For the first time since 2008, the Chicago Blackhawks will have a new number hanging in the United Center rafters. On April 7, the team announced it will retire Marián Hossa’s No. 81 during the 2022-23 regular season, marking the eighth player in franchise history to have his number retired and the first from the “One Goal” era of the 2010s.
While this is sure to be a celebratory occasion for Chicago fans, Hossa’s ceremony could mark the first of many over future seasons. Of course, having a number retired often requires tremendous dedication and commitment to the franchise, as well as superior performance, but the Blackhawks have many players to choose from who could join Hossa in the rafters from their recent Stanley Cup years and other eras. Here are five former Blackhawks who should join Hossa in having their numbers retired.
#5 – Steve Larmer, No. 28
Steve Larmer had a prolific 15-year NHL career. He spent his first 13 seasons with the Blackhawks from 1980 to 1993, skating in 891 games and recording 923 points (406 goals and 517 assists). Larmer then spent his final two seasons as a New York Ranger before retiring in 1995. Currently, he ranks fifth all-time in points in team history and ranks fourth among former players, only behind Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, and Denis Savard. He also skated in 11 straight seasons without missing a game from 1982-83 to 1992-93.
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While Larmer had a tremendous Chicago career, if the Blackhawks were planning to retire his No. 28, they would have done so years ago. Furthermore, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are Chicago’s lone core players from the 2010s who are still with the club, and it would make sense for the Blackhawks to emphasize honoring players from more recent years, such as they have with Hossa.
However, it’s still possible Larmer eventually gets his due. In February 2020, the New York Islanders retired John Tonelli and Butch Goring’s numbers despite neither having played since the early ’90s and mid-’80s, respectively. It might seem like an overdue move, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
#4 – Niklas Hjalmarsson, No. 4
Niklas Hjalmarsson might not be the first player you think of from Chicago’s Cup years, but his defensive-first presence played an integral role in all three of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup-winning teams of that era. From relentlessly blocking shots to simply racking up minutes and stepping up when needed, he was a mainstay of Chicago’s defense from 2008 to 2017 after the Blackhawks drafted him in the fourth round of the 2005 NHL Draft. He then spent his final four seasons with the Arizona Coyotes before retiring from the NHL in July 2021.
Over his career, Hjalmarsson skated in 821 NHL games. Though the Blackhawks already honored him with his own Legacy Night last season, that doesn’t necessarily rule out a number retirement. It might seem like a long shot, but his contributions to Chicago’s championship teams of the 2010s were critical, as was his leadership.
#3 – Corey Crawford, No. 50
The Blackhawks drafted Corey Crawford in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft, but it wasn’t until 2010-11 that he settled into a starting role with the club. From that season on, he emerged as a fan favorite. Crawford, a Montreal native, was a stalwart goaltender for Chicago en route to their Stanley Cups in 2013 and 2015. He played an especially integral role in the team’s 2013 Stanley Cup run, recording a 1.94 goals-against average in the postseason.
Crawford retired from the NHL in January 2021 after injuries plagued the last few seasons of his career. Despite this, he always kept calm under pressure even as his performance declined post-2015. He is also the only goaltender in team history to have won multiple Stanley Cups and third all-time in regular-season wins with 260, behind Glenn Hall (276) and Tony Esposito (418).
Even though he wasn’t a factor in Chicago’s first of three Stanley Cups over the 2010s, Crawford’s legacy and accolades give the Blackhawks an intriguing case for possible number retirement. He made his mark as a Blackhawk and was one of the franchise’s best in net.
#2 – Brent Seabrook, No. 7
Brent Seabrook was drafted 14th overall by the Blackhawks in 2003 and spent his entire 15-year NHL career with Chicago before formally retiring in March 2021. Throughout his Blackhawk tenure, he skated in 1,114 games, third in franchise history only behind Mikita and Duncan Keith. Along with Keith, he anchored Chicago’s defense in the 2010s and brought a sense of physicality many of his teammates didn’t have.
Seabrook didn’t have the same Hall-of-Fame-worthy career as Keith, but much like Crawford, his dedication makes him a possible candidate for his own ceremony. It’s worth noting that Chris Chelios, who spent nine seasons as a Blackhawk from 1990 to 1999 and currently serves as a team ambassador, also wore No. 7 during his Chicago tenure. While it’s possible the Blackhawks could have a joint ceremony honoring Seabrook and Chelios – retiring No. 7 for both players, as they did with Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson – I’d say Seabrook is more likely to get the honor because of his longevity with the club.
#1 – Duncan Keith, No. 2
Keith is one of the greatest defensemen in Blackhawks’ history, if not the greatest. Despite an unceremonious ending to his Chicago tenure when the club traded him to the Edmonton Oilers last offseason, he was one of the league’s top defensemen during his prime and did everything you could ask from a leadership perspective. During his Blackhawk career from 2005 to 2021, he had four All-Star Game appearances, won two Norris Trophies, and deservedly took home the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2015. Simply put, Chicago doesn’t win its three Stanley Cups without him.
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Now 38, Keith is providing a veteran presence to the Oilers in their current postseason run. While his best days are well behind him, Chicago fans will forever remember his impact. Everything from his physicality to his leadership made him a fan favorite, and he had the production to back it up.
It’s a matter of when, not if, the Blackhawks retire Keith’s number. He hasn’t yet hinted at retirement, but he’ll probably join Hossa shortly after his career ends. A Hall of Fame spot seems likely, too.
Leaving a Legacy
Other names who I could see getting the honor, while unlikely, are Patrick Sharp, Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour, and Dennis Hull. Of the five players I discussed, though, I’d say the only lock to join Hossa in the rafters is Keith. Hossa’s ceremony, though, does open up the possibility of more players from the 2010s and even other eras to get their numbers retired.
Of course, like Keith, there’s no doubt we’ll see Kane and Toews get their numbers retired once they end their careers. But, for now, whether to honor these players at the highest level creates an interesting debate for the Blackhawks and fans given their respective legacies.