When the call showed up on our cell phone with a strange area code, we full expected the worst.
We had been led to believe by the complaints of some Penguins fans that the man we were about to chat with was an arrogant, egotistical punk. He has no sense or respect for history. This was a bad human.
The reality was completely the opposite.
T.J. Brodie isn't trampling on history. He isn't egotistical. He isn't trying to put himself on a level with one of the true icons of the sport.
He's just your typical soft-spoken, humble Canadian kid who is just happy to have an NHL job for the time being.
He just happens to have an interesting jersey number.
Yeah. That number.
It's probably safe to say, it's most associated with Mario Lemieux.
So when T.J. Brodie surprisingly made the Flames' NHL roster out of training camp this month, he seemed to be doing the unthinkable by wearing No. 66. In the eyes of many Penguins fans, he was being disrespectful.
Brodie is your prototypical rookie. As a 20-year-old defenseman, he's just happy to be at this level, and all he wants to worry about is how can he stay at this level. A fourth-round pick in 2008, he had a fantastic training camp and found a way to start the season in Calgary. But since he's on a two-way contract, it won't take a lot for Calgary's brass to sent him to Abbotsford of the AHL and a life of riding buses.
So to say the least he's not established. And as a result, he was given 66. He didn't ask for it. It was just there in his stall at the start of training camp. And as a rookie, it wasn't his place to ask for another. But once he establishes himself a little bit, he may investigate getting a number which stands out less.
Brodie recently discussed his situation and hoped to clear his good name.
How did you get you get No. 66?
"I got it two years ago when I showed up (for training) camp and it stuck. It's just easier for the training staff to keep it for now."
We're you ever a fan of Lemieux?
"Definitely. I always watched Don Cherry "Rock'em Sock'em" (videos). They had a bunch of his goals. He beat Ray Bourque one time and split the (defense) once. And I remember the comeback and when he won the gold medal for Canada (at the 2002 Olympics)."
You realize some Penguins fans aren't crazy about this?
"I understand. He's a great player and I have total respect for him. It's not any disrespect. If I get a chance to change it, I will."
What about the Facebook group dedicated towards forcing you to change the number?
"It's pretty funny but at the same time I can't worry about it. "
He wore No. 22 with Barrie of the OHL last season. Does that number mean anything to you?
"I never really never had a favorite number. Of the three that were available at Barrie, that's the one I took."
If you're still on the NHL roster and still wearing No. 66 when the Flames visit Pittsburgh Nov. 27, do you expect to be booed?
"Oh yeah definitely. Some fans won't be happy with it but that comes with the territory."
(Photo: Brodie-Mike Ridewood/Getty Images; Lemieux-Penguins Hockey Cards)