PELHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Birmingham Bulls announced the No. 16, worn by former Bulls captain Jerome Bechard, will be retired on opening night Friday.
The jersey number retirement ceremony will take place during the first intermission of Birmingham’s contest versus the Huntsville Havoc. Bechard will be the first player to have their number retired by the Bulls.
Puck drop for the game is at 7 p.m., and the first 1,000 fans will receive a Jerome “Stay Outta My Yard” Bechard bobblehead. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. for season ticket holders and 6 p.m. for the public. Tickets can be purchased here.
“We are looking for to a great night of pro hockey in Birmingham remembering our history as we begin our journey to a SPHL President’s Cup Championship.” Bulls President Joe Stroud said in a release.
Bechard competed as a forward for the ECHL edition of the Bulls from 1992-96, recording 81 goals and 121 assists over 260 games. As the franchise’s enforcer, the Regina, Saskatchewan, native racked up 1,361 penalty minutes while in a Bulls sweater. Bechard’s willingness to stand up for his teammates led him to be known as Jerome “Stay Out of My Yard” Bechard.
In the 1995-96 season, Bechard served as an interim head coach while still skating, making him one of four people to serve as a Bulls player, captain and coach. Bechard joined the Bulls after he was selected in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the Hartford Whalers, playing for the American Hockey League’s New Haven Nighthawks.
After Bechard’s time in the Magic City, the 5-foot-11, left-handed shot made his way southeast to suit up for the Columbus Cottonmouths from 1996-03. They were in the Central Hockey League when Bechard first signed there but then switched to the ECHL in 2001.
After the 2002-03 campaign, Bechard stayed with the Cottonmouths as an assistant coach. The following season, when the Cottonmouths went down to the Southern Professional Hockey League, Bechard was promoted to head coach. He stayed in that position through the 2016-17 season.
In his last three seasons with the Cottonmouths, Bechard trained Craig Simchuk, who served as the Bulls’ captain in the 2018-19 campaign and is now Birmingham’s head coach.
After the Cottonmouths folded, Columbus was without a professional hockey club for two seasons until the Federal Prospects Hockey League’s Columbus River Dragons came along in 2019. In their first season, Bechard worked as an associate coach.
Bechard then returned to Birmingham temporarily for the 2020-21 season as an interim assistant coach under Simchuk until the River Dragons’ next campaign commenced in which he assumed the role of head coach and remains in that position.
Bechard is also a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker in Columbus.