On February 22, 1934 the Bruins retired their first number in franchise history. The Bruins honored defenceman Lionel Hitchman by retiring his number 3 sweater. Hitchman wasn't known for his offensive skills especially during an era where defenceman rarely put up big numbers. During a majority of his career he did however played along side legend Eddie Shore creating arguable the most dynamic pair of blue-liners during their time. Hitchman's number 3 was the second number retired by the NHL, second only to Toronto's Ace Bailey's number 6.
Lionel Hitchman finished his career with only 27 goals and 33 assists in 414 games. Hitchman wasn't there to score points. He was a hand-nosed stay-at-home defenceman who opened up the ice to let Eddie Shore play a more offensive role. The NHL didn't implement the plus-minus statistic until the 1967-68, but if there were a way to tally what Hitchman's career +/- could have been, it would have been remarkable. Hitchman was part of a Bruins team that gave up an unheard of 52 goals in 44 games during the 1928-29 season. He was also one of the toughest players in league history playing through numerous injuries like broken noses, shattered teeth and broken jaws. During his early years with the Ottawa Senators, he help lead the team to the first NHL title with a broken jaw.
Lionel Hitchman may be the most unrecognizable member of the Bruins retired sweaters. Many fans old and young stare into the rafters at that number 3 and wonder who exactly is Lionel Hitchman. If there were a present player to compare Hitchman too the closest and yet still distant comparison would have to be Adam McQuaid. McQuaid is as hard nosed of a player that there is in this league. He doesn't score a lot of points, doesn't back down from anyone, sticks up for his teammates no matter the circumstances and is around the top of his team in +/-. There may not been a sweater on any team that soaked more blood and sweat than the one hitchman wore throughout his career. The more years that pass by and the more history that is written, fans forget who and how great Lionel Hitchman was. For those that follow this column each week and who are those die hard hockey fans of the world, soak in the history of Lionel Hitchman, because he was the true definition of what and why hockey is the toughest sport there is to play.