There’s not a lot to say about The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, that hasn’t already been said. Although, at what point do we start referring to him as The Greatest One? Seriously, he is the undisputed best player in the history of ever to lace up a pair of skates, and I think he’s more than earned that title.
No player – past, present or future – will ever even begin to approach the legacy that Wayne Gretzky created during his NHL-playing days in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He became a global sensation at a very young age and stayed that way all the way through his final career game in 1999 and beyond. Now and forever, Wayne Gretzky’s name will be a cornerstone on which the game of hockey rests.
Throughout his 20-year career, Gretzky topped every scoring chart, won more individual trophies than anybody else and almost single-handedly helped the NHL’s popularity explode in the U.S. almost overnight.
Along the way, he set 61 official NHL records and scores more unofficial yet equally significant ones. Most of them are untouchable. In fact, it would take superhuman skills to even begin to approach some of his scoring accolades. But some of them – not many – are within the realm of breakability, and a few have actually since been surpassed.
So here are eight of Wayne Gretzky’s records that, though tough as it may be, could potentially be broken one day down the road and seven immortal ones that will never ever be touched.
15 Could Be Broken: Most Assists In One Game (7)
Honestly, I’m surprised this one hasn’t been broken in its 70-year lifespan. Gretzky has accomplished the feat on three separate occasions, most recently on Valentine’s Day in 1986 with the Oilers, but technically Billy Taylor was the first one to set the record when he did it with the Red Wings back in 1947.
While it’s true that goal-scoring is down recently compared to some of the less defense-focused eras in the league’s history, there are still plenty of opportunities to surpass this lofty mark.
For example, some of the highest-scoring games in recent memory have happened just this season. Since October, there have been no fewer than 37 games in which at least one team scored seven or more goals, including two 10-goal outbursts.
With high-flying offenses like the Penguins’, Capitals’, and Blue Jackets’, it’s not inconceivable that a star on one of those squads could dish out seven helpers in a very-high-scoring affair soon.
14 Won’t Be Broken: Longest Point Streak (51-Games)
The only player ever to get within shouting distance of this Gretzky record is Mario Lemieux, arguably one of the top-5 greatest skaters ever to play the game, when he stretched a point streak to 46 games in 1989-90. But it’s hard to think about one player recording at least one point in every single game for nearly two-thirds of a season. Then again, this is Wayne Gretzky we’re talking about.
He started his streak on Oct. 5, opening night of the 1983-84 season and was a mainstay on the Oilers’ score sheet for 51 games in a row through Jan. 28, 1984. During that run, he averaged three points per game before going on to win his fourth of 10 career scoring titles with 79 points more than the next highest scorer.
13 Could Be Broken: Most Assists In One Playoff Period (3)
Three assists in one playoff period is a record held not only by Wayne Gretzky but dozens of other players, and it’s just waiting for someone to come along and finally collect a fourth.
Including Gretzky, 79 other players have registered the playoff-period assist trifecta, most recently Brad Richards with the Dallas Stars in Game 2 of the 2008 Western Conference Semi-Finals against the San Jose Sharks.
A little basic arithmetic will tell us that any single player whose team advances to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals has as many as 84 periods in which to attempt the record in any one postseason, assuming all four rounds go to a seventh game. All it would take is a couple passes here, a rebound put-back there and maybe a lucky deflection within the time span of 20 minutes or less, and boom, down goes Gretzky – and 79 others.
12 Won’t Be Broken: Most Consecutive 200-Point Seasons (3)
This record is untouchable. In fact, this is more like a record within a record, so you’d have to unlock multiple achievements in succession in order to check this one off your list. Let me explain.
No player, other than The Great One himself, has ever scored 200 points in a single season. The next closest point total is 199, a mark “Super” Mario Lemieux reached with the Penguins in 1988-89, and in the past 10 seasons, only 13 players have topped the 100-point plateau, none more than 120.
So, considering that no one else in the history of the game has even eclipsed that double-century mark even once, it’s outlandish to think that someone could come along and do it four times in a row, especially in today’s more conservative game.
11 Could Be Broken: Longest Assist Streak (23 Games)
This one’s doable; you just have to score the right points. A glance through the NHL record books will tell you that a streak of 24 games or more with at least a point is certainly not unprecedented. It’s the matter of making sure that at least one point in each of those games is an assist.
Paul Coffey, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, Steve Yzerman and Mats Sundin have all had point streaks of at least 28 games, and each had the number of assists that would have broken the record, but none of them were able to notch a helper in 24 of those games consecutively.
The Chicago Blackhawks’s Patrick Kane is the most recent player to get close to the record. He had a 26-game point streak in 2015 in which he scored 16 goals and added 24 helpers, but he was blanked in the assist column in eight of those games.
The potential is there for this record to fall, but it’ll take a laser focus on creating plays, not necessarily finishing them.
10 Won’t Be Broken: Most Assists In One Season (163)
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Gretzky was an absolute assist machine. He could go tape-to-tape, angle one off the boards to a streaking linemate or even use his skate blades to kick the puck to his shooter of choice to finish off a play, and he did all of it at will. This record is evidence of that.
The year he set this particular unreachable milestone was 1985-86, a down year for the then 24-year-old as far as goals (52), but he more than made up for it with all them apples. His assist total alone that year was 22 higher than league scoring runner-up Mario Lemieux’s 141 total points. That season also marked Gretzky’s highest career point total (215) and the last of four times he reached 200 points in a season.
9 Could Be Broken: Most Career All-Star Game Goals (13)
I hate to say it, but the NHL All-Star Game – depending on which format the league happens to use in any given year – is oftentimes a far-too-casual affair filled with a whole bunch of lazy hockey, plenty of scoring and about as much defense as a men’s 50-and-over beer-league scrimmage.
We’ve seen games with the combined score soaring into the high teens and even 20s over the years, which is why it’s a little surprising Wayne Gretzky only had 13 goals in the annual mid-season celebrity snoozefest in which he played 18 times.
If a young star like Connor McDavid or Vladimir Tarasenko – who will both undoubtedly make plenty of trips to the All-Star Game in their long futures in the league – really wanted to, they could score at LEAST a couple of goals each time they made the game and break the record in four or five or six years, especially considering the recently new 3-on-3 format that opens up the ice for lots of uncontested offense.
8 Won’t Be Broken: Most Consecutive MVP Awards (8)
Being the best player in the league even for a single season is nearly impossible. Your game has to stand head and shoulders above every single other player, and you pretty much have to lead the league in a lot of important statistical columns – usually the scoring ones.
That’s why you’d have to be clinically insane to even think anyone else could win nine NHL MVP awards total, let alone consecutively.
The legendary Gordie Howe owns the next highest amount with six, and he only ever won two of those in a row.
Currently, Alexander Ovechkin is the last player to win consecutive MVP honors, doing it twice in a row in 2007-08 and 2008-09, and the only other player ever to win more than two straight – other than Gretzky – was Bobby Orr, who won three consecutively from 1970 to 1972. Nine straight is impossible. Period.
7 Could Be Broken: Most Goals In One Period (4) (tied with 10 other players)
It’s hard to comprehend a single player scoring five goals in a single 20-minute NHL period, but we know it’s possible. The record, which Gretzky shares with 12 other people, was tied just this year when San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau pumped in four lamp-lighters in the third period of a game against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 23.
Here’s the thing, though. It only took Marleau 13 ½ minutes to score all four goals, which means he had 6 ½ other minutes he could have had one or even two more.
It’s a tall task, and a guy would have to score early and often to have a chance at breaking the record, but this is one that isn’t subject to any single player’s longevity and has the potential to be broken every single night.
6 Won’t Be Broken: Most Goals In A Single Season (92)
Nope. Now way. Now how. Not in a million years. Ninety-two goals in a single NHL season is no longer within the realm of possibility. It used to be, back in the NHL’s goal-scoring heyday of the ‘80s and ‘90s, but not anymore. Today’s game is far too defensive, and the goaltenders are way too good.
Gretzky set the mark in the 1981-82 season, breaking Phil Esposito’s then record of 76. After that, Brett Hull (86) and Mario Lemieux (85) got somewhat close but still couldn’t close in on the 1.15 goals-per-game rate that Gretzky had.
The closest anyone’s gotten to the record this century was Alexander Ovechkin, who potted 65 goals in 2007-08, so “closest” isn’t really saying much. This Gretzky record will stand the test of time.
5 Could Be Broken: Most Assists In The Stanley Cup Finals (10)
Consider this. In the Stanley Cup Finals, teams are probably rolling three lines, and the best players will be getting the longest shifts and the most ice time to give their team the best chance to claim the Cup. The more the highly skilled players are out there, the more likely it is that they’re going to get in on some scoring plays.
Now, multi-point games are harder to come by in the playoffs, and especially in the Finals, but when the best players in the world are competing for hockey’s Holy Grail, the cream will rise to the top.
It would take some doing, but say a Finals series went the distance of seven games. If a guy averaged just over 1.5 assists per game, he’d become the new record-holder. That’s not so impossible, is it?
4 Won’t Be Broken: 50 Goals In 39 Games
Some say Wayne Gretzky’s incredible 1981 feat of 50 goals in 39 games is the single greatest achievement the NHL has ever seen, and I would tend to agree. Fifty goals in 50 games is a hallowed benchmark in the NHL, and only two other players – Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Mike Bossy – have ever tackled the challenge.
But Gretzky did it in 39 games, 11 fewer than he actually needed to, and that begins to border on unbelievability. I mean, 50 goals in a single season alone is a tall task, but to reach that mark in less than half a season would be outrageous even to suggest nowadays.
It would take the hottest of unprecedented hot streaks and probability a generous side helping of luck to break this record, and that’s why it will remain for all eternity.
3 Could Be Broken: Most 40-Or-More Goal Seasons (12)
The amazing thing about Gretzky’s record 12 40-goal seasons is that he had all 12 of them in a row. But we’re not concerned with stringing them all together with this record – just doing it, period, would be enough.
With the NHL’s rate of scoring down compared to the free-wheeling ‘80s that Gretzky enjoyed, this one will be one of the toughest to achieve but not impossible. We’ve seen 60-or-more goal seasons as recently as five years ago, and there are a lot of super-talented young stars who are already taking the league by storm.
It will take literally the most consistent goal-scorer in the history of the game, but scoring a goal at a rate of one every other game in 13 seasons is something I think someone can dedicate his career to.
Heck, Alexander Ovechkin is two-thirds of the way there already. He’s got eight 40+ goal seasons as a 31-year-old, and he’s got plenty of good years left. We may even see this record fall within the decade.
2 Won’t Be Broken: Most Career Assists (1,963)
The absurdity of this particular record can never be overstated. Wayne Gretzky’s 1,963 career assists outnumber the amount of total points – goals AND assists combined – than any other player in the history of the league has scored. Gretzky could have scored zero goals in his entire career and still be the all-time points leader. Try wrapping your head around that.
To give you a real-life example, old-timer Jaromir Jagr is second all-time in NHL points with 1,905 (763 goals and 1,142 assists as of this writing), and that STILL trails Gretzky’s assist number.
I’ve said it once, but it bears repeating: Gretzky was superhuman when it came to his playmaking abilities. He had 11 straight seasons with 100 or more assists. These days, it’d be hard for even two guys to get 1,964 assists in their careers, let alone one.
1 Could Be Broken: Most Career Goals (894)
Ovechkin could do it.
Other young hotshots just entering the league would have to start scoring a lot really, really fast, but Ovi is the current best bet to take this record down any time soon. And the best part is that it’s plausible.
It’ll take everything to line up perfectly, though: no major injuries, no more lockouts, plenty of ice time and really good teammates.
If Gretzky’s point total was a more balanced affair, this feat wouldn’t be possible. But he had more than double the amount of assists that he had goals, which leaves this ultimate NHL record “vulnerable” to a guy like Ovechkin.
The 31-year-old Ovechkin is averaging about 45 goals per non-lockout season. As of this writing, he had a total of 553 goals. If he were to play until age 40 – nine more seasons – he would need to average around 38 goals a year. And that’s not unreasonable.