Hall puts 4 on the floor

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

“To you from failing hands we throw the torch, be it yours to hold high.”

– A passage from Flanders Fields, adopted as a motto by the Montreal Canadiens.

They don’t have any spare torches in Edmonton at the moment, so the failing hands of Oilers management threw Taylor Hall a 4 instead.

Right now it’s 4 on the floor, Kevin Lowe’s number back in play on the last-place team in the NHL, but by dusting off a piece of storied history and entrusting it to an 18-year-old, they announced Wednesday that the future means more than the past.

“Kevin seemed pretty adamant in passing on the torch,” said the new face of the franchise. “He thought it would be a pretty good idea for me to wear it and start a new era. Talking to everyone, fans and everyone, they thought it would be a pretty cool idea.”

Why not? An organization that clings to yesterday like few others is now so heavily invested in tomorrow it can’t afford to look back. They’ve sunk so much hope into the three kids who received their colours on Wednesday — Hall, Jordan Eberle (No. 14) and Magnus Paajarvi (91) — that it doesn’t really matter what numbers they wear, as long as they wear them well.

Pressure on Hall to wear No. 4? Yeah, like there wouldn’t be any pressure on Hall if he wore No. 8.

For all the franchise-saving that’s expected of these new kids on the block, they might as well don 99, 11 and 17.

“There’s always pressure, so I don’t think a number is going to change that,” said Hall, well aware that the weight of a city will be riding on his shoulder pads regardless of what digits are on his back. “I still have to be the same player.”

It’s not the first time the Oilers gave a retired star’s number to a rookie in anticipation of him resurrecting the franchise: Jason Arnott inherited Paul Coffey’s No. 7 when he came to Edmonton. “A special number for a special player,” former equipment guy Sparky Kulchisky said at the time.

The same formula applies here. Only when Sparky said it the Oilers were only three years removed from a championship, not 21.

If time has taught them anything, it’s this: Be it recent debacles or long-ago championships, there no future in the past. So grab whatever numbers you like, boys, and help make this thing right again.

“When we become a good team they’re going to be a huge part of that success,” said general manager Steve Tambellini. “They’re going to be together for a long time, hopefully.

“It’s pretty significant for someone who’s won six Stanley Cups to present that No. 4 to a young man, I’m sure Taylor is very proud. Hopefully the same amount of wins come out of it.”

Lowe has always been a team-first guy, so clinging to his number never really crossed his mind. In fact, he says it’ll be exciting to see it action again, on a player who might just do it justice.

“He looks right in No. 4,” said Lowe. “I wanted to make sure he wanted to wear it, I didn’t want to assume anything, but I knew from the moment I laid eyes on him that if we drafted him he was going to get No. 4.

“It wasn’t difficult by any stretch. I talked to enough people, wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing, sending the right messages.”

That yesterday is taking a back seat to tomorrow.

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos