As kids, and even as adults, we often have the need to look up to our favorite athletes. Being 28, my first hero was #16, Pat LaFontaine. What more could you ask for from a hero? I suppose I could think of one thing; to be able to look up to my hero everytime I walk into my church, The HSBC Arena. That one thing was given to me two years ago when I was able to witness his jersey being hoisted into the rafters, giving him hockey immortality.
With what has transpired in the NHL recently, its hard to imagine that my children, our children, will ever have the opportunity to witness this type of honor. Who will they look up to when their favorite players leave the city they had built a bond with, created memories with, and touched, more deeply than they may know. Free agency, the way it is now, has ruined this aspect of our game.
This is a highly regarded honor, and I don't believe it should be bestowed upon anyone that comes through a city. I am not arguing that it should be given every year, every 5 years or every ten years. It is something rare, and something that absolutely needs to be earned. What I am arguing, is that the opportunity to witness a player show greatness, and build a legacy in one city, is slowly slipping away.
In the future, will there be true heroes raised to the rafters, or will there be players given this honor simply for the sake of giving it? If the latter applies, hockey will truly have sunk into a tragic abyss. No more will we be able to tell our children, or grandchildren of the many years we spent watching our favorite players skate up and down the ice of the very building we were in. What will we talk about at intermission? A simple question perhaps, but really, what will we talk about? Who will we, literally, look up to?