Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gretzky 50, I'm feeling old

I recall vividly collecting O-Pee-Chee hockey cards in 1980, Gretzky's rookie year. I was 9 years old and the scoring exploits of this guy fascinated and amazed me. The magazine pictured above was issued by Scholastic books in 1980 and was perhaps my very first non-hockey card related piece of hockey memorabilia, even back then I knew to keep it in good condition.

I cut out newspaper articles and photos to put in scrapbooks, I made my own Gretzky hockey cards and drew pictures of him. Hockey stickers were collected and traded and in 1982 I distinctly remember having about twenty of Gretzky's card from the 81/82 set. Even then however my Leafs were number one as I recall trading a Gretzky oversize card straight-up for the Darryl Sittler one.

So yes....the fact that Wayne Gretzky is 50 years old now brings back recollections of youth and makes me feel that much older, (I am turning 40 this summer after-all).

Even this long after Gretzky retired, he still holds 60 NHL records having only had one of his more obscure ones taken from him. Upon retirement he held the record for most career assists in regular season overtime with 15. He has since been tied by Doug Gilmour and passed by Adam Oates with 17 and new record holder Mark Messier with 18. Most recently, Niklas Lidstrom tallied his 16th career overtime helper.

Of Gretzky's remaining records, few really are in any jeopardy. Seeing as he is tied with 10 other players with 4 goals in one period, it is not unfathomable that someone could score 5 in a period. Likewise, one day someone may score 8 assists in a game to surpass Gretz and Billy Taylor or score 5 points in one period of a playoff game or All-Star game (nine others have also scored 4 in a playoff period, two others 4 in an All-Star period).

Who's to say Alex Ovechkin wont have six more 50 goal seasons over his career to surpass Mike Bossy and Gretzky's nine each. And maybe, just maybe someday a player can fluke their way to 24 straight games with an assist with a few cheap second assists along the way.

Gretzky's 6 assists in one playoff game (tied with Mikko Leinonen of the Rangers) is not unbreakable. Incidentally in the other six games of the 1981/82 playoffs Leinonen scored zero assists.

Gretzky's most "common" record would be Most Assists, One Playoff Period with 3. He has done it on five occasions, but the feat has been accomplished at least 70 other times. Ray Bourque did it three time, Toe Blake, Jean Beliveau, Doug Harvey and Bobby Orr have done it twice each. This one should fall eventually.

It's fairly safe to say then that around 50 of Gretzky's records are pretty safe, and should stand the test of time.

For the record, my favourite Gretzky record is his scoring exactly 100 goals in a season, playoffs included of course. In 1983/84 he has 87 in 74 regular season games and 13 more in 19 playoff games. Even is Steven Stamkos were to score 60 this year or Ovechkin 70 next year, they would have to score 40 and 30 goals each in the playoffs alone. Remember the record for one playoff year is 19. Mind-boggling.
Pictured is the magazine that was handed out for free in minor hockey dressing rooms of the early 1980's by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association.

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