Since the Fall of 2006, a single jersey has held the honor of being retired by the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL). That distinction is held by former defenseman Travis Richards, who was the second player ever signed by the franchise back in 1996. That is going to change this season as Richards’ No. 24 will be joined by the No. 7 of winger Michel Picard and the No. 10 for winger Jeff Hoggan as both players will have their jerseys/numbers retired by the franchise.
“Our 25th anniversary season gives us the perfect opportunity to recognize the lasting accomplishments of two players who made an immense impact on our franchise,” said Griffins president Tim Gortsema in a statement released by the team. “Michel was an offensive powerhouse during our team’s early years, achieving many statistical benchmarks that haven’t been approached by any of the other 537 players who’ve worn a Griffins jersey, and he carried himself with grace and class both on and off the ice. And Jeff, during his four seasons as our captain, provided unparalleled leadership and character in forming the cornerstone of a culture that secured our first Calder Cup championship in 2013, and he founded an unprecedented era of team success that continues to this day.”
Picard, who currently serves as an amateur scout for the St. Louis Blues, played for the Griffins from 1996 to 2000, and then returned to the Griffins from 2002 to 2004. To put that into perspective, the Griffins were the International Hockey League (IHL) affiliate of the Ottawa Senators when he started in Grand Rapids, and by the end, the Griffins had moved to the American Hockey League (AHL) and into an affiliation with the Detroit Red Wings. Across 364 games in Grand Rapids, he totaled 158 goals and 380 points – both of which are franchise records to this day. He also holds the franchise record for most points in a single season with 101 during the 1996-97 season. He lead the team in scoring in each of his first five full seasons, something no Griffin has been able to do more than twice. He is also the only Griffin to ever reach 100 points in a season.
In a nice touch by the Griffins organization, it was Picard’s long-time teammate, Richards, who broke the news to him:
“You just scored all the time,” Richards said during the Zoom call. “You didn’t say much, and when you said something, it meant something. I think you were the core person that built the Griffins from the start.”
Picard’s jersey will raised to the rafters of Van Andel Arena during a pre-game ceremony on Feb. 19.
While Hoggan did not spend the same amount of time in Grand Rapids as Picard, his legacy as a Griffin is already hanging up high at Van Andel Arena in the form of the franchise’s very first Calder Cup championship banner. He joined the Griffins in the Summer of 2012 and stayed with the team through 2016. Across 278 regular season games in a Griffins sweater, he recorded 57 goals and 119 points.
As the captain of the 2012-13 team, he scored 20 goals and 45 points during that season and then followed it up with 12 points during their 24-game run to glory. Like Picard, Hoggan was informed of the news via a Zoom call, this time with former teammate and current captain of the Griffins, Brian Lashoff.
“I can’t say enough good things about you as a leader,” Lashoff said. “We shared a lot of great memories together. We won a championship together. The culture that you established in Grand Rapids was one that I think you would be happy to know is one that stands today, and it’s a big reason for the success that we’ve had as an organization.”
“It’s an honor,” said Hoggan. “Look forward to getting a reason to get back there and bring the family.”
Like Picard, Hoggan’s jersey will be sent to the rafters in a pre-game ceremony, this time on April 2. Fans that would like to attend either or both ceremonies can find tickets over at griffinshockey.com/buytickets.
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.