With nearly every sports organization on the planet on pause at the moment as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, we feel it’s an opportune time to reminisce about some special moments in sports history
On this day in 1982, Wayne Gretzky became the first and only player in NHL history to record 200 points in a single season.
Gretzky set up Edmonton Oilers teammate Pat Hughes midway through the first period of what ended up being a 7-2 victory over the Calgary Flames to reach the milestone previously thought to be unreachable.
Before Gretzky debuted in the NHL and began rewriting the record book, Phil Esposito’s 152-point campaign in 1970-71 was the record for most points in a season. Gretzky set a new record in his sophomore season by posting 164 with the Oilers before shattering that mark in 1981-82.
Gretzky, who was 21 at the time, ended up finishing the season on a nine-game point streak during which he had 10 goals and 15 assists to bring his season total to 92 goals and 212 points.
The 92 goals he scored that year remains a record to this day while he bested his mark of 212 with a 215-point campaign in 1985-86. Ultimately, The Great One exceeded 200 points four times during his career.
“We were at breakfast one day, and Paul Coffey said, ‘You know you can get 200 points,'” Gretzky said back in 2017. “I said I never really thought of it. Not to embarrass teams, but if I got two goals I wanted to get four goals. If I had three points I wanted six points. You played from buzzer to buzzer and that’s how I was raised. I was lucky in the sense I had the right coach (Glen Sather). If I did have four or five points, he would double shift me in the third period or he would put me out there in that last minute.”
Records were meant to be broken, so they say, but Gretzky being the lone member of the 200-point club feels like something that will stand the test of time — barring drastic rule changes and/or an unprecedented league-wide increase in scoring in the future.
It’s always difficult and often unfair comparing players and point totals across different eras but, to put things in perspective, there have only been 38 instances of a player reaching 100 points in the salary cap era and only four players have recorded 120 points or more with Nikita Kucherov’s 128 one season ago being the highest total since 2005.
Scoring is up in the NHL in recent years — teams averaged 3.01 goals per game in 2018-19 and 3.02 goals per game through 1,082 combined games in 2019-20 — but nothing like it was when Gretzky was posting his insane totals. The 1981-82 season stands as the highest-scoring season in modern NHL history with teams averaging 4.01 goals per game that year.
“As far as the records go, listen, if you play in the National Hockey League it’s an honour. If you break a record or have a record it’s really truly something special because there have been so many good players,” Gretzky said Tuesday.
The only other player to sniff 200 points was Mario Lemieux when the Penguins legend registered 199 points in 1988-89.