The Chicago Blackhawks will have to make room for another number in the rafters of the United Center, as the team announced Thursday that they will retire the number 81 in honor of forward Marian Hossa.
Hossa, who won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2021, is now the eighth Blackhawks player to be honored with a jersey retirement, joining Glenn Hall, Keith Magnuson, Pierre Pilote, Bobby Hull, Denis Savard, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito.
Naturally, the decision to retire Hossa’s number begs another question for Blackhawks fans: which players will be next to see their jersey numbers hoisted to the rafters of the United Center?
Here are our best guesses as to which players could potentially be considered for that honor.
2 – Duncan Keith
While Keith is still playing for the Edmonton Oilers, it’s a foregone conclusion that his number will be retired as one of, if not the best, defensemen to ever play for the Blackhawks.
In addition to his three Stanley Cups, Keith is second on the Blackhawks in games played at 1,192, sixth in assists with 520, and 10th in career points with 625.
He will also in all likelihood be a Hall of Famer thanks to his two Norris Trophies and his 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy, so that will punch his ticket into Blackhawks immortality.
4 – Niklas Hjalmarsson
While the Blackhawks tend to stick to Hockey Hall of Famers when it comes to retiring jerseys (Magnuson is the only retired legend not to be enshrined in Toronto), Hjalmarsson has a good argument as a key cog in three Stanley Cup winners in Chicago.
7 – Chris Chelios/Brent Seabrook
Much like the Chicago Cubs did with Greg Maddux and Ferguson Jenkins, it seems likely that the Blackhawks would retire Chelios and Seabrook’s jersey number together.
Chelios, a Chicago-native, is a Hockey Hall of Famer who is in the top-10 in assists on the all-time list and the all-time penalty minutes king for the Blackhawks as well. Seabrook played an important role on three Stanley Cup-winning teams, was an Olympian and played 1,114 games with the Blackhawks, eclipsed only by Mikita and Keith.
10 – Patrick Sharp
Sharp would be considered a long-shot for a jersey retirement, but with four 30-goal seasons and three Stanley Cups to his credit, along with his huge popularity among fans, one cannot rule out this type of honor for the winger.
19 – Jonathan Toews
While it’s blindingly-obvious that the captain of three championship-winning teams would be honored with a jersey retirement, we’ll throw out some numbers anyway. Toews is one of eight players to play at least 1,000 games with the Blackhawks, is sixth all-time in goals with 355, is eighth all-time in assists, and is tied with Patrick Kane with 67 game-winning goals.
The only real question would be whether the Blackhawks would also honor Troy Murray by retiring his number. In addition to being the team’s radio analyst, he also scored 197 goals and dished out 291 assists in 688 games. He also won a Selke Trophy in 1986, and finished in the top-10 in voting for that award on three occasions.
27 – Jeremy Roenick
While Roenick is not a Hockey Hall of Famer, he has a really strong resume, with 513 goals in 1,363 NHL games. He scored 267 of those goals in eight seasons with the Blackhawks, including back-to-back 50-goal seasons in the 1990’s.
28 – Steve Larmer
Any list of potential honorees by the Blackhawks has to include Larmer. He played 891 games in Chicago, with 406 goals and 517 assists to his credit. He won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 1983, finished in the top-ten in Hart Trophy voting in 1991, and was a finalist for the Selke that same year.
He’s in the top-10 for the Blackhawks in goals and assists.
50 – Corey Crawford
While Tony Esposito is considered by many to be the greatest goaltender in Blackhawks history, Crawford also has a compelling argument to be considered for that honor. He is third all-time in wins with 260, second all-time in save percentage at .918 and third in goals against average with a 2.45 in that category.
Crawford had a compelling argument to win the Conn Smythe during the 2013 playoffs, with a .932 save percentage and a sparkling 1.84 goals against average, and back-stopped the team to two Stanley Cup titles.
88 – Patrick Kane
It seems clear that Kane and Toews will someday have statues outside the United Center next to those honoring Mikita and Hull, and there’s a good reason for that. Kane has played 1,095 games for Chicago, fourth-most all-time, and is third on the team in goals and second on the team in assists in the history of the organization.
Add to that the fact he’s the first American-born player to win the Hart Trophy and the Art Ross, and it’s pretty clear that arguably the greatest American player of all-time will have his jersey retired when he hangs up his skates.