Custom Search

Record-breaking goals— from Richard to Howe, Hull, Espo and Gretzky

Like many hockey (and sports) fans, I’ve often enjoyed those memorable and historic record-breaking moments.

In hockey, it’s always been about record-breaking goals—whether it be single-season or overall career regular-season goals.

I was raised in a sports-heavy household where Babe Ruth’s 714 lifetime home runs and Rocket Richard’s career 544 goals meant something.  If you referred to those numbers, sports fans knew what you meant right away.  Ruth’s 60 home runs in a single season was the gold standard, as was Richard’s (see photo at right) 50 goals in a single NHL season.

Things shifted when Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle made their run to "60" during the 1961 baseball season.  Maris ultimately broke Ruth’s record, hitting 61 home runs in 162 games.  (I believe Ruth had accomplished his record in 154 games, which created much controversy and consternation among traditional baseball fans at the time.)

Remarkkably, during the 1960-’61 hockey season, two men also launched a run at Richard’s hallowed mark of 50 goals:  Richard’s former teammate Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and young Maple Leaf  left-winger Frank Mahovlich.  (Mahovlich played most of that season with former Red Wing great Red Kelly as his center, and they had wonderful chemistry.)

In the end, Mahovlich stalled a bit late in the season, partly because of an injury to Kelly, and ended up with a still staggering, for the time, 48 goals.  Geoffrion scored his 50th at the Montreal Forum against goaltender Cesare Maniago and the Leafs near the end of the regular season.

(Detroit’s Gordie Howe, left, scored 49 a few seasons earlier, and was denied 50, in part because a goal he scored earlier in the season was credited to a teammate, and Howe refused to step forward and acknowledge he had scored the goal.)

Amazingly, just a year after Geoffrion’s record-tying moment, Chicago’s Bobby Hull did exactly the same thing, notching his 50th goal against Gump Worsley and the Rangers on what I believe was the final night of the 1961-’62 regular season (see the great old, if blurry, photo of that record-tying goal above).

Hull then broke the single-season mark a few seasons later, scoring number 51 on a slapshot from the point against, again, the Rangers.  That time, I believe Maniago, then a Ranger, was in goal—but I hope someone will correct me if my memory is off.

Hull marched past 50 maybe four times in his career, his highest total being 58, I believe.  But fans of that era will recall that his former Chicago linemate, Phil Esposito (right), smashed Hull’s mark during Boston’s record-breaking 1970-’71 season.  Espo scored an unheard of 76 goals in one year.

That wasn’t topped until a little more than 10 years later, when Gretzky set a mark that may never be broken in today’s tight-checking NHL, with 92 goals in a single season.

For a while, in the high-scoring 1980s, a 50-goal season wasn’t that big a deal any longer.  It happened a fair bit.  Rick Vaive did it a few times himself with the struggling Maple Leafs.  Mike Bossy scored 50 in 50 games, which was neat until Gretzky did it in even less, as I recall.

Of course, Gordie Howe was the man who first broke past Richard’s all-time total of  544 goals, scoring his record-breaker against Charlie Hodge and the Habs at the Olympia in Detroit in the early 1960s.  (If you click on some earlier stories about Howe, there is a great old picture of Howe scoring number 544 against Worsley in Detroit.) Howe later scored his 600th against Worsley at the Forum and his 700th against, I believe, Les Binkley and the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh.  (I can’t remember now who Howe scored his 800th regular season NHL goal against, in his last NHL season in 1979-’80 at the age of 51, with the Hartford Whalers.  Someone following this site may well remember.)

I still look at Howe as hockey’s all-time leading goal scorer.  Why?  When you add up his numbers (regular-season) in both the NHL and WHA, and do the same with Bobby Hull and Gretzky, Howe finished with 975, Gretzky 940 and Hull with 913.  All remarkable players, but for me, Howe is number one in goals.

I really do doubt anyone will ever score 92 goals in a season, unless the rules change dramatically.  And I can’t fathom anyone reaching almost 900 regular-season NHL career goals to break Gretzky’s NHL career mark.  That unfortunately kind of puts those special occasions, when players achieve new records, out of reach for this generation of players—and hockey fans.

While we may have seen the last of players breaking those records, something that has been such a cherished part of hockey history, we all have great memories of some special moments.

No comments:

Post a Comment