There are a lot of players that have pulled on the Spoked-B and called Boston their home at one point during their NHL career. There are a lot of players that have donned the black and gold for a season or two and then there are those that are lucky enough to be enshrined in Bruins history by having their number retired and raised to the rafters for all eternity — Rick Middleton is one of them. Even if he had no idea it was going to happen.

“It was a shock, it really was and honestly, I had thought about it because nobody wore it for about six years,” Middleton told “I mean Marco Sturm and maybe one other player that was there for a short time and 16 and then all of a sudden for one year and then the next year nobody was wearing it. It crossed my mind, ‘Hey, maybe one day.'”

Middleton had seen his good friend and teammate Terry O’Reilly have his No. 24 raised to the rafters in 2001 after retiring 17 years earlier in 1984. Middleton said he believed O’Reilly would be an automatic jersey retirement because he was an “all-time Bruin.”

“Even to this day, thinking back about that makes my heart beat a little faster.”

Rick Middleton talking about the call from Cam Neely

Middleton was president of the alumni for 15 years so when Bruins president Cam Neely called it wasn’t out of the ordinary.

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“It was July, so I wasn’t thinking. Honestly, it was not on my mind at all,” Middleton recalled. “It was small talk, ‘How’s your summer?’ Blah, blah blah and then he just blurted it out — ‘We decided to retire No. 16.'”

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“Quite honestly, I didn’t think I heard him. I said, ‘What?’ And he repeated it. I got somewhat emotional. Even to this day, thinking back about that makes my heart beat a little faster. My wife came home a few minutes later. She thought somebody died with the look on my face.”

Middleton’s No. 16 was raised to the rafters at TD Garden on November 29, 2018.

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“I just to this day really appreciate the fact that (Cam) thought enough of me to do that,” Middleton continued. “And make me the number 12 retired on the list. … To me being one of 12 in a 100-year history of the team and in the place where you still live and will until you die — to me is the greatest honor to be thought of that highly. To be put in that group, that very select group.”

Middleton’s No. 16 is hanging high above the ice with Eddie Shore’s No. 2, Lionel Hitchman’s No. 3, Bobby Orr’s No. 4, Aubrey “Dit” Clapper’s No. 5, Phil Esposito’s No. 7, Neely’s No. 8, Johnny Bucyk’s No. 9, Milt Schmidt’s No. 15, Willie O’Ree’s No. 22, O’Reilly’s No. 24 and Ray Bourque’s No. 77.

Featured image via Craig Michaud/Craig Michaud Photography