WWYDW: Jersey Numbers

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.

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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.

Edmonton Oilers 2019-20 player review: Mike Green

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.

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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? 

    • HOCKEY83

      Of course 99 should be off limits. He’s not just the greatest…he’s the greatest by a massive margin that will never be matched. As far as phenoms go in all sports history he is king.

  • Hockeysense9393

    HAha that’s pretty awesome!

    Personally I think that the player should have to earn it completely? Look at all the 88’s in the league now. That number was considered untouchable at one time??

    Time will tell of course, but I would think that he needs to be miles better then anybody else…
    …for years…

    Can he do that with the Oilers?
    It does look better this year then last year, so hopefully now he can start “truly” earning it.

  • Oilerz4life

    It’s not a rule, it’s an unwritten rule. 97 is McDavid’s number. McDavid is one of a kind, that’s why. It’s unlucky to take number 97. Like Yak, what number was he, 64? Unlucky thing to do. He’ll clinch his stick, be a little tighter, bad puck luck. Not a smooth move at all.

    • Hockeysense9393

      McDavid isn’t one-of-a-kind. He wasn’t the top scorer last season (and by a pretty good margin). He’s a good player for sure, but THAT good? You people need to keep drinking the koolaid.

      • Rob...

        It’s got to be tough cheering for a team where there’s never been a player worthy of having their number retired on their team, never mind throughout the league. With that said, I do think it’s way to early to think the number 97 should be off limits.

        • Oilerz4life

          It doesn’t really bother me, I’m just superstitious and think it’s unlucky. Like number 64 on the Oilers, it’s unlucky. Not that I care, but Gusev choosing 97 is unlucky. Also, if you don’t think McD is one of a kind you must be hard on the crack pipe, for real.

  • Ken McTippett

    Gretzky is the highest scoring player the league has ever seen and holds records that will never be broken. His is the only number that should be retired league-wide.

  • Mark_82

    Cam, agree numbers not a big deal, except for retired all-timers who had unique #s. With Jim Mckenzie, Bruins tv was upset that Hamilton (who they do not like anyway) wore McKenzie’s retired #19 when Canes wore Whale throwbacks. Slightly different issue as Whale #19 uni was retired.

  • Russky

    I love my Oilers and McDavid. McDavid is a great player but has not earned anything yet that dictates that his number should not be worn by anyone else. Let’s talk about it in 15-18 years. As of now, 99 is the only number that should not be worn by anyone outside Gretz.