In light of Kevin Lowe’s No. 4 retirement, we are going to have a look at other former Edmonton Oilers players who have worn the number since. Generally, in the history of the game, defencemen tend to lean towards lower numbers, while forwards get a bit more creative. In recent years, this way of choosing a number has almost gone away.
Only three Oilers players have ever worn the number four. This is largely in part to Kevin Lowe holding the number for 15 seasons between 1979-1998. He had claimed the number four in his first season with the team, which happened to be the first year that the Oilers were a part of the NHL. He had carved out a very impressive career with the Oilers on his way to hoisting the Stanley Cup on five separate occasions.
Lowe had spent 13 consecutive seasons with the Oilers before being traded to the New York Rangers ahead of the 1992-93 season. He was the captain of the team in his final season, and due to his impact with his teammates and on the ice for the team over that span, nobody was going to touch that number.
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After four seasons with the Rangers, Lowe made his return in free agency to the Oilers, where he wore the number four on the back of his jersey once again from 1996-98, when he retired where it all began. The number was finally worn again after it was left untouched for 13 seasons.
This number was finally picked back up again by a rookie named Taylor Hall. There could have been so many worse options than the first overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft to represent this historic number in Oilers history.
Fans had grown accustomed to seeing Lowe wear this number, however, the second player to wear this number for the Oilers was completely different. As a speedy, goal-scoring winger, Hall amassed 132 goals and 328 points for the franchise. He wore the number four from 2010-2016 before he was eventually traded in the infamous 1-for-1 swap of Adam Larsson and Hall with the New Jersey Devils.
He changed numbers to start the next chapter in his career with the Devils, as the number four was already retired for longtime captain Scott Stevens. He elected to go with the number nine instead. After a short tenure with the Devils, Arizona Coyotes traded for Hall, where he wore 91 on his back. Though the number four wasn’t retired from a former Winnipeg Jets player or a Coyotes player, it was an honoured number worn by Lars-Erik Sjoberg on the original Jets franchise. Hall’s decision to not wear this number could have also stemmed from wanting a new number to go with a new beginning.
Hall put on the number four once again when he signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Traded at the deadline to the Boston Bruins, the iconic number four in that city was not available. The remembrance of Bobby Orr for representing the number four as a Bruin will never die. Hall changed to the number 71, where he and it remains for another four years.
The last and most recent player to wear the number four in Edmonton is Kris Russell. This is a player that reminds everyone of the man that once wore the number four in orange, blue, and white. Russell is a defensive defenceman who thinks about his own end first (“Kris Russell proud of grunt work he does for Edmonton Oilers,” Edmonton Sun, 10/23/20). He is a staple on the penalty kill and always relied on in his own end to block shots and defend the net.
Russell had worn number four for two other franchises before joining the Oilers for the 2016-17 season. He had the number on his back in St. Louis for two seasons and Calgary for three. After joining the Dallas Stars in 2016, he reverted back to the number two which he had worn in his rookie season with Columbus.
Once a part of the Oilers and Hall having just departed to New Jersey, Russell chose to wear number four once again. It could’ve been a mental thing where he thought that he could continue with the best years of his career following his time with the Flames. He has now worn the number four for five seasons with the Oilers.
The 2020-21 season will have been Russell or anyone else’s last season to wear the number four while repping an Oilers jersey, as it will be retired on Nov. 5 in honour of everything Kevin Lowe did for the city and franchise. As we remember each of these three players’ contributions to the Oilers, a question remains as to who the next retired number in Edmonton will be, and who else has worn it.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.