Since it's summer, let's talk about a subject fans love to talk about: retiring numbers of former greats. In three years of blogging, I've had fans make cases that any number of former Penguins should have their number retired by the team. Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, even Ulf Samuelsson.
Puck Daddy brings up the subject of retired numbers and addresses the "Ring of Honor" that many teams, including the Penguins use to pay tribute to special players in franchise history without giving the ultimate honor of taking the jersey number out of circulation.
The criteria for retiring jerseys varies a lot from team to team and just take a look at the Wiki list and you'll see there's a lot of non-legendary names (at least in the present day). Personally I like the way the Penguins do it: they've retired Michel Briere's #21 in honor of his life cut tragically short in a car wreck after the team's first season. If you're a younger or newer fan and don't know much about Briere, here's a great piece about him to brush up on your Penguin knowledge.
Along with Briere, obviously they've retired Mario Lemieux's #66. Little more needs to be said about what Lemieux's meant to the team, he's arguably the most important single athlete to any one franchise.
If anything, I wish the Pens would highlight Briere's number, as it was kind of "hidden" behind the Lemieux banner from many angles of the Mellon Arena, and not hung side by side as most retired numbers are in other cities. Then again, Mario literally owns the team and whatever he wants to do for this minor detail is fine enough by me. And Mellon Arena did have that domed roof, so perhaps it wasn't a possibility due to the structure. I suppose we'll see in the nice and flat Consol Energy Center.
Speaking of the new barn: Chris DeVivo, the Pens Director of Media Technology, has some cool tricks up his sleeve. He told me in April that along an entrance of the new arena will be over a dozen flat-screen TV's recessed in the wall. The screens will display pictures and information about great players and even have some interactive aspects for fans to enjoy. And since it is "new media", the information can and will be changed and updated so that it's not just the same old stuff over and over again. I'll ask him for an update about this feature, perhaps he'll have a blog entry about it soon if he can or has any more he'd like to share.
Now for the Pens debate: would you retire any more numbers? Jagr had a great 11 year run in Pittsburgh, but he likely won't finish his career here. Francis, while a terrific player and totally class guy, means more to the Hartford/Carolina franchise than to the Pens. Would you like to see them retire any numbers and cheapen the standard that's been set? That standard being unless you die or literally save the franchise on and off the ice, a number won't be retired in Pittsburgh.
Personally, I'm a huge Jagr fan, but I wouldn't retire his number. Same goes for any other great in Penguins' history. No one has done enough to meet the standard of Lemieux. I love that they have the ring of honor to pay homage to the past -- especially for guys like Bob Johnson and Herb Brooks -- but there's something to say for keeping the highest honor very rare.
Perhaps, if everything goes as we hope and they play their entire careers here, in 15-20 years we could debate whether any of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Marc-Andre Fleury deserve the honor to join Briere and Lemieux in the rafters.
The new arena doesn't seat 18,087 by accident, so right now if you asked me who the next retired number in Pittsburgh would be, I would say Crosby. That obviously won't be happening for a long, long time and hopefully if/when it'll does, the number will join a couple more Stanley Cup banners that currently aren't in position.