What do you know about the NHL’s #99?
Goaltenders and players in the NHL have distinct jersey numbers. The initial purpose of the jersey numbering system was to help fans and officials identify players.
Subsequently, it became a requirement for every player to wear a number on their jersey along with their last name. For NHL skaters, this resulted in the introduction of several jersey numbers.
Currently, the NHL only permits any number for a jersey except these three sets, which are banned league-wide. They are:
- Figures 0 and 00 (because of their difficulties in being added to the NHL’s player statistics database)
- Any number with a decimal (7.9, 67.2, 46.1)
- In memory of “The Great One”, the NHL retired the number 99 for all players.
But in this piece, we’ll focus on the reasons why the NHL banned the number 99 from use and why it was retired. Also, we’ll research data on the athlete dubbed “THE GREAT ONE“.
Let’s first examine what it means for an NHL number to be retired.
What Does It Mean To Retire A Number In The NHL?
Making a jersey number inaccessible to ice hockey players is referred to as retiring it. The purpose of retiring jerseys by sports leagues is to honor and pay tribute to the past player who wore the number.
In leagues like the NHL, jersey retirement is mostly confined to a franchise. However, in very rare instances, it can be retired by the entire sports league.
In plain terms, it means that when jersey retirement occurs, it is mostly limited to players on the NHL team. However, there has been only one instance in which a jersey was retired by the NHL, and this exception is Gretzky.
Can You Wear The Number 99 in Ice Hockey?
The simple answer to this question is NO. The number 99 (#99) is prohibited for use by NHL players. Similar to how Michael Jordan’s number 23 in the NBA and Jackie Robinson’s number 46 in baseball have profound meaning to their respective sports, the number has a level of significance in the world of ice hockey.
On February 6, 2000, one year after Wayne Gretzky retired, the digits were made unavailable for any and all NHL players. For as long as the NHL remains in existence, he will be the last to wear that particular number.
Why The NHL Retired The Number 99
The NHL’s decision to retire Wayne Gretzky’s number 99 raises the question, “Why?” Gretzky is the greatest player in ice hockey history for fans who are familiar with the matches from 1979 to 1999.
We’ll give a brief overview of Wayne Gretzky’s career to enlighten people who don’t know about the one and only player to be dubbed “The Great One”.
About Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky is the greatest of all time in ice hockey and the NHL. During his time in the NHL, he made and broke several of the league’s records, most of which are still in existence today. Gretzky played for 20 seasons during his career, winning four Stanley Cups and a host of other trophies.
He started professional hockey at the age of 17 and quickly became the youngest player to score 50 goals. Gretzky, during his time in the NHL, had a massive impact on the game as he made headlines and brought the attention of the outside world to the game.
To understand the greatness of Gretzky, we will have to look at his achievements.
Wayne Gretzky’s Achievements
Wayne Gretzky was outstanding, and it showed in the sport he played. Some of the NHL centerman’s accomplishments are so exceptional that it currently seems difficult to top them.
He currently holds and shares roughly 60 NHL records, according to the records. Some of Wayne Gretzky’s 60 records, accomplishments, and honors are listed below.
- Youngest player to score 50 goals at the age of 19 years and 2 months
- 9 Hart Trophies as the most valuable player
- 10 Art Ross Trophies for most goals scored in a season
- 2 Conn Smyth Trophies as MVP playoffs
- 5 Lester B. Pearson Award for the most outstanding player (the award is now called the Ted Lindsay Award)
- Most points got in an NHL season (215 points)
- Most career points ever attained in NHL history (2857 points)
- Most career assists in NHL history (1963 assists)
- 4 Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers
- Most career goals in NHL history (894 goals)
- Most consecutive Art Ross Trophies (7 in a row)
How Gretzky Got The Number 99
At the start of his career, Gretzky didn’t always wear the number 99 jersey. He initially donned the number 9 in honor of Gordie Howe, his hockey hero and idol. He continued playing #9 until he went to play for a junior hockey league.
In the league, there was a rulebook stating that no two players on a team may use the same number. And this was going to alter Gretzky as the number 9 was already worn by a player.
Eventually, he had to give up the number 9 because it is an unwritten rule in ice hockey that a seasoned or older player always has the first choice when it comes to jersey numbers.
The #99 became the jersey number he has worn ever since Muzz MacPherson, his coach at the time, influenced him to choose it.
The Retirement of The Number 99 And Wayne Gretzky
Gretzky played for four NHL teams until his retirement: the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, and New York Rangers.
He played a long time in the NHL and on April 18, 1999, when the New York Rangers met the Pittsburgh Penguins, he played his final game.
His first NHL team, the Edmonton Oilers, where he won four Stanley Cups, retired his jersey number 99 on October 1 of that year. It was done to commemorate his tenure with the squad where he started setting records and where he won four Stanley Cups.
Outside of Rogers Place Arena, the Oilers also constructed a statue depicting Gretzky hoisting the Stanley Cup.
On October 9, 2002, the L.A. King would follow suit. The Kings built a statue in front of the Crypto.com arena (formerly Staples Center).
If the NHL had not instituted a league-wide retirement, his exit would have been limited to the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings. However, knowing of his impact on the game and greatness with a stick, the NHL announced the retirement of the no.99 across the league on February 6, 2000.
This was done at the 50th All-Star game in Canada and this was to make it known that no NHL player may wear the No.99 in honor of Gretzky.
People Who Have Worn The Number 99 in the NHL
The number 99 hasn’t been worn by all that many people in history. Apart from Gretzky, only five individuals have ever captured the number 99 in the NHL’s history. They are named:
- Joe Lamb
- Desse Roche
- Leo Bourgeault
- Wilf Paiement
- Rick Dudley
During the 1934–35 season, Joe Lamb, Desse Roche, and Leo Bourgeault were the first to wear it. The skaters all wore the same number throughout their time with the Montreal Canadiens, but they were all traded after that and ceased donning them.
Up to his final game for the Toronto Maple Leaf on March 2, 1982, Wilf Paiement played with the number 99. On the other hand, Rick Dudley wore it for the 1980–81 Winnipeg Jets season.
Even if there had not been a league-wide retirement for the number 99, no NHL player would have worn it. Ice hockey has traditions, and one of these customs is to honor legendary players and their legacies.
Wayne Gretzky is the greatest player the NHL has ever seen, and his jersey number #99 should be retired. Don’t you agree?