The NHL, Russians and Retired Jerseys
It surprised me that Pavel Bure’s #10 being hoisted to the rafters at Rogers Arena on Saturday marked the first time a Russian has had their number retired by an NHL team.
Now the question is who will the next one be?
It was Sport Express writer Slava Malamud who drew my attention to Bure’s latest accomplishment, as well as suggesting two potential candidates for jersey retirement:
I’m not sure I entirely agree on Mogilny; though Malamud did make a good argument for him on Twitter, citing his record 76 goal season in 1992/93, his overall scoring record and his landmark defection as evidence enough the Sabres should retire his jersey.
The knock against Mogilny is his slightly nomadic career, which saw him also feature for Vancouver and Toronto as well as two stints with New Jersey.
Part of me is inclined to agree with Malamud that had Mogilny been American or Canadian his jersey probably would have been retired already (He also referenced Dominik Hasek at the same time – whose shirt is bizarrely absent from the Sabres homestead…), but personally I’m not convinced he had the longevity, nor sufficient contribution to success, in Buffalo to be honoured in this way.
Fedorov on the other hand spent 13 seasons with Detroit, winning a Hart Trophy, two Selke Trophies and three Stanley Cups during his time with the Red Wings.
It’s an impressive résume, one that would undoubtedly have seen his number honoured by a number of other clubs – but the Wings have only retired six numbers in their history, and Fedorov’s 2003 departure sets him apart from former team mates Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom; both of whom had their jerseys retired, but both also spent their entire careers with Detroit.
So if not Fedorov (or Mogilny), then who?
Vlacheslav Fetisov had a remarkable career, and is rightfully enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but spent just 10 seasons in the NHL; split between Detroit and New Jersey. Andrei Markov has been a solid contributor for Montreal throughout his career but is hardly on the same level as Larry Robinson or Doug Harvey.
The reality is Russian fans will probably be waiting for another decade for Alexander Ovechkin to retire before one of their countrymen has their number honoured by an NHL club.
For a country that has spawned so many great players, it’s odd to think so few have been revered by an NHL club.