Obviously, Nicklas Lidstrom's No. 5 will hang from the rafters of Joe Louis Arena some time this coming season along with the numbers of Terry Sawchuk, Steve Yzerman, Sid Abel, Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay and Mr. Hockey. That's not what I'm going to talk about because there is no question to whether the Red Wings are going to retire "The Perfect Human's" number or not.
In addition to the six (soon to be seven) jersey numbers hanging from Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings have retired (or honored) the Nos. 6 and 16, and players cannot wear them on Red Wing jerseys anymore.
The No. 6 was taken out of circulation in honor of Larry Aurie, a forward throughout the 1930s. It was the first number to be retired by the Red Wings, but a banner for Aurie was never hung. Today, it is no longer considered a "retired" number, but is not available for use by any Red Wing player.
The same goes for Vladimir Konstantinov's No. 16. There is no banner, but it is not available for use in honor of the former defenseman whose career was tragically cut short after a limousine accident the week after the Wings won the 1997 Stanley Cup.
I believe there should be one more number honored by the Detroit Red Wings—in honor of three separate players.
One was one of the most prolific fighters of all time and recently passed away two summers ago. Another is one of the league's greatest defensemen in history whose number has already been retired by a team that he played less seasons and games for than Detroit. Lastly, the third player was one of the 44 players and coaches of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl KHL team who died in the tragic plane crash last September.
The players are obviously Bob Probert, Chris Chelios and Ruslan Salei, respectively, and they all wore sweater No. 24 in Detroit.
Probert was a fan favorite in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and he brought excitement to Detroit fans despite the team struggling in the "Dead Wings" era. He is regarded by many to be the toughest hockey player of all time.
He and fellow enforcer Joe Kocur were called the "Bruise Brothers" in Detroit because of their constant fights and big hits.
Probert also protected Steve Yzerman for the first part of his career, and if anyone touched The Captain, they would become Probert's next biggest target.
Along with being a historic enforcer, Probert was also known as a decent scorer and offensive contributor, especially when it came to clutch playoff situations. Probert scored 16 goals and tallied 32 assists in 81 career playoff games.
Next up is Chris Chelios—a member of the Red Wings' front office and the record-holder for most games played as a defenseman. Chelios played in parts of 25 seasons in the NHL and is a surefire Hall of Famer, totaling 185 goals and 763 assists, with a career plus-minus rating of an incredible plus-350.
Chelios played eight seasons with Chicago and nine with Detroit. His number has already been retired by the Blackhawks, but he was booed in his hometown city of Chicago. Yes, he is from Chicago and he was at his prime when he was playing for the Blackhawks, but the fact is that he played more seasons with Detroit, is a member of the Red Wings' front office, owns many "Cheli's Chili" restaurants in the metro-Detroit area, played a huge role in two Detroit Stanley Cups (especially 2002) and is adored by many Red Wing fans.
The most recent Red Wing to wear No. 24 was Ruslan Salei. 2011 was Salei's only season with the Red Wings, but he was adorned along with Brad McCrimmon and Stefan Liv on a patch on the Red Wings' jerseys this season that honored the victims of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash.
Salei is regarded as one of the greatest Belarusian hockey players of all time, and he captained the Belarus hockey team in the 2010 Olympics. He tallied 45 goals and 159 assists in a 917-game NHL career and was known as a good playoff performer, scoring seven goals and nine assists in 62 playoff games—decent stats for a defenseman. He helped the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim reach the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, getting two goals and three assists throughout the 21-game playoff season.
Since this honored number would be dedicated to three separate players, there is no need for a banner. Honoring the No. 24, however, would be a very classy and respectable move from the Red Wings organization.
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