Today in Hockey History: Dec. 21

Dec. 21 has been a very eventful date in National Hockey League history. Two NHL records were broken, memories were made in Los Angeles, 250 was a magic number, and one of the greatest goaltenders in league history performed well. It’s time for our look at today in hockey history.

New All-Time Highs

Bobby Orr picked up an assist on Dec. 21, 1972, in the Boston Bruins’ 8-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. This gave him 541 career points, which were the most ever by an NHL defenseman. He needed just 423 games to break Doug Harvey’s record, who scored 540 points in 1,113 contests. Orr’s 915 career points are now 11th all-time for blueliners.

Bobby Orr
Orr revolutionized the game from the back end. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Martin Brodeur made 35 saves on Dec. 21, 2009, in the New Jersey Devils’ 4-0 win at the Pittsburgh Penguins. This was the 104th shutout of his Hall of Fame, putting him one ahead of Terry Sawchuk for the most in NHL history. He retired with 125 shutouts and is also the league’s all-time leader with 1,266 games played and 691 wins.

A Crowning Day in LA

Butch Goring took a two-minute minor for slashing in the first period on Dec. 21, 1977, which was his only penalty of the entire 1977-78 season. After he got out of the penalty box, he picked up two assists in the Los Angeles Kings’ 8-1 win over the Minnesota North Stars.

Related – 5 Greatest Moments in Kings History

Dave Taylor scored a goal and added an assist on Dec. 21, 1988, to reach 900 points in his career. Bernie Nicholls and Luc Robitaille each scored a goal and had three assists in another win over the North Stars, this time 8-6.

Bernie Nicholls Los Angeles Kings
Nicholls had four points on this date in 1988 (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

On Dec. 21, 1991, Wayne Gretzky scored a goal in a 5-2 loss to the visiting Detroit Red Wings. This was the 732nd goal of his legendary career, moving him ahead of former Kings’ great Marcel Dionne for second all-time in league history. This put Gordie Howe and his 801 goals in Gretzky’s sites.

250 is the Magic Number

Tim Kerr became the sixth player to score 250 goals as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 21, 1986, in a 7-6 win over the St. Louis Blues. He hit this milestone by scoring his 13th career hat trick, a new team record.

Mario Lemieux scored his 15th career hat trick to become the third 250-goal scorer in Penguins history on Dec. 21, 1988. He also had two assists in a lopsided 6-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

On that same night, Dave Christian scored his 250th NHL goal as the Washington Capitals won 4-3 at the Chicago Blackhawks. He became the only second U.S.-born player to join the 250-goal club.

John Vanbiesbrouck recorded his 250th NHL career victory on Dec. 21, 1995, in the Florida Panthers’ 6-1 defeat of the visiting Winnipeg Jets. He became the 25th goaltender in league history to get 250 wins.

A Busy Day for the Dominator

Dominik Hasek was a huge fan of playing on Dec. 21. In 1996, he became the fourth goalie to record 100 victories with the Buffalo Sabres, when he led them to a 3-1 win at the Ottawa Senators.

One year later, on Dec. 21, 1997, Hasek recorded his second consecutive shutout by beating the New York Rangers 2-0. In doing so, he became the first European-born netminder to record 25 shutouts in the NHL.

Goaltender Dominik Hasek
Hasek was one of the greatest goaltenders ever.(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

He earned another shutout on Dec. 21, 2001, leading the Red Wings to a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks. His 58th career shutout ended the Sharks’ 10-game unbeaten streak. Hasek won a career-high 41 games during the 2001-02 season, which ended with his first Stanley Cup championship.

Penguins’ Coaching Milestones

Eddie Johnston became Pittsburgh’s all-time winningest coach with his 96th career victory on Dec. 21, 1993, as the Penguins beat the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning 8-3. He passed Scotty Bowman with his career record of 96-135-42. He finished his second run with the team in 1997 with 232 wins. He is still third in franchise history behind Dan Bylsma (252) and current head coach Mike Sullivan who had 268 wins and counting.

On Dec. 21, 2015, Sullivan earned his first victory as Penguins’ head coach with a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blues Jackets. Phil Kessel scored twice to give his new coach his first win in his fifth game behind the bench. Even though things got off to a slow start for Sullivan, he led them to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017.

Odds & Ends

Paul Thompson became the first player to score a goal on his brother on Dec. 21, 1937. He spoiled Tiny Thompson’s shutout bid by beating him with just nine seconds left to play. Tiny and Bruins got the last laugh with a 2-1 win over Paul and his Blackhawks.

The Red Wings took their first charter flight in team history on Dec. 21, 1938, when they flew from New York to Chicago for a game.

Speaking of the Red Wings on Dec. 21, 1952, Ted Lindsay became the first player in team history to score 200 goals. His goal extended Detroit’s team-record undefeated streak to 12 straight games (7-0-5) with a 5-2 win at the Rangers.

The Sabres beat the Capitals 14-2 on Dec. 21, 1975, setting a new franchise record for the most goals in a single game. They exploded for eight goals in the third period and outshot Washington 50-16. Rick Martin led the way with four goals and an assist. Danny Gare also had a five-point night with a goal and four helpers. Fred Stanfield chipped in with a goal and three assists.

17-year-old Pat LaFontaine scored a goal for the Verdun Juniors on Dec. 21, 1982, to tie Guy Lafleur’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) record of at least one point in 40 straight games. LaFontaine scored 104 goals and 234 points in his only season in the QMJHL, beating Lemieux for the scoring title.

Alexander Mogilny tied the league record for the fastest goal from the start of the game on Dec. 21, 1991, when he scored five seconds after the puck dropped in the Sabres’ 4-1 win at the Maple Leafs. He tied the record originally set by Doug Smail in 1981 and matched by Bryan Trottier in 1984.

Scott Stevens became the Devils’ all-time leader in assists by a defenseman on Dec. 21, 2002, when he picked his 318th helper in a 5-3 win over the visiting Dallas Stars. He broke the previous record of 317 held by Bruce Driver.

Scott Stevens
Stevens was one of the most feared defensemen of his era. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Goaltender Rob Zepp made his NHL debut on Dec. 21, 2014, and earned a 4-3 win over the Jets, thanks to Jakub Voracek’s overtime goal. At age 33, he became the oldest netminder to win his league debut since a 41-year-old Hugh Lehman did so with the Blackhawks way back in 1926

Ken Hitchcock joined an elite club on Dec 21, 2017, when his Stars beat the Blackhawks 4-0. He became just the third head coach in NHL history to win 800 games, joining Bowman and Joel Quenneville, who was behind the opposing bench this night.

Happy Birthday to You

Dec. 21 has seen the birth of 14 current and former NHL players over the years. The most successful of this lot are Joe Kocur (57), Jamie Oleksiak (29), Malcolm Subban (28), Alex Iafallo (28), Cody Ceci (28), Charlie McAvoy (24), and the late Steve Montador.


Sign up for our regular 'Hockey History Newsletter' for all the best and most significant pieces from the THW Archives.