Habs cherish their greats

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Until the Canadiens can squeeze more Stanley Cup banners into the rafters of the Bell Centre, they're committed to putting up the sweaters of those players who helped win 24 championships.

Unlike the Maple Leafs, who have retired just two jerseys and prefer to keep six 'honoured' numbers in circulation, the Habs now have nine men with the ultimate tribute as No. 12 was raised last night for Yvan Cournoyer and Dickie Moore. The two forwards shared 16 Cups between 1952-53 and 1978-79.

The Canadiens' organization made a decision a couple of years ago to increase the retired numbers, leading up to the club's centennial in 2009. Until 1995, two years after their most recent Cup, only Jacques Plante (1), Doug Harvey (2), Jean Beliveau (4), Howie Morenz (7), Rocket Richard (9), Guy Lafleur (10) and Henri Richard (16) had been recognized.

The team will be giving Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion's No. 5 similar treatment on March 11, 2006, against the New York Rangers.

"Compare it to the other dynasties in sports, such as the Celtics, the Yankees, where you have a whole lot more jerseys retired," club vice-president Donald Beauchamp said yesterday.

"Ownership and management felt that with the centennial coming up, it was time to do the right thing and get the proper jerseys retired."

Beginning in 2006-07, it's expected some players of Montreal's 1970s Cup winners will get their due, such as Serge Savard (18), Larry Robinson (19), Ken Dryden (29) current general manager Bob Gainey (23) and down the road, Patrick Roy (33).

Before Dryden departed as Leafs' president, it was his desire to keep most of the numbers active. No decision has been reached by the club on honouring a number this season after Darryl Sittler's No. 27 was raised in 2003. Numbers 5 and 6 are retired for the late Bill Barilko and Ace Bailey respectively, with 1, 7, 9 and 10 honoured. That means Hall of Famers Frank Mahovlich and Sittler have had to share 27 with the likes of Bryan Marchment, Miro Ihnacak and John Kordic.

"I'm not sure where I want to stand on that issue," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "I know there's great respect in either situation and I also know it's one of Dave Keon's pet peeves."

The former captain would be a slam dunk to have his No. 14 hanging at the Air Canada Centre, but still holds a grudge against the club for its policy not to retire jerseys.

"It's a great thing here in Montreal, but a hundred years from now, they'll be running out of numbers," Quinn said with a laugh.


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