In a sport where you only have 23 players on the roster at any one time with players in the AHL that also have their own identification number, it is easy to see that numbers are often reused when players leave and join organizations and bounce around. When you combine that with the knowledge the Hurricanes have five honored numbers in 2, 9, 10, 17, and 19, it is easy to see that numbers will be reused a lot.
However, when looking through the Carolina Hurricanes numbers list on Hockey Reference, something caught my eye. Nobody has worn number 12 since 2016 when then-captain of the Carolina Hurricanes and the franchise leader in almost every stat since relocation in 1997, Eric Staal, was dealt to the New York Rangers. You may be wondering where I am going with this, so please bear with me.
To the older guard of the Canes fanbase, number 12 is synonymous with the heyday of the organization. Staal’s 100-point season in 2006, and his heroics time and again in the playoffs during that decade. Thinking about those times will fill a person who has followed this team for so long nostalgia. To most fans, number 12 means Eric Staal. They are one and the same. A true Hurricanes legend, and the first elite product of the organization.
I’ve made the case before Eric Staal has a hall of fame case, and when it is all said and done, he might have a shot. But that was more player-focused. What becomes of his iconic number 12 in the city he spent the first 12 years of his illustrious career? No one has worn it since his departure at the 2016 trade deadline, and it seems more and more likely that no one will want to touch it.
It is a great question that I have been asked time and again. Will it ever be worn again? Will it join 2, 10, and 17 hanging from the rafters at PNC Arena?
My honest thought is that I doubt we will ever see number 12 being worn on the ice again in Hurricanes’ colors. Staal was proof that hockey would work in Carolina the second he started to flourish. He holds records that break even the great Ron Francis’ numbers. Sebastian Aho *might* get close to some of them if he extends his current deal, but Staal is the epitome of a Hurricanes legend.
I’ve made the case before that the number 12 should be the next number that drops off the sky in Raleigh, and I very much stand by that. Staal is currently in the Panthers organization on a professional tryout. When he decides that his time in the hockey world has concluded, I’d be shocked if the Hurricanes didn’t announce his number retirement. It’s such a common number that hasn’t been worn since his departure 6 years ago.