Tonight the Phoenix Coyotes induct their first “Phoenix Coyote” into their illustrious Ring of Honor as they are set to retire former captain Teppo Numminen's number.
The Coyotes have four other names in this exclusive Ring of Honor, but none of them actually played with the Phoenix Coyotes, three of them played for the Winnipeg Jets and the Coyotes, being the generous and outstanding citizens they are, carried over their legacy.
Those players are Bobby Hull, whose number was “un-retired” for his son Brett when he joined the Coyotes for five games and retired, Thomas Steen, who spent his entire career with the Jets before retiring the year prior to their move to Phoenix, and Dale Hawerchuk, who was honored by the Coyotes in 2007, even though he never played a game with Coyotes, the team still felt him a worthy candidate for Ring of Honor credentials. The fourth player in the ROH is the former coach Wayne Gretzky, but his number was retired league wide and before he joined forces with the Coyotes.
Tonight, is a horse of a different color. Tonight, the Coyotes finally get to place a number in the retirees list that is one of their own. Tonight, the Phoenix Coyotes honor Teppo Numminen.
Numminen was the captain of the Coyotes from the end of the Tkachuk era, til the rebuilding era, which was the 2001 season to the end of the 2003 season. He was the first captain that was chosen by the Phoenix Coyotes and not the Winnipeg Jets, thus is my opinion making him the first real Coyotes captain. He spent 3/4 of his career with the Winnipeg Jets and Phoenix Coyotes franchise and was the last captain to lead the team into the playoffs.
Numminen was a silent killer and to people watching the game he wasn't the player everyone was watching, but as a player, you knew he was there. He had a plus minus of +68 during his time as a Coyote, with all but one season being on the plus side of the category. Teppo was an iron man for the Coyotes as well, playing over 72 games a season every season he wore the Coyotes jersey, and going a full 82 games three seasons in a row.
Numminen might not been the flashiest player, nor scored goal after goal, posting assist after assist. But he was solid as a rock and earned the name “Repo Man” for his ability to take the puck back from opponents and give it back tot he rightful owners, his team.
He was named to the NHL All-Star team three years in a row from the 1998-99 season to the 2000-2001 season, and those are the most awards he would get as a player in the NHL. He did win two silver medals and a bronze medal in the Winter Olympics for team Finland. But its not the awards that get your number retired, its the importance you were to the team retiring your number. And his importance is still felt on the team today, even though it has been five seasons since he last donned the Coyotes uniform, which was the old school Coyote on Acid jersey. When talking with phoenixcoyotes.com Shane Doan praised Numminen for his leadership and professionalism, saying he always looked up to him during his entire career.
So in a way, as long as Shane Doan is a member of the Coyotes, there will always be a little bit of Teppo with the team. And his leadership on the ice was all the team needed, as he was not always the most vocal person in the room. But just being in his presence brought respect to the way he played and the dedication he had for the game. And now with his name in the ROH, the team can always look up and use his banner as a symbol for the leadership that he displayed.
I personally always hoped that Numminen would sign with the Coyotes as a swan song and retire the same way as he came in, as a member of the Coyotes/Jets organization. There were many other applicants out there to become the first player of the Coyotes organization to have their number retired first, but none of them had the impact that Teppo Numminen had on this team.
They could have chosen Mike Gartner's number “22″, who was probably the greatest player to play for Phoenix, even if it was only for two seasons. They could have chosen Jeremy Roenick's “97″, who was a great hockey player for the team, a fan favorite, and an outstanding citizen with the community. Or they could have retired Rick Tocchet's number “92″, but that might be a bit of… a… gamble, if you will, with the PR department.
But the team chose to wait a few years for the right man to retire and put his name in the Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets Ring of Honor and that man, that player, that Coyote is Teppo Numminen. Congratulations Teppo, hopefully the team will not let you down tonight against the Rangers, and now your legacy with the Phoenix Coyotes will be remembered for a long time to come.
About the Author
Written by Matt Shott
22 year old hockey fan born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. Weird, huh? Entire family minus myself and my brother were born in Toronto, ON so thats how I became a fan of this great sport. I have worked at Ice rinks since I was 14 and spend all day reading hockey stories. I eat, sleep, coach, play, and basically LIVE hockey. I became a Red Wing fan thanks to EA Sports NHL '95 and haven't looked back since (Why would I?). Parents were Season Ticket holders for the Phoenix Coyotes since day 1 and when they moved to Portland 3 years ago, I picked up where they left off and have found a soft spot for them. I moved to Toronto in January '10 to attend Centennial College's Sports Journalism program, so I am becoming a Maple Leafs fan in the process. Its hard to do after 16 years of being a Red Wings fan. So to recap: Wings fan at heart, Leafs fan on the outside, and always carry a soft spot for the Coyotes.