Throughout the season we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back 30 years when Wayne Gretzky broke Gordie Howe’s all-time points record … against his former team.
Exactly 30 years ago Tuesday Wayne Gretzky, then a member of the Los Angeles Kings, made NHL history by breaking Gordie Howe’s points record with a late third period goal to tally his 1,851st career point in the league.
In what was perhaps the most fitting way possible, he managed to do it in Edmonton against his former team where he spent the first nine years of his NHL career, winning four Stanley Cups. “The Great One” also accomplished the feat just a little more than a year after he was traded to Los Angeles in one of the biggest trades in sports history. There was already a statue built of him outside the building in which he broke the record.
Gretzky entered the game trailing Howe by just a single point and tied the all-time mark with a first period assist on a Bernie Nicholls goal to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
He broke Howe’s record with less than a minute to play in the third period, tying the game and sending it to overtime where Gretzky would end up winning the game to cap off the night.
Not only did he break the record in Edmonton on a game-tying in the closing seconds, but it came at the end of what was a three-minute shift for Gretzky, via the October 15, 1989 Associated Press:
A couple of random facts to keep in mind about Gretzky’s climb up the NHL’s all-time points leaderboard and the absurdity of his production…
He recorded his 1,850th point in his 11th NHL season at the age of 28.
By comparison, Howe played 26 seasons in the NHL and recorded his 1,850th point at the age of 51. Yes, there was a brief three-year retirement and a six-year stop in the WHA thrown in there, but even if you look at Howe’s career when he retired the first time at age 42 (after 25 seasons in the NHL) he was still *only* at 1,809 points. Gretzky shattered that by age 27.
The craziest stat about Gretzky’s career is still the fact that if he never scored a goal in the NHL he would have still eventually broken Howe’s point record by 113 points just based on assists alone.
At the time of Gretzky’s record setting day, he had already registered 1,207 assists, a mark that (again excluding goals) would have been enough to put him in the top-12 in points all-time at that moment.
Gretzky would go on to finish his career with 2,857 points. The NHL’s second-leading scorer, Jaromir Jagr, is 936 points behind him (1,921 points). The gap between Gretzky and Jagr at No. 1 and 2 is the same as the gap between Jagr and the 91st leading scorer of all-time, Dave Keon.
The active players that are closest to Gretzky are Joe Thornton with 1,480 points, Sidney Crosby with 1,226, and Alex Ovechkin with 1,218. It is entirely possible — if not likely — that Crosby and Ovechkin will eventually pass Howe’s mark and climb into the top-five, but none of them have any chance of matching Gretzky’s point record, a mark that seems almost unbreakable given the way the game has evolved and become a more defensive and goaltending dominated sport.
For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.
Jaromir Jagr can’t quit playing hockey, and we’re all better off for it.
After saying years ago he’d like to play beyond 50, Jagr can’t stay away from the ice. After returning to Rytiri Kladno, his hometown club that he owns, in 2018 after injuries ended his time with the Calgary Flames, the future Hall of Famer tried to get healthy but managed only 27 total games in a year as he helped the team get promoted from the Czech second division, which included a four-goal game.
An injury kept him out of the lineup early this season, Kladno’s first in the Czech Extraliga since 2014, but on Friday the 47-year-old (!) Jagr was back in action. Playing over 22 minutes, the fifth overall pick in the 1990 (!!) NHL Draft scored a goal during a 7-4 loss to HC Energie Karlovy Vary.
Kladno is winless through three games early in the season.
“The time between when I quit hockey and I die, I want it to be the shortest,” Jagr said. “It’s not going to be as exciting, that time. So as long as I can play, that’s what I’m doing. If I can play ’til I die, that’s what I will do. What else are you gonna do? Even if you retire, you will still have to go work out, and maybe harder than you do when you play hockey because you don’t want to look ugly and fat. At least I don’t want to.”
Honestly, there may never be enough strange pro athlete product endorsements, particularly when some of the proceeds go to charities.
That thought comes to mind upon the delightful unveiling of “Ovi-O’s,” Giant Food’s Alex Ovechkin-themed cereal. The flavor of the cereal is honey nut, which seems a little mundane for such a vibrant personality as Ovechkin, but we’ll let it slide because a portion of the proceeds from the limited-edition cereal will go to Maryland’s Children’s Cancer Foundation, Inc. The cereal goes on sale on Sept. 17, when Ovechkin will (somehow, already) turn 34.
The box will be hard to miss thanks to Ovechkin’s smile:
As you might expect, footage of Ovechkin eating the cereal (and occasionally failing to eat the cereal) is good fun, too:
To add some strangeness to the promotion, there’s apparently an augmented reality game to accompany the cereal. Let’s imagine it’s an “Ovechkin’s office simulator.” Via the press release:
In addition, the Capitals teamed up with Balti Virtual to bring the Ovi O’s box to life with an augmented reality game, Ovi O’s Slapshot presented by Giant, using Snapchat’s Lens Studio. Customers who have purchased Ovi O’s can scan the box in Snapchat to access this interactive hockey game which gives fans the ability to control Ovechkin as he shoots the cereal at moving targets. After time runs out, players can share their score on social media to compete with friends or scan the box again to keep playing.
Again, stranger product endorsements usually are sequestered to players appearing in low-budget local business commercials, but sometimes we get moments that transcend athletes awkwardly reading off of cue cards, as if they’re in real-life ads from “The Detroiters.”
(Glorious, even beyond the kid with the bowl cut.)
Since the world needs more esoteric cereals inspired by hockey players, we thought we’d throw out a few NHL-themed suggestions:
Connor’s Cereal of Sadness: Really, you can change the name, but crucially, it would have to parallel Connor McDavid‘s experiences with the Oilers. In other words, one great ingredient surrounded by a bunch of slop. Maybe it could be Raisin Bran, only it was a box full of the blandest bran flakes available with just one raisin?
Gen-o’s: The Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t possibly stand pat while their rival Capitals have a cereal, right?
Since Sidney Crosby hasn’t signed off on being a cover star of an EA NHL video game, let’s assume that only Evgeni Malkin would be game for the cereal box treatment. Bonus points if the cereal is black and gold.
UFA Flakes: You don’t realize that they’ve already expired, so you can only chew on with regret as you ponder their cheaper, tastier days.
VoodooGoalies: Keeping with the mascot theme of “Count Chocula,” Voodoo Goalies presents a mystery with every box. Some bowls are worthy of a Vezina; others just ruin your day.
Brent Burns Bran: All kinds of weird stuff in here. Is that beef jerky?
Mitch Marner Munch: Taking forever to hit shelves, and we get the sneaking suspicion that it’s holding up other cereals from returning to stores, too.
For weeks, and really for all of the 2018-19 season, it hasn’t just been about playing well and winning games. This has been a season where the Lightning and their star winger have been chasing history. In defeating the Boston Bruins 6-3 on Saturday, the Lightning won their 62nd game, joining the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings as the only teams to ever do so in NHL history.
There’s beautiful symmetry, too, to the Lightning finishing with 128 standings points (62-16-4) while Kucherov ended what’s easily been the best season of his career with … yes, 128 points. He generated two points on Saturday, passing Alexander Mogilny’s 127 points as the most points scored in a single season by a Russian-born player.
(Kucherov’s hit certain milestones like 70 points while the Lightning crossed that same points barrier at times this season, so the player and the team have been in lockstep with each other in generating these incredible accomplishments.)
While the record-breaking point came via a less exciting assist on an empty-netter, Kucherov’s 127th point of the season was tremendous, even if – in very Kucherov fashion – he made it look easy. This video includes both points:
The headlines will be dominated by the Lightning tying that win mark, and Kucherov setting a new record for a Russian-born skater, and rightfully so. Still, sometimes you don’t really absorb the dominance of a player or team until you really stack up the numbers and milestones, so here are some other remarkable statistics from what has been one of the greatest runs in league history.
As you might expect, the Lightning’s firepower stacks up with some of the best the league’s ever seen (especially if you account for this still being an era where goals are harder to come by). Tampa Bay finished the season with 325 goals, the highest total since the Penguins scored 362 in 1995-96.
They only allowed 222 goals against, putting the Lightning’s goal differential at a whopping +103. That’s the best since the Senators also managed a +103 differential back in 2005-06. (It’s easy to forget how explosive those Senators teams were, for a simple reason that should make Tampa Bay gulp: Ottawa couldn’t win a Stanley Cup.)
Sportsnet notes that the Lightning are the first team to manage a power-play percentage at 28 percent since the Flames did it way back in 1987-88.
There are also some interesting notes about Kucherov, as well as Steven Stamkos.
Kucherov’s 87 assists tie Jaromir Jagr for the most assists in a single season by a winger. Jagr collected 87 back in 1995-96.
With 98 points, Steven Stamkos set a new career-high. He’s really been heating up lately, too, as he has 10 goals in as many games (finishing the season with 45).
Pretty amazing all around.
Of course, some will view all of this history made as hollow if the Lightning can’t win a Stanley Cup. That seems unfair, but it’s the way sports work.
If this run goes off the rails during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, some might wonder: was it worth it to chase history? Would it have been better to rest players instead, Kucherov included? On the other hand, the Bolts would likely counter that it’s better to go into a postseason playing sharp rather than risking rust.
However the matchups finish by the end of Saturday, the Lightning are set to face a rather difficult first-round matchup in the Hurricanes or Blue Jackets. Then again, looking at their numbers, maybe it doesn’t matter who they face — in any round?