The Halifax Mooseheads will retire Nathan MacKinnon's No. 22 jersey at their home opener on Sept. 22, the team announced this week.
He will be the fourth Mooseheads player to receive the honour. Jody Shelley, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Alex Tanguay are the others.
In 2013, Cole Harbour's MacKinnon became the first Mooseheads player to be the top pick in the NHL draft when the Colorado Avalanche called his name.
He played two seasons with the Mooseheads, recording 63 goals and 90 assists in 101 regular-season games. He had another 61 points in the playoffs.
In May, 2013, he helped the team to the Memorial Cup title. Halifax defeated Portland in the championship game in Saskatoon.
Mooseheads president Brian Urquhart has been with the team for more than 20 years.
Halifax Mooseheads president Brian Urquhart has been with the organization for 20 seasons. (Halifax Mooseheads)
"I was here when Nathan joined the team and … when we won the Memorial Cup," Urquhart said.
He said he has watched his progression "from when he joined the organization on Day 1 and right up to being a Stanley Cup champion and one of the best players in the world … so it's kind of neat to see this story come full circle."
'Badge of honour'
Urquhart said players who have gone on to successful careers are a "badge of honour" for the province and its hockey fans.
MacKinnon, 28, is at the top of that list, he said.
Urquhart said MacKinnon grew up cheering for the Mooseheads and his family billeted one of the team's players.
According to Urquhart, there are posters of MacKinnon in the team's dressing room and players watch him on television and try to emulate him.
Fans are already excited about the team celebrating its 30th anniversary at their home opener against the Charlottetown Islanders on Sept. 22, and retiring MacKinnon's number will add "gas to the fire," Urquhart said.
Austin Hurdis, left, plays with the Cole Harbour Wings and is pictured with his father, Brian. (Jessica Hurdis)
MacKinnon played his minor hockey in Cole Harbour.
Austin Hurdis, 12, plays in the same minor hockey association and says he thinks the tribute to MacKinnon is well deserved.
"He did a lot for the Mooseheads, especially in their Memorial Cup run," Austin said.
"He always makes time to come to Cole Harbour almost, I'd say, every year, and surprises the kids. He does a lot for this community, so I definitely consider him an inspiration."
Austin's father, Brian, echoes his son's assessment of MacKinnon's commitment to the community.
He said the Cole Harbour Bel Ayr Minor Hockey Association has handed out Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon awards for the hardest worker on every team.
He said MacKinnon "always takes the time to send a personal message to all the winners and it's really appreciated," he said. "It gives the kids a lifelong goal and gives them inspiration."
Breton McPhee plays for the Cole Harbour Wings. (Sarah and Jesse McPhee)
Breton McPhee, 13, also plays with the Cole Harbour Wings and says he's very appreciative of what MacKinnon has done for his community.
McPhee hopes to meet MacKinnon some day.
He described him as a great player who is fast, has good hand-eye co-ordination and knows his surroundings very well.
"It's great that they're retiring his jersey," McPhee said. "I feel like he deserves it."
Breton's father, Jeff McPhee, said he also thinks the honour is well deserved.
He said he remembers when MacKinnon attended the annual general meeting of the minor hockey association with his parents after his rookie season with Colorado and they raised a banner for him at Cole Harbour Place — just as they had for Crosby years before.
McPhee said MacKinnon sets a great example for children playing hockey in Cole Harbour like his son.
"It's hard work, determination, just being a good teammate and contributing and working hard every day," he said.
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