can you wear the number 99 in the NHL
| |

Why No One Can Wear Number 99 In The NHL

What do you know about the number 99 in the NHL? The NHL has different jersey numbers worn among players and goaltenders. The system of numbers on jerseys was initially to make players recognisable to fans and officials.

Later on, it became mandatory for every player to have numbers on their jersey, with their surname above the number. This led to creation of different jersey numbers by NHL skaters.

Presently, only three sets of numbers are not allowed in the NHL:

  • The numbers 0 and 00 (because of difficulty in adding them to the NHL’s player stats database)
  • Any number with a decimal (7.9, 67.2, 46.1)
  • The number 99 after it was retired league-wide by the NHL in honour of “The Great One”

However, in this article, we will be looking at why the number 99 can’t be worn by NHL players and why it was retired. We’ll also dig up information about the player referred to as “THE GREAT ONE”. 

First, let us look at what it means to retire a number in the NHL.

What Does It Mean To Retire A Number In The NHL

To retire a number means to make a jersey number unavailable to ice hockey players. It is to show respect and honour to the former player who wore the number. Moreover, it’s initiated after the retirement of a player and is mainly limited to an NHL team.

It means that its effects are manifest in the team that retires the number. The only exception is Gretzky because the NHL personally declared his jersey number retired throughout the entire league.

Can You Wear The Number 99 in Ice Hockey?

The answer is No. No player in the NHL can wear the number 99. The number holds a level of significance in the ice hockey world the same way Michael Jordan’s number 23 (NBA) and Jackie Robinson’s number 46 (MLB) hold deep meaning to their sport

The number was officially retired on February 6, 2000, a year after Wayne Gretzky retired. He was the player and will be the last player to wear the number as long as the NHL is still operational.

Why The NHL Retired The Number 99

Now, this brings us to the question, why did the NHL decide to retire the no.99 of Wayne Gretzky? For ice hockey fans familiar with the games from 1979-1999, Gretzky is the Greatest Of All Time (the G.O.A.T).

To enlighten those unfamiliar with the only player to have the nickname “ The Great One”, we’ll be taking a quick summary of Wayne Gretzky’s career. 

About Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky is the Greatest Of All Time in ice hockey. 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 4 Stanley Cups and a host of other trophies. Check out teams and players in the NHL to never win the Stanley Cup.

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

Gretzky achievement

The awesomeness of Wayne Gretzky was evident in the sport he played. Some of the achievements of the centre are so high that it currently looks impossible to break.

Currently, it is recorded that he holds and shares about 60 NHL records. Below are some of the 60 records, achievements and awards of the Great One, Wayne Gretzky.

  • 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. Pearsons Award for the most outstanding player (the award is now called 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 

Gretzky didn’t always wear the number 99 jersey. At the beginning of his career, he wore the no.9 after his idol and ice hockey legend, Gordie Howe. He wore this no.9 until he played for a junior league. 

In their Junior league, there was a player who already wore the no.9 and according to the rule book, no two players on a team can wear the same number. Eventually, Gretzky has to give up the no.9 because, in hockey, an unwritten rule states that a veteran or older player has the first pick when it gets to choices on jersey numbers.

His coach at the time, Muzz MacPherson, influenced him to pick the no.99 and it became the jersey number he wore ever since

The Retirement of The Number 99 And Wayne Gretzky 

NHL retires the number 99

Before retirement, Gretzky played for four NHL teams: Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

His last game was on April 18, 1999, when the New York Rangers played the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Later that year on October 1, his first NHL team where he won 4 Stanley cups (Edmonton Oilers), retired his jersey #99. It was to honour his time in the team where he began setting his records and where he won 4 Stanley Cups. The Oilers also erected a statue of Gretzky lifting the Stanley Cup outside of the Rogers Place Arena

Later on, the L.A King would do the same thing on the 9th of October, 2002. The Kings erected a statue outside of the arena (formerly Staples Center)

However, his retirement would have been restricted to the Edmonton Oilers and L.A Kings if the NHL had not made a league-wide retirement. On February 6, 2000, during the 50th All-Star game in Canada, the NHL declared a retirement of the no.99 across the league. Declaring that the no.99 can not be used by any player in the NHL in respect of Gretzky.

People Who Have Worn The Number 99 in the NHL

Not too many people in history have worn the number 99 in their career. In the history of the NHL, only 5 people have won the number 99 aside from Gretzky. Their names are:

  • Joe Lamb
  • Desse Roche
  • Leo Bourgeault
  • Wilf Paiement
  • Rick Dudley

Joe Lamb, Desse Roche and Leo Bourgeault were the first to wear it during the 1934-35 season. The skaters played for the Montreal Canadiens and wore the number in the same season, however, they were all traded and stopped wearing the numbers. 

Wilf Paiement wore the number 99 with the Toronto Maple Leaf until his last game in the club on March 2, 1982. Rick Dudley on the other hand wore it for the Winnipeg Jets during the 1980-81 season.


Even if the NHL had not placed a league-wide retirement on the number 99, it is very likely that no NHL player would have worn it. Ice hockey is a game with traditions and part of these traditions respects renowned players and their legacies.

Wayne Gretzky is the greatest player the NHL has seen up to date, and it is only rational that his jersey number #99 be retired. Don’t you agree with me?

Similar Posts