Wayne Gretzky's #99 is Retired League-Wide
The week also was a good sendoff for Wayne Gretzky, who had retired the previous season.
His #99 was raised to the rafters, despite him never playing for the hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, as a show of his number's league-wide retirement. Gretzky also made it clear that he would not partake in any oldtimer or Heroes of Hockey game unless it was held in Edmonton, a statement that was realized with the Heritage Classic three years later.
TORONTO (AP) - Wayne Gretzky's No. 99 was retired throughout the NHL Sunday in a ceremony before the 50th All-Star Game.
Last year, the league announced a plan to remove the number from circulation in honor of Gretzky, who retired from the New York Rangers in 1999. Gretzky holds every major career scoring record and is generally considered the game's best-ever player.
Gretzky and league commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled a blue banner featuring Gretzky's number in orange, which was raised to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre as a sellout crowd cheered its native son. Not coincidentally, orange and blue are the colors of the Edmonton Oilers, who Gretzky led to five Stanley Cups during the 1980s.
Gretzky then dropped the puck on the ceremonial faceoff between Paul Kariya of the North American team and Jaromir Jagr of the World team.
The NHL's first league-wide number retirement was inspired by Major League Baseball's decision to retire Jackie Robinson's No. 42.