EVERETT — Mitch Love’s No. 2 jersey has always held a special place in Everett Silvertips lore.
Now, it will forever hang in the rafters at Angel of the Winds Arena.
As a part of a pregame ceremony Friday honoring Love, who made his return to Everett as the Saskatoon head coach for the first time since taking the Blades’ job, a banner with his jersey was hung in the rafters next to the No. 1, for the Silvertips’ fans, and the 2017-2018 Western Conference championship banner.
“I mentioned the other day the amount of gratitude I have toward Mr. Bill Yuill, this organization and all the people that have been apart of it over the last 17 years,” Love said. “To be the first player to have their jersey hang in the rafters is obviously an extreme honor and obviously I wish there was a better result along with it.”
The Silvertips ended up thumping the Blades, 6-1, on Friday night, but during pregame plenty of people were parked near the visitor’s tunnel, hoping to catch a glimpse of Love, who acknowledged fans and supporters with head nods as he held his daughter, Makenna, on the bench and looked out on the ice during warm-ups. Eventually, Love handed Makenna, adorned in a purple and yellow Blades’ jersey, to his father, Harvey Love, and he continued to look on as his team skated in circles and fired pucks at the west end of the arena.
Mitch Love was calm and collected in the moment, and even though he fought back tears as a banner with his No. 2 jersey tumbled down to the rafters and a tribute video was played on the center-ice video board, he displayed the candor and charisma that helped make him an Everett legend as he addressed the crowd moments before the puck dropped.
The former Silvertips captain had a speech prepared, but folded it in two and spoke off the cuff, thanking the fans and vowing he’ll never forget his time as a Silvertip.
As he walked down the red carpet and back to the Blades’ bench, he revved up the crowd by pumping his arms, a tactic that he utilized plenty as a player after an energized fight or a timely goal.
“It almost brought a tear to my eye,” said Chris Lamoureux, a long-time season-ticket holder, whose real estate company, Lamoureux Real Estate, has been a sponsor for the Silvertips since the inaugural season in 2003-2004. “We just got hooked (from the start) and Mitch was the reason and a big part of that. He was a huge fan favorite.”
The Silvertips didn’t officially refer to the ceremony as a jersey retirement, but it’s the closest thing to it. Love, a member of the record-setting inaugural Silvertips team in 2003-2004, was the first of five Silvertips players that have worn No. 2 in Everett’s franchise history, but no one has worn it since defenseman Aryton Nikkel in 2012-2013. And no one has worn No. 1 since Michael Wall in 2003-2005.
“It was really cool,” said Doris Rupert, a Silvertips season-ticket holder since Day 1. “I think he’s getting the respect he deserves, because he’s was just always right there and he really wanted to make sure fans could really understand it. He just made us all feel really important.”
“It was really cool, too, because it let his players know what they’re getting in a guy and as a coach,” Doris’ husband, Tom, added.
In addition to the jersey ceremony, the Silvertips dressed in No. 2 jersey’s with “LOVE” on the nameplate that were autographed by Love during pregame warm-ups. A bobblehead set depicting the famous Everett defenseman was passed out to the first 1,000 fans in attendance.
“I think the coolest thing was all the players coming out wearing his jersey,” said Nick Paredes, another Day 1 Silvertips season-ticket holder. “I’m interested to see what they’ll do with them, whether it will be an auction or have them in the store.”
Past Everett players, from Shaun Heshka to Ryan Murray, and Jeff Harvey to Carter Hart, recorded messages to Love, which were played during the video tribute.
Jeff “the Fish” Aaron, a former KRKO radio host, was on the red carpet with Love and provided a brief message to the crowd before handing the microphone to Love.
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshHortonEDH