Pic from Sportsnet.ca

When Nicklas Backstrom decided to head across the pond to play with his long-time linemate Alexander Ovechkin, nobody was surprised. What they were surprised about was his choice of number – he went with 99, the sacred, ever-cherished number of The Great Wayne Gretzky.  How dare he!

Those in the know are aware that 99 is the only number that isn’t just retired by one NHL team, but is retired by all of them. It’s supposed to be disrespectful to wear it anywhere, which is basically the opposite of the NBA, where every great player who came up after MJ wore 23 as a sign of respect (though some, like Lebron, have switched to their own number since – it’s better for the brand, and all).

So the kerfuffle on the internet was, is it cool to wear the number 99 when you’re not in the NHL, or is it just implied you shouldn’t wear it anywhere? Was Nicklas Backstrom wrong to choose it?

Well, it turns out he didn’t chose it at all, so everyone can shut up. 

Russian Machine Never Breaks had the story yesterday, and shared the translation (by Jake Ware) of the original story by Magnus Nystrom of espressen.se:

Nicklas Bäckström did not want to have number 99 for Dynamo Moscow, which he made clear before his KHL debut, but still has it [three games into his tenure]. The KHL has managed to mess up despite personal visits from Dynamo Moscow delegations. But, finally, Bäckström has been promised that he can change number after the national team break. Permission will have been acquired, signatures will be correct, and all the stamps will be in the right place. Nobody loves stamps like Russia. Whatever, soon Bäckström will be rid of number 99, and after Karjala Cup he will be Nicklas Bäckström, number 69.

There’s a break coming up in the KHL from November 5th to the 14th (god, can you imagine being without hockey for that long, ugh), and after that, he’ll be allowed to switch to 69, making him the first-ever person to switch to 69 and be ruled more classy than he was with his previous digit. The cool part for Nicky is that is his first game sporting it will be against goon squad Vityaz Chekov, which guarantees the fact that at least a few meatheads will give him a high five for his awesome, hilarious number.

Ian Oland (who wrote the RMNB post and did the pilfered graphic below, by the way), points out that number 69 has only been worn twice in the NHL before – currently, Andrew Desjardins is sporting it, and Mel “The Mangler” Anglestad wore it back in the day.

Pic courtesy KHL, seen on Russian Machine Never Breaks

So there you have it. Everyone can re-lax about the perceived slight by the Capitals all-star. He was never trying to offend anyone. In fact, if his new name is any indication, he was actually trying to please people.


Comments (13)

  1. This whole controversy just further highlights that it was dumb to retire Gretzky’s number leaguewide in the first place.

    Going outside hockey for a minute, it’s justified for a guy like Jackie Robinson whose impact went far beyond the game. For a guy whose accomplishments are entirely on-ice, though? If a kid comes up who’s ballsy enough to claim 99 and take the flack for it, then he should own it.

    • Those on-ice results were so far and above what everyone else who has ever played the game has done though. I would say that 99 should be retired in Edmonton and LA for sure. Other places? I have no problem with that given the dominance. It’s just something that needs to be extremely rare.

      • The # 99 should be retired everywhere hockey! Its just common sense. Pick your own # and be great with it!!

  2. Nobody loves stamps like Russia. NOBODY

    • Unless you’re traveling there. Then they give you a little booklet for your passport while you’re there, and then take it away from you when you leave, so no one knows you were there.

  3. Backstrom must have realized 69 is better on the back anyway ;-) no disrepect to the great one lol

  4. “It’s supposed to be disrespectful to wear it anywhere” yikes, someone needs to post a bulletin on the webpage for my beer league.

  5. Noted: I was the first person on the comment section on a BHS Facebook post to suggest he change it to number 69. Thanks, Welcome

  6. “Take the number 69, it’s hilarious!” *thumbs up*

  7. FFS. NOT RELEVANT. Irrelevant to Gretzky’s daughter. If you want to post stories on hockey , by all means, do so, but dont pretend its about pics of scantily clad women.

    • This is probably the greatest mis-post I’ve seen on this blog.

      Well, assuming you meant to add that to the “Gretzky’s daughter” post previous to this one.

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