed so hard! Apart from that, nice diversion Kent. I think definitely #2 and #14 should be retired. I think that Niewy should be considered as well. And at the end of their careers, obviously I think that Iggy is a lock and depending what happens in the next couple of seasons I think that Reggie and Kipper need to be given consideration. But that’s for another day. What is with the Flames? Why don’t they honour their past like the Oilers do? I don’t want to model the Flames after the ol’ boys club in Edmonton (they’re finally coming out of the desert after scorching the earth of ex-Oilers) but they should do more to honour the past glory that was one of the best teams of that generation.