Truth be told, Nicklas Backstrom never really wanted to wear Wayne Gretzky’s sacred number 99 and within two weeks he won’t.
After petitioning Dynamo Moscow and the KHL to change his number, Backstrom has been granted permission to switch from No. 99 to No. 69, beginning Nov. 14 when Dynamo returns to action following the Karjala Cup tournament.
Backstrom wears No. 19 with the Capitals, but that number was taken by Dynamo’s Denis Kokarev.
“It was wrong,” Backstrom told HockeyExpressen.se, via Google Translate “I had not so much to choose from when I came here [Oct. 19] and wanted to have a number with a 9. So I got the 99th. But even before the first match, I asked to change, it felt wrong simply. Ninety-nine is Gretzky’s number.
“But Dynamo said that the number  is already registered, and therefore I must have it in two games. Then it will be a new number. … I'll take anything but that.”
Backstrom will wear No. 99 on Friday against Spartak. The KHL then goes on a hiatus from Nov. 5 through Nov. 13 to allow players to participate in the Karjala Cup.
No one in the history of the Capitals has ever worn No. 99, which was retired after Gretzky hung up his skates for good in 1999. Whenever the NHL resumes play, Backstrom will ditch the No. 69 for his old No. 19.
Only one player in the history of the Caps – does anyone remember enforcer Mel Angelstad? – has ever worn No. 69. Angelstad became the first NHL player to wear that number during the 2003-04 season when he played in two games for the Caps.