Will the Colorado Avalanche retire Milan Hejduk's jersey?

Doug Pensinger

Today we took a look at #23 in our Who Wore It Best. While prepping it, I pondered the question of whether or not the Avalanche would retire Milan Hejduk's jersey when he finally hangs up the skates. My initial gut instinct is "yes" but it's not a no-brainer. If he never plays another game (thanks Gary), Hejduk will have played over 1000 games in an Avalanche jersey, including playoffs. That's impressive. However, despite a couple of terrific seasons he hasn't quite been as elite as, say, Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg. So, to help me make my decision I decided to crunch some quick numbers. I mean, it's not like we're doing anything else, right (thanks Gary!).

As of today, Milan Hejduk has 794 career points, all for the Avalanche. Using the stats thingy at NHL.com I found that there were 65 players with at least 800 points for one franchise, so I decided to focus on that. Of the 65 players, 8 are still officially active and I would consider most to have a very strong chance of having their number retired when they hang them up.

That leaves 57 players with 800 points for one franchise. Of those 57, 46 have had their number retired by their respective clubs - 81% (rounded up for Bob). Here are the 11 who have not:

  • Nick Lidstrom, Det (1,142).
  • Sergei Fedorov, Det (954)
  • Steve Larmer, Chi (923)
  • Rick Middleton, Bos (898)
  • Dave Keon, Tor (858)
  • Brian Propp, Phi (849)
  • Jacques Lemaire, Mon (835)
  • Theo Fleury, Cal (830)
  • Peter Bondra, Was (825)
  • Jean Ratelle, Mon (817)
  • Dave Andreychuk, Buf (804)
Obviously, Lidstrom will have his number retired, but this list actually casts a little doubt on the certainty of Hejduk as his career trajectory seems similar to a lot of the guys on the "not" list - Middleton, Larmer, Propp, Andreychuk...good players, all-stars, who had a lot of good seasons with their respective clubs but maybe not quite rafter-worthy.

Looking again at the list, 34 players have scored 1,000 points with one franchise. Other than the 3 active players and Lidstrom, all have had their jerseys retired (or "honored", as Toronto and Calgary do, which is essentially the same but the numbers remain in circulation). In other words, 1,000 points is a lock.

12 players have hit the 900-point plateau but didn't quite make it to 1,000. One player, Selanne, is till active. Of the remaining 11, 9 have seen their numbers retired, or 82%. Fedorov and Larmer are the only two retired players with 900+ points for a franchise that hasn't yet had their numbers retired. Fedorov, like Lidstrom, just retired this offseason so I would assume that his number will be retired at some point, at the very least for his amazing play in NHL 93 (that dude was a monster). Meanwhile, Wayne Gretzky scored 900+ points for two teams. Impressive.

19 players have scored between 800 and 900 points for one franchise. 4 are still active. Of the remaining 15, it's a pretty close split - 8 have had their numbers retired, 7 have not.

You certainly don't need to put up such lofty number for one club to have a number retired, as Avalanche fans certainly aware of. Interestingly, two other #23s have been retired - Bob Nystrom and Bob Gainey. Both spent their entire careers with their team (Islander and Canadiens, respectively). Nystrom scored 513 points and Gainey had 501. Hejduk certainly blows those numbers out of the water, although his 1 Cup ring is a bit light compared to their 9.

In the end, my opinion is pretty much the same. I don't think it is a slam dunk, but I do believe the Avalanche will ultimately retire his 23 (and Foote's 52 for that matter). Even if it doesn't happen, it won't detract from a solid and storied Avalanche career.
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