One of the coolest things about covering the Calgary Flames is that it’s a team with a sense of history.
When you wander into the Saddledome and amble past the Flames locker room, they have a giant wall with a picture of the 1989 Stanley Cup team and listing the names of not only that championship team, but everybody who has ever been honoured by the NHL while playing for the Flames – even dating back to the Atlanta version of the team.
The team’s history is what leads to the return of the Sunday open thread: What number will be honoured next by the Calgary Flames?
Let’s not get into the “retirement” versus “Forever A Flame” thing. I think it’s safe to say most fans think that jersey retirement is the way to go.
But who are the main contenders for getting their number in the Saddledome rafters? Let’s handicap the contenders, with the only requirements that they are retired and notable historical Flames.
#14 THEOREN FLEURY
- This one is a no-brainer, fundamentally. Theo Fleury was one of the most talented Flames players in history. Until Jarome Iginla topped him, he was the team’s all-time leader in points with 830 and his 791 games wearing a Flaming C (and Blasty, the famed Horsehead) ranks behind only Iginla, Robyn Regehr and Al MacInnis. He was a member of the 1989 Stanley Cup team as a rookie. One of the NHL’s first elite small men, his inclusion would be a natural tie-in with Johnny Gaudreau’s success.
- Outlook: If Fleury can avoid any negative publicity, he’s likely a shoo-in. He’s undoubtedly been considered in the past, but he has a tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. See his try-out, retirement, and subsequent book release media tour as an example.
#28 ROBYN REGEHR
- Just recently retired, Robyn Regehr was one of the stalwarts of the Flames resurgence and basically defined the 2004 team’s “clutch-and-grab, then punch ’em in the mush” style of play. He’s second in team history in games played behind Iginla, and he made the NHL and played over 1000 games after breaking both of his legs in a head-on car accident the summer after being acquired by the Flames.
- Outlook: I guarantee that he gets honoured by the Flames at some point, it’s just a question of when. He was renowned as a teammate and a good citizen when he was in town. Craig Conroy appeared (and brought a gift) when the Kings honoured Regehr for playing 1000 games.
#10 GARY ROBERTS
- Renowned as one of the toughest players in team history, Roberts is among the team leaders in penalty minutes, points and games played. He nearly left the game with a neck injury that reduced him to playing just 43 games over a three-season span, but ended up coming back and playing for another decade. A member of the 1989 Stanley Cup team and someone who’s become a leading expert on training and player fitness.
- Outlook: He’s got the numbers and he’s got a high profile in the game. He’s also a guy that has made appearances in the Saddledome in recent years – appearing at Alumni Night – so it’s not like there isn’t a relationship.
#34 MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF
- A case can be made – a pretty compelling one – that Miikka Kiprusoff, not Mike Vernon, is the best Flames goaltender of all-time. He won a Vezina, broke the then-standing modern goals against average record, and back-stopped the Flames to within a win of their second Stanley Cup.
- Outlook: If the Flames can convince Kiprusoff to make the trip down to the rink from wherever it is he’s ice-fishing at any given time, I’d be shocked if they didn’t set something up.
#12 HAKAN LOOB
- Otherwise known as “the Other #12,” Loob was a bit of a pioneer. In an era where Europeans rarely made the trip over to North America, Loob played for several seasons with Calgary. He made it to two Stanley Cup finals, won one of them, and then went home.
- Outlook: He’s among the team’s all-time scoring leaders, but he’s just a smidge below the upper echelon and he was never the best player on his team at his position. And if they honour him, they may wait and do Jarome Iginla around the same time.
#20 GARY SUTER
- One of the best American-born hockey players of all-time, Suter was one part of a tandem with Al MacInnis that was simply amazing to behold. He won a Cup with Calgary in 1989. His nephew Ryan continues the family legacy over in Minnesota with the Wild. He’s one of the team’s all-time leading scorers, behind only Iginla, Fleury, MacInnis and Nieuwendyk on the team’s scoring leaderboard. That automatically makes him a contender.
- Outlook: Pretty good, particularly because of how highly he rates on the scoring list. But he was always perceived as a notch below Al MacInnis, in terms of his play. (e.g., he was only “very good,” never “excellent.”)