Emotional ceremony for Saskatoon Blades icon, Banham jersey retired – Saskatoon

The most prolific goal scorer in Saskatoon Blades history finally has his place alongside the franchise’s all-time greats.

“A little bit surreal,” said Frank Banham. “I’m sure it’s going to take a little while to all sink in.”

On Saturday night, Banham watched on as his sons Brock and Blaze lifted the veil off his number 39 banner which was raised high above the ice at SaskTel Centre.

The number which will remain in the building’s rafters in perpetuity, officially retired by the Blades organization.

“I started to get a little emotional,” said Banham. “As a hockey player you learn to control your emotions. Obviously leading up to it there was a lot of excitement and nerves. It started to get emotional with them, but it was amazing to have them here and I’m sure they’re going to remember it for the rest of their lives. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll be here.”

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Banham’s number now hangs beside fellow Blades alumni Wendel Clark, Gerry Pinder, Brent Ashton, Bernie Federko, Brian Skrudland and Bob Bourne.

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon Blades all-time leading scorer Banham ready to see his number raised to the rafters'

Saskatoon Blades all-time leading scorer Banham ready to see his number raised to the rafters

It was a long time coming for the Blades’ all-time leader in goals and points, also holding the franchise’s record for most goals in a season with 83 tallies in the 1995-96 WHL season.

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The 20-minute ceremony included speeches from former coaches and teammates. Then Banham took the podium to reflect on the junior market that launched his two-decade long professional career.

The ceremony kicked off a memorable night for the organization, which included every Blades player sporting a throwback Banham jersey in the warmup.

What followed was a tight 2-1 Saskatoon victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings, as winger Brandon Lisowsky igniting the SaskTel Centre crowd with a penalty shot winner in overtime.

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“I think I learned some stuff (Friday) night on some of his goals,” said Lisowsky. “To have him come back here and put his number in the rafters is an awesome accomplishment.”

Both the Blades and Oil Kings sat on their benches to take in the ceremony, which was not lost on Saskatoon alternate captain Charlie Wright who himself was skating in the 250th game of his WHL career.

“It’s kind of what I’m hoping to be one day,” said Wright. “Maybe not a retired jersey, I didn’t have 83 goals in a season, but just being able to come back in the future and still feel like I’m a part of this organization.”

Almost a dozen former teammates joined Banham for the ceremony including Mark Deyell who led the crowd in a chant celebrating the teammate who he set up for countless numbers of goals.

Blades head coach Brennan Sonne said it was a special atmosphere watching Banham reunite with teammates from decades ago, a familiar experience he knows as a fellow WHL graduate.

“I love alumni stuff, it’s been one of my favourite parts of being a former Western Leaguer myself,” said Sonne. “Being able to see old teammates and connect with old friends, when we travel around I get to see them in cities too like Portland, Victoria. It’s just the wonderful connection of playing in the Western League and celebrating that success.”

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Hockey Hall of Famer and former Mighty Ducks of Anaheim teammate Teemu Selanne was among those sending in video messages for the evening as well, with Banham savouring the chance to reconnect with those he played with at both the junior and professional levels this week.

“That’s the best part about the game is the memories made and re-living those,” said Banham. “A lot of us haven’t seen each other in a lot of years, but we just take over right where we left off in telling old stories and old memories.”

In the first intermission, a line of Blades supporters snaked through the SaskTel Centre concourse as part of an autograph session for Banham to meet and greet with fans.

According to the 48-year-old, those interactions are a stark reminder of the lasting impact he’s been able to have on the Blades and its fans.

“I’m very thankful that I landed here in Saskatoon to be a part of this organization,” said Banham. “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life, that’s for sure.”

Citing former head coach Lorne Molleken, Banham’s final words to the crowd on hand Saturday spoke about legacy and wanting to leave the team better than he found it.

Now, his uniform will do just that hanging over generations of Blades players to come.

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“May we leave our footprints behind and tonight my jersey becomes part of that legacy,” said Banham to close out his speech. “From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all very much.”

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