Sonny Milano wore number 12 with the Anaheim Ducks and when he was signed by the Capitals, he chose the same digits with the Hershey Bears.
Milano, however, will not wear the number in Washington after being called up to the Capitals on Wednesday.
The reason is all too familiar to Caps fans.
Sonny Milano will wear #12 for Hershey, while Julian Napravnik will move to #15. pic.twitter.com/UTH8448X05
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) October 18, 2022
Without saying a word, the Capitals appear to have unofficially retired Peter Bondra’s number 12. After Bonzai was traded during the Capitals’ fire sale of 2003-04, only one other player has worn the number.
Jeff Friesen wore 12 after the Capitals acquired the forward in a trade before the start of the 2005-06 season. Friesen would only play 33 games that year for the team.
Since then, no one else has been given 12 or worn it during a game for the team. Sixteen years have passed.
Bondra scored 503 goals and 892 points in his 1,081 game long NHL career. Bondra tallied 472 of those goals and 825 of those points with the Caps. Bondra scored 50 goals twice, led the NHL goals in twice, was a five-time All-Star, and is 1 of 47 Players to score 5 or more goals in a game. Bondra, along with Olie Kolzig, helped lead the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1998.
Bondra remains one of the team’s all-time greats, but the Capitals have opted not to officially retire his number 12 to the rafters. He remains in the area and is a great ambassador of the team.
A season after Peter Bondra retired in 2006-07, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis did an online chat with fans on ESPN.com and this is how he explained his rationale.
“As you may have heard, we decided to retire Mike Gartner’s jersey and number next season. He was a long-term great player for the Capitals and is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Retiring numbers is a very difficult process, especially for a team like the Capitals who have never won a Stanley Cup. We need to be thoughtful on whose numbers we retire and why and when.”
“Certainly Peter Bondra is one of the all-time greats in our team. He is also a great man and I consider him a personal friend.”
“When the time is right, I am sure things will work out the right way and Peter Bondra will have his day, but he just retired last season so we all need to give this some time.”
Bondra’s day still has not come, but Milano’s jersey assignment suggests it still may.
Milano, when he likely makes his Capitals debut against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, will wear the number 15.
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