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Hawks retire No. 3 in honor of Pilote and Magnuson

by John Kreiser /
The Chicago Blackhawks lifted No. 3 to the United Center rafters Wednesday night in honor of Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson, two defensemen who defined different eras in franchise history.

The ceremony was held prior to the Hawks' 2-1 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins.

Pilote played the Blackhawks from 1955-68, during which he won the Norris Trophy three times, was an eight-time All-Star, served as captain for seven seasons, and was part of the last Blackhawks team to win the Stanley Cup in 1961. His 400 assists are second-all time among Hawks defensemen, and he's enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"I have received several awards and honors in my time," the 76-year-old Pilote said in his speech before a sellout crowd, "but I am truly humbled by this one."

Magnuson, who played for the Hawks from 1969-80, was a rugged stay-at-home defenseman who didn't put up the offensive numbers that Pilote did. But his passion and grit — not to mention his 1,442 career penalty minutes in his 11 seasons with the Hawks — made him a fan favorite in the 1970s. Magnuson also became a Hawks coach upon his retirement, and maintained close ties to the organization as the president of the Blackhawks Alumni Association after his playing days were over.

"Keith played with reckless abandon," Hawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said. "He played with toughness. He was a winner."

"I know when they brought back Hull, Esposito and Mikita last year, that was something you remember. All of the guys on the bench stand and you get the chills."
-- Adam Burish

Tragically, Magnuson didn't live to see this honor bestowed upon him. He was killed in an automobile accident in 2003. He was represented by his family.

"Although my dad and Pierre had different styles of play, they had one thing in common: the love of the Indian-head sweater," Kevin Magnuson, Keith's son, said during his speech. "My dad took tremendous pride in what the Blackhawks sweater meant to him. Our family will always look at that number in the rafters and remember how proud he was to be a Chicago Blackhawk."

The retirement of No. 3 continues a trend by the Hawks organization under Wirtz and team president John McDonough of honoring past heroes — the franchise honored jersey retirees Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito with special nights last season.

It was the sixth number retired by the Blackhawks and the first worn by a defenseman. The team also has retired No. 1 (Glenn Hall), No. 9 (Hull), No. 18 (Denis Savard), No. 21 (Mikita) and No. 35 (Esposito).

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