Unbreakable: these are the NHL records that should stand for all eternity – or at least until Wayne Gretzky’s son plays in the NHL
ITS RECORDS ARE THE least appreciated and least understood of all the major sports. Hockey, after all, has never been considered as statistic-friendly as baseball, which tracks every blown save, stolen base, and no-hitter with religious accuracy.
Somehow, Steve Thomas’ effort to add to his record 11 career overtime goals just doesn’t capture the public’s sporting consciousness the way say San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds’ assault on Mark McGwire’s home run record did.
Perhaps it’s the nature of the game: A symphony of chaos compressed into three, 20-minute periods. True fans recognize the skill and grace behind the chaos. Individual accomplishments are sometimes lost amid the constant ebb and flow of hockey, its unpredictable shifts from offense to defense masking the story behind the game. Stats help tell that story.
It’s tough for broadcasters to talk about stats and records during a televised game because there simply isn’t enough time.
“It’s mostly [talked about] during intermissions, but you don’t have much time during a stoppage of play to get into certain numbers,” says Benny Ercolani, chief statistician for the NHL. “In baseball you have a little more time to analyze them and talk about it a little more. Announcers have time between pitches, but you don’t have any time between puck drops.”
And when you talk about the NHL’s record book, Wayne Gretzky wrote the preface, the introduction, the epilogue, and most of the chapters in between.
The game’s most prolific scorer owns 61 records and some of them, including his totals for career regular-season goals (894), assists (1,963), and points (2,857), are well beyond the reach of any active player, anywhere.
Unless the league extends the schedule from 82 to 150 games, Gretzky’s single-season totals in each category are equally unattainable. His record 92 goals, set during the 1981-82 season, should stand until our sun burns out or the league folds–whichever comes first.
Then there were the scoring streaks and the consecutive seasons with 100 or more points. No. 99 even topped the 200-point mark four times.
But as great as “the Great One” was, he doesn’t own every record. Here are some other benchmarks that should stand the test of time:
MOST POINTS BY A DEFENSEMAN, SINGLE SEASON: BOBBY ORR, 139
The concept of a defenseman leading the league in scoring is, by today’s standards, beyond comprehension. But Orr did it–twice. The Bruins legend revolutionized not only the position of defense but also the way the game is played. While his 37 goals and 102 assists in 1970-71 didn’t lead the league, Orr did win the second of three Hart Trophies as most valuable player and the fourth of eight consecutive Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman. When Edmonton’s Paul Coffey scored 138 points (48 goals, 90 assists) in 1985-86, he came as close to breaking Orr’s record as anyone ever will.
MOST GOALS BY A ROOKIE: SELANNE, 76
In 1992-93, as a neophyte with the Winnipeg Jets, Selanne shattered the previous record of 53, held by Mike Bossy. “The Finnish Flash” remains one of the game’s premier scorers but has never come close to his rookie goal total, which is tied for the fifth-highest single-season total on record. Selanne also set the standard for points in a season by a rookie with 132.
MOST GOALS IN A GAME: JOE MALONE, 7
“The Phantom” is more myth now than man–a specter from the early days when hockey was still played on outdoor rinks in frigid temperatures. His seven goals powered the hometown Quebec Bulldogs to a 10-6 victory over Toronto on January 31, 1920, establishing a record that has stood for over 80 years. What’s overlooked is that in the final game of the season, he almost tied his record, notching six goals against the original Ottawa Senators. Six other players have recorded double hat tricks, but the last one to do it was Darryl Sittler in 1976.
FASTEST THREE GOALS IN A SINGLE GAME: BILL MOSIENKO, 21 SECONDS
Mosienko’s third period hat trick on March 23, 1952–the final game of the season–propelled the Blackhawks to a 7-6 victory over the Rangers. The 30-year-old right winger shattered the old record by 43 seconds. In fact, no team, much less an individual, had notched a hat trick that quickly. New York goalie Lorne Anderson, who was on the wrong side of destiny that night, never played in the NHL again.
MOST STANLEY CUP TITLES: HENRI RICHARD, 11
The only player in NHL history to have more Stanley Cup rings than fingers, Richard’s career spanned 20 years and two great Montreal dynasties from the mid-’50s to the early ’70s. The younger brother of “Rocket” Richard, who only won eight titles, “the Pocket Rocket’s” record stands as a testament to his resiliency, longevity, and superb timing. Only two others have 10 titles, Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer, while only one other North American athlete, the Boston Celtics’ Bill Russell, can match Richard ring for ring.
MOST SHUTOUTS, CAREER: TERRY SAWCHUK, 103
Patrick Roy became the NHL’s all-time winningest goalie when he surpassed Sawchuk’s mark of 447 wins in October 2000. But Sawchuk’s shutout record, amassed over 21 seasons playing for Detroit, Boston, Toronto, Los Angeles, and the Rangers is safer than the remote control in your dad’s hand on Super Bowl Sunday. Sawchuk played in an era when teams employed a more conservative style, which meant fewer Scoring chances for the opposition and better stats for goalies. Entering the 2001-02 season, Ed Belfour led all active goalies with 57 shutouts.
MOST PENALTY MINUTES, SINGLE SEASON: DAVE SCHULTZ, 472
Schultz’s fight-filled 1974-75 campaign would make Bob Probert cringe. The premier enforcer for Philadelphia’s reviled “Broad Street Bullies,” “the Hammer” rose to fame during a blood-soaked era when bench-clearing brawls were the norm and platform shoes were in style. Today, tough guys must legitimize their presence to play at the elite level. For instance, Rangers goon Sandy McCarthy garnered praise for his offensive output last year, pumping in a career-high 11 goals, which points to a changing role for the enforcer, one in which he must be able to deliver something more than a fist to an adversary’s skull. No one has even cracked the 400-minute mark, much less approached Schultz’s total, since Mike Peluso notched 408 minutes a decade ago.
MOST CONSECUTIVE GAMES PLAYED: DOUG JARVIS, 964
Jarvis may never be mentioned in the same breath as Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken Jr., but his reign as hockey’s “ironman”–a streak that encompassed his entire NHL career–was a signal achievement. A dependable checker and penalty-killer who played for Montreal, Washington, and Hartford, Jarvis retired in 1987 with four Stanley Cup rings and a Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward, As we went to press, Chicago’s Tony Amonte had the longest active streak at a comparatively minuscule 337 games.
MOST CONSECUTIVE COMPLETE GAMES PLAYED BY A GOALIE: GLENN HALL, 502
“Mr. Goalie” would get sick from stress before games but that wasn’t enough to keep him out of the lineup. Hall appeared in every game from the end of the 1954-55 season with Detroit until a back injury sidelined him on November 8, 1963. By then he was a member of the Blackhawks and considered one of the most accomplished netminders of his era. The NHL’s Ercolani considers this hockey’s most unbreakable record, and considering contemporary goalies are considered workhorses if they play 70-plus games a season, there’s really no doubting him.
MOST GOALS SCORED BY A TEAM, SINGLE SEASON: EDMONTON, 446
They had Wayne Gretzky. They had Marl Messier. They had Paul Coffey. And, perhaps most importantly, they employed a system that didn’t place a lot of emphasis on defense. The 1983-84 Oilers epitomized the high-flying, high-scoring style of the day. In the ’80s, Edmonton broke the 400-goal plateau five times–the only team ever to do so. The best offensive clubs of today–Colorado (270 goals last season), New Jersey (a league-high 295), and Detroit (253)–don’t come close to producing that kind of firepower.
CONSECUTIVE STANLEY CUPS: MONTREAL, 5
Coached by the immortal Toe Blake, the Canadiens who captured five Cups between 1955-56 and 1959-60 featured future Hall-of-Famers Jacques Plante, Doug Harvey, Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Henri Richard, and Maurice Richard. The New York Islanders came close to tying the record, winning four straight Cups in the early Eighties. But the nature of free agency and current salary structure prevents modern teams from assembling a dynasty. And don’t forget, Montreal only had to edge out five other teams each season. Today there are five times as many franchises.
RELATED ARTICLE: Within reach.
AS YOU CAN SEE, THE NHL HAS ITS FAIR SHARE OF unreachable summits. But for every unbreakable record, there are scores of others itching to be eclipsed.
Take Darryl Sittler’s record for most points in a game. Toronto’s all-time scoring leader had six goals and four assists on February 7, 1976, setting a mark that even Wayne Gretzky couldn’t top. Mario Lemieux has threatened the record, notching five golas and three assists agains New Jersey on December 31, 1988. He and former teammate Jaromir Jagr are probably the only active players who could reach or exceed Sittler’s mark.
Then there’s the record for most shutouts in a season (22), set by Montreal’s George Hainsworth in 1928-29. Dominik Hasek, considered by many to be the best goalie of his generation, blanked the opposition 13 times in 1997-98. Now in Detroit, it’s within the realm of possibility that he could post more zeros than Hainsworth.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Century Publishing
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group