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Nicklas Backstrom wears 99 in KHL

Nicklas Backstrom

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19), of Sweden, celebrates his goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)


Is Wayne Gretzky’s number sacred to you? In the NHL, no player can wear the No. 99, in honor of The Great One’s record-shattering career.

But as long as the players are locked out, Nicklas Backstrom isn’t playing in the NHL. He recently joined Alex Ovechkin as a member of KHL Dynamo and he’s skating around with 99 on his back.

Sportsnet’s Luke Fox reported on the story and asked, “Could this be seen as another shot across the pond at the stagnant NHL?”

He also noted that Backstrom’s number with the Capitals, 19, was already taken and so was 91.

Ultimately, unless Backstrom states his intentions, we can only guess at his reasoning.

It does seem appropriate to add that, as ESPN once wrote, Gretzky originally wanted to wear No. 9 for his idol and another legend, Gordie Howe, when he was a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The only reason he didn’t do it was because that number was already taken and eventually his coach suggested No. 99 as a compromise.

Wearing another player’s number can be a tribute or a sign of the type of player you look up to, but this is one story that might rub some people the wrong way even if Backstrom’s motivations truly are innocent.