Monday, November 01, 2004

Lightning should retire #33

When the NHL does get back to the ice, the Tampa Bay fans have been waiting to see the banner raising ceremony celebrating last seasons' Stanley Cup win. The St. Pete Times Forum was supposed to do this during the first home game of the season, but since the games up 'till now have been canceled, they have put off honoring the Lightning as 2003-04 champs.

I was thinking that the Stanley Cup banner isn't the only thing that should be raised to the rafters. I think they should also include a little tribute to one of the more interesting events in the Lightning's 10 year history.

I think they should retire #33 and hang it in the rafters. Why? Well, when the hockey franchise first wanted to get on board, the then General Manager, Phil Esposito, signed a young lady from Quebec to a try-out contract.

Manon Rheaume stands in Hockey history by being a pioneer in the world of sports. She is credited with 1 pre-season game start in the loss against the St. Louis Blues. According to her book Manon: Alone in Front of the Net, it was a long and tough journey searching for respect among her peers. All she ever wanted was a chance to follow her dream.

To honor her efforts would be a great PR move for hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise. With an emphasis of "equal rights," more women could be interested in the sport as fans or players. Many women who labor with the NWHL or in colleges all over North America would appreciate the attention.

There's only a couple of things wrong with this idea. First off, Fred Modin currently wears the number 33. With out a doubt, he's done more in a Lightning jersey more than what Rheaume did. I don't see him changing numbers. Secondly, when Rheaume signed the pro contract, she was wary about sports teams using her as a side show freak. Exploiting her isn't exactly right.

There is precedent in the NHL for honoring past players without officially retiring the number. The Maple Leafs for example have chosen to wave banners with the likeness of past heroes. Alternate captain Gary Roberts wears number 7, but it's also used to honor "King" Clancy and Tim Horton as well.
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