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WWYDW(TE): The Level of Excellence

The Oilers announced that they’ll be raising Kevin Lowe’s No. 4 to the rafters on Nov. 5 when the team hosts the New York Rangers, which is fitting as Lowe won his sixth Stanley Cup with New York in 1994.

In the announcement, the Oilers also mentioned plans to acknowledge the greats of the franchise. The team’s rule has been that only players inducted to the Hall of Fame will have their numbers retired and raised to the rafters.

Lowe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of 2020’s class, so he’ll join Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, and Glenn Anderson as players with their numbers retired by the Oilers. Announcer Rod Phillips, also a Hall of Famer, has a banner next to these numbers. Al Hamilton from the WHA days is the only non-Hall of Famer to have his number retired by the organization.

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That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday TUESDAY EDITION question. Should the Oilers loosen their stance on retiring non-Hall of Fame numbers? Or should they instead create some kind of Level of Excellence to honour other greats from the organization’s past?

As a comparison, the Toronto Blue Jays only retire the numbers of Hall of Fame players.

Roy Halladay, who passed away in late 2017, had his number retired by the Blue Jays on Opening Day in 2018, though he wasn’t officially put in the Hall of Fame until a year later. Roberto Alomar was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2011 and had his jersey retired that same year. Alomar’s number has since been removed due to a sexual misconduct allegation.

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The Blue Jays also feature a section at the Rogers Centre called The Level of Excellence, which honours all-time greats such as Tony Fernandez, Joe Carter, George Bell, Carlos Delgado, announcer Tom Cheek, and manager Cito Gaston. Names like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion who won’t reach Cooperstown will also eventually be honoured on this level.

I would love to see the Oilers do a similar ring of honour visible from the ice at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Players like Ryan Smyth, Doug Weight, Bill Ranford, Esa Tikkanen, and Curtis Joseph who aren’t Hall of Famers but were excellent members of the Oilers should absolutely have their names honoured in the stadium.

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind the Oilers relaxing their jersey retirement rule because I wouldn’t want to see anybody else wear No. 94 for the organization, but I understand why they do it the way they do.

What say you, Nation? How should the Oilers honour all-time greats from the team’s past who aren’t in the Hall of Fame? Should they relax their jersey retirement rule? Or do a Level of Excellence like the Blue Jays do?  


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