Boston has a long hockey history. As one of the original six NHL franchises, the Boston Bruins have had their fair share of talented players. In the 1920s, the Bruins were led by Eddie Shore, Lionel Hitchman, and Dit Clapper. Milt Schmidt centered the famed ‘Kraut Line’ from the 1930s and into the 1940s. In the 1950s and 1960s, fans got to see the likes of John Bucyk, Phil Esposito, and Bobby Orr. By the time the 1970s and 1980s rolled around, they had the pleasure to watch Cam Neely, Rick Middleton, Terry O’Reilly, and Ray Bourque take the ice in Boston. The accomplishments of these famed stars live on forever in TD Garden, as each of them has have joined the honored group of Boston Bruins retired numbers.
All of these stars have established themselves as Boston sports legends. The last one of them to play a game for the Bruins, was Bourque in 2000. Yet, Boston is as competitive as ever this century, with three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals over the last decade, and a title in 2011. That kind of success is not sustained without star talent on the ice and strong leadership in the locker room. The same traits found in Hall of Famers are found in Boston’s current players. So of those currently donning the black and gold, who could end up with a banner at the roof of TD Garden?
Who Could Join the Boston Bruins Retired Numbers
33- Zdeno Chara, Defenceman
Zdeno Chara is best known as a Boston Bruin. He was initially drafted by the New York Islanders and eventually traded to the Ottawa Senators. From there he ended up on the free-agent market. The now 42-year-old defenceman stands at 6’ 9” (the tallest to ever play in the NHL) and weighs 250 lbs. A dominant physical force for the duration of his career, Chara has established himself as someone who can completely disrupt a team’s offensive game-plan. His work ethic is unlike any other, as he is committed to constant improvement in his play on the ice. That work ethic has made him one of the best of a generation as a seven-time All-Star.
Chara’s other individual accolades include a Norris trophy in 2009 and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2011 following the Bruins’ most recent championship. Chara’s slapshot is one of the best the NHL has ever seen. Chara set the record for hardest slapshot in the 2008-09 season at the All-Star skills competition at 105.4 mph. He broke his record in 2011 at 105.9 mph, and again in 2012 at 108.8 mph.
Chara’s ability as a locker room leader has been crucial to the success of Boston in recent years. He has not only played on the same defensive pair as both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo in recent years but acted as a mentor to the young defenders. McAvoy has been vocal about the impact that Chara’s tutoring has had on his career thus far. This skill is part of what makes ‘Big Z’ one of the most respected players in the NHL and Boston’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy last season.
37- Patrice Bergeron, Centre
Patrice Bergeron was initially slated for Boston’s farm system when he was drafted in the second round of the 2003 NHL draft. But his stellar play in the preseason sent him to the NHL roster. He has since developed into arguably the best two-way player of his generation of hockey players. Bergeron is one of the main locker room leaders alongside Chara and it earned him an alternate captaincy in 2006, making him the longest-tenured alternate captain currently playing in the NHL.
Bergeron has had one of the most decorated careers the NHL has seen in recent memory. He has won the Selke Award for best two way forward four times in his career. That’s tied for most by any player with only Bob Gainey of the Montreal Canadiens. Bergeron has been a nominee every year for the last eight. The award should practically be renamed the Patrice Bergeron Award because it seems that it’s his award to lose every year. He has been an NHL All-Star only twice, which is an insult to the caliber of player he has been.
For the last few seasons, Bergeron has centered what has been nicknamed “The Perfection Line”. Largely considered to be the best top line in the NHL right now, Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak drive Boston’s offense. Together they scored a combined 260 points last season. They created one of the deadliest units in the NHL with Bergeron at the core. Oh, and by the way, Bergeron is one of the best at winning faceoffs, with a 57.1 percent win rate for his entire 16-year career. So if you line up against him at the dot in your defensive zone, you should hope your goalie is hot.
The Borderline Candidates
63- Brad Marchand, Left Wing
Outside of New England, the hatred for Marchand runs deep. But in Boston, everyone loves the “Little Ball of Hate”. A world-class trash talker, Marchand is known for his antagonistic ways and just gets under everyone’s skin. One of his defining moments came in the 2018 playoffs when he licked Toronto’s Leo Komarov and said “I thought he wanted to cuddle. I just wanted to get close to him. He keeps trying to get close to me. I don’t know if he’s got a thing for me or what. He’s cute.”
Although Boston’s former third-round selection has developed the reputation of being a pest, he can produce offensively as well. He has been selected to the All-Star game twice and hit the 100 point mark last season. His point totals have only been rising since 2015 and he is on pace to pass 100 points this season. While he did not seem like a superstar until the last three seasons or so, he is producing like one and is a cornerstone player in Boston.
The main issue with having Marchand’s number retired is his history with the Department of Player Safety as well as his just-above-average production for the first five years of his career. Before 2015 he had never scored more than 55 points in a season. Being an agitator also comes with its consequences. On six occasions he has been suspended for a total 19 games and he has been fined $24,500 throughout his career. Those fines and suspensions combined with mediocre production early on could hurt his chances of never seeing 63 worn on another Boston uniform.
40- Tuukka Rask, Goaltender
Tuukka Rask was a first-round draft selection by the rival Toronto Maple Leafs in 2005. He would never play a game in blue and white, however, being traded to Boston in exchange for Andrew Raycroft. He eventually found himself in the starting role for the Boston Bruins. The numbers throughout his career are solid, with a 2.27 goals-against-average, a .921 save percentage, and 47 shutouts in 510 games played. The 2013-14 season was one of his best when he posted a 36-15-6 record with a 2.04 goals-against-average and .930 save percentage to go along with seven shutouts. Those numbers were good enough to win a Vezina.
Playoff runs have been the name of the game for Rask’s success with Boston. In 2012-2013, Boston made it to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks on the back of Rask. He had a 1.88 goals-against-average and .940 save percentage in 22 games, three of which were shutouts. Rask is also responsible for Boston playing in the Stanley Cup Finals against the St. Louis Blues last season. While not as good as his 2013 run, he still posted a 2.02 goals-against-average and .934 save percentage. If Boston’s offence had been more productive, they could have won a championship.
Holding Him Back
Holding Rask back from having his number retired is that he has not performed in the big games. In 2010, the Bruins lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs after taking a 3-0 series lead. Then there was the collapse in game six against the Blackhawks where he gave up two goals in under two minutes. Finally, there were the two goals given up on four shots in the first period of game seven against St. Louis that completely demoralized the team. Without a title to show that Rask can win the big games, he probably won’t have his number retired.
Time Will Tell
88-David Pastrnak, Right Wing
To be clear, there is still a long way to go until we can say with any definition whether or not David Pastrnak will be worthy of having his number retired. But if he keeps scoring at the pace he is now, it won’t be questionable for long. In 343 career games, he has 320 points. As the last piece of the Perfection Line mentioned here, he is also the youngest at only 23 years old. The dynamic young right-wing continues to dazzle everyone with his highlight-reel scoring ability and crisp passing through traffic. He is the brightest young spot on Boston’s roster and the team will likely build around him.
Pastrnak does not have a lot of personal accolades just yet but he has the time to acquire them. He has one All-Star game under his belt and will likely be selected for another one. He is currently the front runner to take home the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Award for most goals scored in a season with 20 in 23 games this season. “Pasta”, as he is affectionately known by teammates and fans, is on pace for 128 points this season. That could be enough to put him at the top of the league at the end of the season if Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s production slows down.
Boston already has 11 numbers retired and there is potential for five more in players currently on the roster. A rich history of talent and success runs deep in their roots and is embedded in their winning culture. Chara, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask, and Pastrnak have all seen to that and have helped build a team that Boston fans can be proud of.