Blackhawks searching for ‘proper, objective way’ to decide number retirements after Marian Hossa

The Blackhawks have a jersey retirement conundrum.

Their 2010-to-2015 Stanley Cup dynasty era featured many talented, impactful players, only some of whom can realistically have their numbers raised into the United Center rafters for good.

It’s a situation that’s impossible to complain about but will also be impossible to solve in a way that pleases everyone.

“I don’t know if there is a perfect answer,” Hawks CEO Danny Wirtz told the Sun-Times on Wednesday.”We’re going to have to find a way to build the right group that can make that decision, with input from a diverse set of people that have perspectives on this.”

There are three obvious choices in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. It’s essentially guaranteed that Nos. 88, 19 and 2 will never be worn again by future Hawks. Those three stars formed the center of the core of all three championship teams and also lasted the longest with the franchise.

One can make a valid argument that Kane is both the best American-born NHL player and the best Blackhawks player of all time. Toews is one of the best centers of his generation and has set the standard for what it takes to be a captain in the modern-day NHL. Keith is one of the best defensemen of his generation and was arguably the Hawks’ best playoff performer throughout the dynasty.

But Marian Hossa’s selection as the first player from the modern dynasty era to have his number retired complicates the situation.

Hossa was a fantastic two-way forward, was part of all three Cup wins and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last year, but he nonetheless played only 543 of his 1,309 career (regular season) games and scored only 415 of his 1,134 career points with the Hawks.

When Hossa’s No. 81 jersey rises before the Hawks-Penguins game on Nov. 20 — the Hawks’ first such ceremony since retiring Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson’s shared No. 3 jersey in 2008 — it’ll open the number-retirement door for a quite a few other Hawks.

Brent Seabrook (No. 7), Patrick Sharp (No. 10) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (No. 4) were also important players and leaders on all three Cup-winning teams. Sharp tallied more points for the Hawks (532) than Hossa did. Seabrook’s 1,114 games played for the Hawks rank third in franchise history, behind only Keith and Stan Mikita.

Corey Crawford (No. 50) won only two Cups but was a crucial part of both, and he ranks third in franchise history in goaltender wins. Legendary pre-dynasty stars Steve Larmer (No. 28), Chris Chelios (No. 7, shared with Seabrook) and Doug Wilson (No. 24) also have plenty of backers among the fan base.

So where will the organization draw the line? How will drawing the line even work?

“Hossa was a very organic process, a natural thing upon his retirement,” Wirtz said. “As we go forward, we need to put some structure around this. … We’re working right now on fleshing that out so we have the proper, objective way to honor everyone.

“The good problem we have is we have 100 years of history and incredible players to celebrate and honor. There’s only so much room in the rafters, there are only so many statues you can build, so you have to build out ways in which we can honor [players] and let our fans participate in that.”

Meanwhile, as far as Hossa himself, the Hawks remain in talks with the now-43-year-old Slovak about a potential role in the organization, which he had teased during his last appearance in Chicago in April.

Hossa has a “high level of interest on the business side in addition to potentially what he can offer on the hockey side,” Hawks business president Jaime Faulkner said, and the two parties are having “frequent communication about it.”

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