It is pretty common for sports teams to display the number or the jersey of a teammate who has suffered a very serious injury. To wit:
These are just two examples of a team showing support for a player (or coach) who is recovering from a serious injury or illness. It happens all the time.
I don't play for the Hurricanes, so I don't get to go in the locker room. What I can do, though, is display his sweater number on my blog. It's my way of saying "Erik Cole is one of my favorite players on my favorite team. He has recently suffered a very serious injury that could have been a lot worse. He's lucky that he'll have a chance at a full recovery and a return to the game. My thoughts are with him as he endures the very difficult recovery, and I wish to send him my best wishes and support him through that process." That's a little much to put in the banner, and I wrongfully assumed that most people would understand the simple "26".
The previous banner was a little more subtle, but it was the same sort of thing. Josef Vasicek had an MCL tear in his knee, which obviously isn't a life threatening thing, but put him on the IR for a VERY long time. He was featured in the photograph, and it was my way of saying "Hey buddy, we miss you and can't wait for you to get back on the ice".
So there you have it.