The Chicago Blackhawks entered the National Hockey League
for the 1926-27 season, the same year as the New York Rangers. Since, the team
has won four Stanley Cup championships and has been host to some of hockey’s
greatest players. However, it wasn’t until 1980 when the Blackhawks began the
tradition of retiring the jersey numbers of great players.
To date, Chicago has retired six jersey numbers in honour of
seven players. The number 3 is retired in honour of two different players. In addition to these six numbers, the number
99 has also been raised to the rafters of the United Centre. Wayne Gretzky’s 99
was retired by every team in the league.
It is fitting that the first number retired by the
Blackhawks in 1980 was the number 21 of Stan Mikita. Mikita played nearly 1400
regular season games in a Chicago uniform between 1958-59 and 1979-80. Chicago
was the only NHL team that Stan ever played for. Mikita won the Art Ross Trophy
as the league’s leading scorer on four occasions. He is the only player in the
history of the NHL to win the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy and Lady Byng Trophy
in the same year. He accomplished that feat in two consecutive years. Of
course, Stan Mikita is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Next in line to have his jersey number retired by the
Chicago Blackhawks was Bobby Hull. Hull’s number 9 was raised to the roof in
1983. Bobby began play with Chicago the year before Mikita and the two made
quite a dynamic duo in the 1960’s. Hull jumped to the World Hockey Association
in 1972-73 and was the poster child for the rebel league. He returned for one
more season of NHL hockey in 1979-80 when the four WHA teams merged into the
With exception to 13 games with the Montreal Canadiens at
the start of his career, Tony Esposito was always a Blackhawk during his
stellar NHL career. Esposito’s number 35 was retired by the Blackhawks in 1988.
Tony played in net with Chicago from 1969-70 to 1983-84.
On the same night that Tony Esposito’s number was raised,
the previous star goaltender with the club, Glenn Hall had his number 1
retired. Hall began his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings then played ten
seasons with Chicago. Glenn ended his NHL career with four seasons in a St.
Louis Blues jersey. Hall will go down in history with the record of 502
consecutive games started, the most by any NHL goaltender.
Denis Savard played with Chicago from 1980-81 to 1989-90. He
spent a few years away with the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning
before returning to the Blackhawks for his final two and a half seasons in the
NHL. Savard recorded five 100+ point seasons with Chicago, including 131 in
1987-88. Denis’ number 18 was retired in 1998.
The number 3 was retired by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008
for two long time defensemen. Pierre Pilote is one of the best defenseman to
play the game, evidenced by his three Norris Trophy victories. Pierre played
with Chicago from 1955-56 to 1967-68 and spent one final season with the
Toronto Maple Leafs before retiring.
Keith Magnuson played for the Blackhawks from 1969-70 to
1979-80. Chicago was the only stop during Keith’s NHL career. The year
following his retirement as a player, Magnuson was head coach of the Blackhawks
for one season. Keith is the only member of this exclusive group of players
that is not honoured in the Hockey Hall of Fame.