Banner raising: now or later?

When a team wins a banner-worthy title, tradition has it that you raise that banner to the rafters at the home opener of the next season. But is there a valid thought, at least in junior hockey, that the tradition should be broken?

Hockey in North America is set up differently than their other professional counterparts. It’s the only major league where some prospects and signees are returned to their previous teams after those teams have already started their season. So if you have a lot of NHL-drafted players on your CHL roster, sometimes you don’t get them back until week #1 or #2 of the major junior season, as NHL teams go through training camps, getting their prospects into a game or 2, and having them get the experience of being in the pros even when not playing.

So that brings us to the topic above. As much as the banners are for the fans, they should also be for the players whose work and effort earned them in the first place. Considering that there are only 3 currently hanging at the ShoWare Center for Seattle, the fact they get to raise 2 next season is an historic accomplishment. So shouldn’t all possible returning players be back before it goes up, honoring the team as a whole as opposed to all minus 1 or 2?

The Saint John Sea Dogs did this in 2011 after their Memorial Cup win, raising their banners in a late October game. It allowed for all their returning players to be part of the ceremony and receive their championship rings. Being later in the season also made it possible for graduated players and alumni to join in as well, when they may not have been able to earlier.

The home opener is always an exciting night as the fans, team, and city are all ready for the new season to start. Raising banners against a Vancouver or a Prince George on opening night isn’t going to change that. But imagine the excitement on a late October Saturday. All the returning players are back, the season is a couple weeks old, and it is Kelowna’s first visit of the season. Who better to raise your banners against than the foe you finally vanquished to earn the most important one.

Just a thought.