How you ask? By allowing rookie TJ Brodie to take the number 66.
The Calgary Flames are a Canadian team, so you think they’d know better. You’d think they’d care about tradition and understand the inspiration one draws just from a number on a players back. You think they’ve all played the game before and understand that one of most exciting parts of any player’s season is being handed their number. That number may represent their favourite player or a path that they’re trying to forge for themselves with the caveat that if your favourite player wears a 66 or 99, you honour them by not wearing those numbers. Anyone who’s ever played Men’s League knows that if your opponent has the audacity to actually wear one of those numbers you’re going to be less than kind to them.
Now it’s not like the Flames gave one of their rookies the number 99. Although, they might have, had it not been retired league wide. Plus, if they handed out # 99 there would be about 3 million Canadians on the steps of the Saddledome with pitch forks and torches. No, what Calgary did was hand out the second most recognizable number in hockey to a rookie. It’s a number so synonymous that it doesn’t even need a name attached to it because if you’re reading this you realized it belongs to a retired player who was welcoming Pens fans to the new Consol Center on the same night that Brodie was skating up and down the ice with number 66 on his back.
If you’re thinking I’m blaming the wrong person and I should be looking at Brodie himself for having the nerve to even request that number, here’s why I’m giving him a pass. He’s 20 years old and probably just took the number he was given. I seriously doubt he thinks he’ll end up with 1,723 points in his career and have a 1.88 career PPG on top of Captaining Team Canada to a Gold Medal and Captaining the Flames to back-to-back Stanley Cups or winning three Hart Trophies and six Art Ross’s. (Editor’s Note: Updated at 2:16pm to clarify opinion).
This whole diatribe comes back to the simple fact is that jersey numbers mean something to fans. It’s the memories you recall when you see the numbers 99 or 66. By diluting the number by allowing any player to wear it, you’re doing a disservice to the great tradition of the NHL. I’m not saying all numbers are off limits although 87 seems to be on his way, but the ones that stand so far above the rest shouldn’t be given out to just anyone. It’s something that I believe both the Calgary Flames and the TJ Brodie should pay more attention to for the sake of the NHL and its fans.