Way, way back in July 2004, the Calgary Flames signed obscure OHL prospect Mark Giordano to a three-way contract – good for play in the NHL, AHL or ECHL. More than 16 years later, Giordano is less than a week away from playing his 900th NHL game for the Flames – it’ll likely happen on Saturday.
As he approaches this big milestone, it’s worth pondering his impact on the Flames franchise and wondering if he’s done enough to have his jersey number retired.
The standards around the league vary significantly regarding a player’s number being honoured, retired, saluted, or whatever synonym you wish to use. We’re choosing to look at this from a puritan lens: a retired number is one that’s entirely out of circulation and cannot be used anymore.
Giordano broke into the NHL wearing #46, but transitioned to #5 when he made the club out of training camp in 2006-07 – Darryl Sutter wasn’t a fan of high numbers. Aside from a season he spent in the Russia Superleague, he’s worn #5 for the Flames ever since.
The purely puritan viewpoint for jersey retirements is generally been to weigh the accomplishments of the potential player against those who have (a) had their sweaters retired or (b) been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Let’s take a quick sojourn through Giordano’s on (and off)-ice resume:
- 897 career games with the Flames – soon to be 900 – second only behind Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla in franchise history.
- Team captain since 2013-14, serving in his eighth season in the role. Only Iginla’s nine seasons with the C represent a longer reign, and there’s a strong chance that Giordano will eventually eclipse Iginla in terms of longevity.
- His 135 goals from the blueline is second in franchise history behind Hall of Famer Al MacInnis.
- His 350 assists and 485 points from the blueline are third in franchise history behind MacInnis and Gary Suter.
- He has been awarded the NHL Foundation Player Award, the Mark Messier Leadership Award and the Norris Trophy for his efforts on and off the ice. (He’s the only Flame in history to win the Norris.)
In the Expansion Era, 436 NHL players have played 900+ games – just 38 of them were undrafted, and a good chunk of those represent the NHL’s first few forays into signing college free agents (in the form of guys like Jamie Macoun, Joe Mullen and Joel Otto). Giordano is a hockey unicorn, an unheralded prospect who worked his way up and got to hockey’s highest level.
In short: it seems extremely unlikely that anybody will wear #5 after Giordano decides to hang up his skates – probably sometime in his mid-40s. His numbers are excellent relative to his franchise peers and he’s combined excellence, longevity and a compelling road to NHL stardom into a unique package. He likely won’t ever get into the Hall of Fame – you need to win multiple Norrises to do that in this era, probably – but he’s a slam-dunk to have his jersey retired.