Looking back at Gretzky’s 50 goals in 39 games

On Dec. 30, 1981 Wayne Gretzky did the unthinkable.

He hit the 50-goal plateau in just his 39th game of the season for the Edmonton Oilers.

Prior to that, no player had registered 50 goals in fewer than 50 games — something both Mike Bossy and Maurice Richard had accomplished.

30 years later, Gretzky believes scoring 50 goals in 39 games is the most impressive of all his records.

“People ask me all the time about my records, but to me, that’s my favourite,” Gretzky said in an interview with canada.com. “They’re all made to be broken, that’s what sports is. That’s what’s so great about sports, but that’s my favourite because I think that will be the hardest to break.”

The Great One has a cavalcade of NHL records — both career milestones and single-season totals — that are likely to never be broken.

In 1981-82 Gretzky scored 92 goals. Brett Hull came close to that mark in 1990-91 when he tallied 86 goals with the St. Louis Blues; Mario Lemieux scored 85 in 1988-89. The last time a player had over 70 goals in a season was in 1992-93 when Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne each had 76.

During the 1985-86 season Gretzky amassed 215 points. No other player in NHL history besides Gretzky (who had four 200-point seasons) has recorded over 200 points in a single campaign. Mario Lemieux came close in 1989, registering 199 points. In that same season, Gretzky also set an NHL record with 163 assists.

Gretzky is the NHL’s all-time leader in regular season goals (894), assists (1963) and points (2,857), which are three more records to likely never be challenged.

Here are more notable sports records that are likely to never be surpassed:

– Baseball’s ultimate iron man, Cal Ripken Jr., put together an unbelievable streak of 2,632 consecutive games played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1982-1998. Subsequently Ripken also holds the record for consecutive innings played with 8,243. Next time you consider calling in sick for work, just think of Mr. Ripken.

– Wilt Chamberlain is known for his 100-point game in 1962. But a record that often goes unheralded is the fact Chamberlain averaged 50.4-points per game in the 1961-62 season. In today’s game, the NBA scoring leader usually sits at approximately 30 PPG. Kobe Bryant came close to matching the 100-point game against the lowly Toronto Raptors in 2005-06, but ultimately fell short with only 81 points.

– It’s no wonder the award for the award for the best pitcher in baseball is called the “Cy Young.” Cy Young finished his legendary career with 749 complete games, an accomplishment that will not be duplicated. Young also holds the record for all-time wins with 511. That’s 94 more wins than second place Walter Johnson. Now with five-man rotations and pitch counts, good luck coming close to this milestone.

– In the same season Chamberlain averaged 50.4-points per game, fellow basketball legend Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double with the Cincinnati Royals of the NBA. Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists during this unparalleled season.

– Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak in 1941 is one of the most famous records in sports and one that will be hard pressed to surpass. Pete Rose came close in 1978 with a 44-game streak and Dan Uggla of the Atlanta Braves was on a run of 33 consecutive games with a hit this past season.

– Heavyweight boxing legend Joe Louis defended his title 25 consecutive times from 1937 to 1948. It’s impressive if a fighter has a competitive 11-year career, let alone going unbeaten in that amount of time.

– The MLB record for all-time career hits is 4,256 held by Pete Rose. The closest active player to Rose’s record is New York Yankee’s shortstop Derek Jeter who currently has 3,088 hits.

– Jerry Rice finished his NFL career with 22,895 receiving yards. There is no player even within 6,500 yards of Rice’s milestone. Rice is also the NFL’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards.

– Teemu Selanne scored a remarkable 76 goals in his rookie season in 1992-93. In comparison, Gretzky only scored 42 goals in his first year with the Oilers. In the post-lockout NHL, fifty-goal seasons are almost a rarity. We can’t imagine anyone coming to close to this.

– In 1945 golfer Byron Nelson dominated the field like no other in the sport’s history winning 18 tournaments. Since modern courses are more difficult and the level of competition in today’s game is fierce, this record will likely never be broken.

– Longtime Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre started 253 straight regular season games in the NFL. Favre even played just one day after the sudden death of his father in 2003 on Monday Night Football. Peyton Manning had never missed a game before the 2011 season, but that came to crashing halt after a neck injury sidelined No. 18 for the season.

– Gordie Howe played professional hockey in six different decades. This record is a bit misleading since Howe retired from the NHL in 1980 and played one exhibition game in 1997-98 for the Detroit Vipers of the IHL. Still, Howe is the NHL’s all-time leader in games played with 1,767.

Records athletes don’t want to break

Not all records are accomplishments athletes can be proud of. Here’s a look at some of the more embarrassing sports record:

– Not many know the name Herman Long, but he is the owner of one of the most embarrassing records in baseball history. Between 1889 and 1904 the shortstop spent time with Kansas City, Boston, New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia. In 1,881 career games Long committed an astronomical 1,096 errors. But, he never had more errors than games played in a single season.

– Rasheed Wallace holds the NBA record for most technical fouls in one season. In 2000-01 Wallace had 41 technical fouls in 80 games. He also holds the all-time record for most technical fouls with 304.

– Three Canadians rank as victims in the three quickest knockouts in UFC history. Mark Hominick, Tim Hague and Jonathan Goulet have all been knocked out in less than seven seconds.

– At the 2010 Wimbledon Championships John Isner and Nicolas Mahut competed in the longest match in professional tennis history. The match lasted a total of 11.5 hours. Talk about sore feet.

– Defenceman Robert Stewart holds the NHL record for the worst plus/minus rating. In 575 games, Stewart was a minus-260. His worst season was in 1972-73 with the California Golden Seals, going minus-46 in 63 games played.

– When Hughie Jennings retired from baseball in 1918, he had been hit by 287 pitches over his career. Certainly a painful record.

– 2002 wasn’t a fun year for Houston Texans quarterback David Carr. He was sacked a ridiculous 76 times, an NFL single-season record.

– As far as team records go the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ record of 26 consecutive losses is one no team in any sport wants to contend with.


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