Columbus River Dragons head coach Jerome Bechard becomes the first player to have his number retired by the Birmingham Bulls in a pregame ceremony Friday, October 20.

A former captain of the Bulls and known as “Stay Out of My Yard” Bechard in Birmingham, his number 16 will be raised to the rafters as the Bulls open their 2023-24 season.

"We are proud to have Jerome as part of our family," said River Dragons COO Jeff Croop. "He is a true leader and competitor. I don't know if there is anyone in the hockey world more deserving of any and all recognition they receive."

"We also want to thank the Bulls organization for recognizing Jerome," Croop continued. "We are proud to share part of his tremendous hockey legacy."

Originally drafted in the sixth round (#115 overall) of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the Hartford Whalers, Bechard turned pro after four seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Moose Jaw Warriors. His career would span a total of 15 seasons, taking him to stops in the International Hockey League and American Hockey League before four seasons in Birmingham and ultimately nine in Columbus.

Bechard’s coaching career started in Birmingham when he became a player/coach during the 1995-96 season. He would become an assistant for the Columbus Cottonmouths in 2003, moving to head coach a year later for the duration of the franchise. 

Then with hockey returning to Columbus in 2019, Bechard would serve as an associate coach with the River Dragons in the team’s inaugural season and ascend to head coach the next year where he has remained since.

Birmingham becomes the second franchise to retire Bechard’s number, joining Columbus in saluting the career of a tremendous player, teammate and leader. The entire Columbus River Dragons organization extends a sincere congratulations to Bechard on his honor.