Nikita Gusev, arguably the best player playing outside of the NHL the past few seasons, is finally coming to North America. The Vegas Golden Knights couldn’t fit him under the cap so they sent him to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a couple of draft picks.
It was announced a couple of weeks ago Nikita Gusev had signed a two-year deal with the New Jersey Devils, everyone nodded and figured “huh, good gamble for the Devils,” and then carried on with their lives. Well, until this happened.
Nikita Gusev will wear #97. pic.twitter.com/Xwyrmz2Uqf
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) July 29, 2019
The Devils tweeted out that Gusev would wear No. 97 next season, which rubbed some fans the wrong way. Many suggested that No. 97 should be worn by Connor McDavid only, akin to a Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, or Sidney Crosby jersey number situation. Of course, the only one of those aforementioned jerseys that are actually retired by the league is Gretzky’s No. 99, while Lemieux’s No. 66 and Crosby’s No. 87 are technically up for grabs.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Should any jersey numbers beyond No. 99 be off-side for players to wear? Has McDavid earned the kind of clout that warrants him having a monopoly over No. 97? Or is this just a bunch of mid-summer nonsense where people badly need to go outside and take a deep breath?
This situation isn’t isolated to Gusev wearing No. 97. People got angry when rookie Josh Ho-Sang wore No. 66 for the New York Islanders, stating it was disrespectful to Lemieux. Some fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs got upset when William Nylander switched from No. 29 to No. 88 because it was disrespectful to *checks notes* Leafs legend Eric Lindros, despite the fact nobody even remembers Lindros playing in Toronto. A Boston Bruins broadcaster was bothered about Dougie Hamilton wearing No. 19, which was worn by Hartford Whalers legend John McKenzie.
As I said earlier, the only jersey actually retired in the NHL is Gretzky’s No. 99. But still, even when Gretzky was in the league, multiple players wore the number. Rick Dudley wore it for the Winnipeg Jets in 1981 and Wilf Paiement wore it with the Leafs from 1980 to 1982.
In my opinion, no numbers are off-limits unless they’re retired by the team or the league. If the league doesn’t want Josh Ho-Sang wearing No. 66, retire Lemieux’s number league-wide. If the Leafs don’t want anybody tarnishing Lindros’ legacy, retire No. 88. If the Hurricanes care about their Whalers history, they can retire No. 19. If it isn’t retired, it’s up for grabs.
Maybe one day McDavid will earn a league-wide retirement of No. 97. But if Donald Brashear, David Musil, and Liam O’Brien can wear No. 87 while Sidney Crosby is in the league, Nikita Gusev is allowed to wear No. 97.
What say you, Nation? Should any numbers beyond No. 99 be off-limits for NHL players? Is it weird for somebody to come into the league and take McDavid’s number?