Last night, Islanders RW Josh Ho-Sang made a splash in the hockey world as he ripped a one-timer – ripped isn’t an overstatement here, he absolutely got all of this one – past Cam Talbot to score his first NHL goal. Last week, he made an even bigger splash, as he elected to wear #66 for his call-up to the big-league club.
Ho-Sang was selected 28th overall in the 2014 entry draft, but has since been supplanted in the Islanders’ prospect rankings by the likes of Matthew Barzal and Michael Dal Colle, as well as probably Ryan Pullock and Anthony Beauvillier at this point.
It’s been perceived by some that his behavior and attitude problems have largely kept Ho-Sang out of the picture for NHL playing time. Given that the Islanders just a few months ago were giving Cal Clutterbuck the third highest TOI on the team among forwards, we can assume that a surplus of high-end NHL talent wasn’t what was keeping him off the ice.
So when Ho-Sang decided to wear #66, people – well, Yinzers – everywhere were outraged. But should you really be upset with Ho-Sang for choosing a number that is currently available to any non-Penguin skater in the NHL?
If anything, be mad at the NHL.
Ho-Sang had answered the question numerous times by time he first lit the lamp in the NHL. In every interview I’ve seen, he makes it known that Mario Lemieux was one of his childhood idols, and in no way is he wearing #66 as a means of disrespect. In my opinion, he's simply exercising his right as an NHL player to wear any number – except those retired by his team – that he chooses. Except #99. And therein lies the issue.
Maybe this is a hot take. But retiring jersey numbers league-wide shouldn't even be a thing. On a team level, if you want to put your franchise's greatest player(s) in a ring of honor or in the rafters or induct them into a hall of fame, that's all good. But retiring a number across the entire league is just weird and probably unnecessary.
If #23 isn't retired in the NBA, #9 and #10 aren't retired across every soccer league in the world, and #3 isn't retired for every team in MLB, then #99, #66, #4, and #9 should be available for any NHL player to wear.
NHLers have been wearing some of the all-time greats’ numbers for years. You could use every digit on your body and still fail to count the number of players who've worn #4 and #9 since Orr and Howe.
But let's be honest, this is a Pittsburgh thing.
Outside of Massachusetts, where Bobby Orr was the greatest hawkey playah evah, there are virtually two schools of thought:
Everywhere else in the world:
The fact that #99 is retired league-wide and #66 is not bothers some people so much that Josh Ho-Sang has an entire fan base opposing him before he even takes a shift at PPG Paints Arena. But if you didn't make a big deal about it when Rob Scuderi wore #4 or Rico Fata wore #9, then you don’t have much of a leg to stand on here.
So put down your IC light, back away from your Primanti’s sandwich, and stop being mad at Josh Ho-Sang, Pittsburgh. At least until he does something that actually impacts a Penguins game on the ice.