Detroit Red Wings Need to Retire Vladimir Konstantinov's No. 16

Matthew ShepardContributor IIIJuly 1, 2011

Defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates with the Stanley Cup after a championship game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The Red Wings won the game, 2-1.
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Detroit Red Wings retired Steve Yzerman's No. 19 very shortly after he retired. This came as no surprise for Wings fans, but something still seemed to be missing.

Vladimir Konstantinov attended Yzerman's retirement ceremony. Konstantinov has not played in over 10 years and no one wears his number.

Why is it not retired? 

Konstantinov could do it all. He could skate, shoot and check. His open-ice hits were legendary. Konstantinov's defensive play helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup back in 1997. 

Sadly, six days after the Wings won the Cup, he feel victim to a car accident. Fellow defenseman Slava Fetisov and Wings trainer Sergei Mnatsakanov were in the car with Konstantinov when the accident happened.

The Limousine carrying them crashed into a tree. Fetisov was lucky enough to only have minor rib injuries, but Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov were not as lucky. Both suffered massive head injuries. For Wings fans and players, the championship celebration ended early.

Fans gathered around the hospital and waited. Detroit soon knew the extend to the injuries. Both Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov would never have normal lives again.

Detroit dedicated the 1997-98 season to Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov. The most memorable moment of this season was the patch. The Wings wore a patch that said "believe" in both English and Russian with the initials VK and SM.

Konstantinov's locker was transformed into a shrine and players spent countless hours with him trying to get him to remember anything.

When Detroit won the Cup in 1998, even Washington Capitals fans were clapping when Konstantinov held the Cup. The whole league respected him.

After 1998, Konstantinov has made a few appearances, but has mostly been off the radar.

He currently lives in the Detroit area but requires full-time nursing.

When Detroit singed Brett Hull, fans wondered what number he would pick. Hull picked No. 17. Even though Hull never played with Konstantinov, he still respected him, and Detroit needs to honor him soon.

Detroit Tigers fans saw Sparky Anderson's No. 11 retired. This was a long time coming and no one dared to wear No. 11. The Tigers finally retired his number after he passed. It would have been nice to see him alive to see that.

The Wings should not make this mistake for Konstantinov. He gave everything to play in HockeyTown, and now it is time to honor him.