If you had to construct a Mount Rushmore of the four greatest players in National Hockey League History, many of the most popular choices had big moments on this date. Dec. 30 was also a very eventful evening in Montreal, St. Louis and Los Angeles. It is time to take our daily trip through decades of hockey lore.
Gretzky Shatters Another Record
Wayne Gretzky’s 1981-1982 season was one that we had never seen before in the NHL and haven’t seen one of its ilk since. After scoring four goals against the Los Angeles Kings in his previous game, the Great One had 45 goals through his first 38 games of the season.
On Dec. 30, 1981, the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Philadelphia Flyers and Gretzky scored five goals to hit the magical 50-goal mark.
Gretzky lit the lamp two times during the opening period. He completed his hat trick in the second period before netting goal No. 49 early in the final frame. The Flyers scored two late goals to get within one score so they pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker. This allowed Gretzky to score his historic goal into an empty net and secure a 7-5 victory for the Oilers.
His 50 goals in 39 games was a new record that will likely never be broken. He shattered the NHL record of 50 goals in 50 games set by Maurice Richard and tied by Mike Bossy. Gretzky finished the 1981-82 season with 92 goals, which is still the most ever scored in a single season in NHL history.
Jagr & Lemieux: A Dynamic Duo
When you talk about the greatest twosomes in the history of the game, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr have to be near the top of your list because of their time together with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both players had big nights on this date.
Lemieux scored his 35th career hat trick, on Dec. 30, 1995, as the Penguins earned a 6-5 victory over the visiting Florida Panthers.
Jagr had the best offensive night of his legendary NHL run, on Dec. 30, 1999, when he put up a career-high seven points. He scored his sixth career hat trick and added four assists in the Penguins’ 9-2 blowout win over the New York Islanders.
Exactly one year later, Lemieux had a goal and three assists to lead Pittsburgh to a 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators. The four-point performance gave him 1,500 in his career, making him just the 10th player in league history to reach this milestone. Only four more players have joined the 1,500-point club since this date.
Canadiens Legends Grab the Spotlight
The Montreal Canadiens have provided the hockey world with some of the greatest legends the game has ever seen. A handful of them showed exactly when they are held in such high regard on this date.
Starting on Dec. 30, 1925, Howie Morenz scored a hat trick in the Canadiens’ 7-4 win over the Montreal Maroons. This was the third of 14 career regular-season hat tricks during his Hall of Fame career.
Richard scored his first career hat trick and added two assists, on Dec. 30, 1943, leading the Habs to an 8-3 win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings. His linemate on “The Punch Line,” Elmer Lach, had two goals and four helpers. This was the Canadiens’ 11th straight home win, setting a new team record.
“The Rocket” scored another hat trick, the 22nd of his career, on Dec. 30, 1954, to help beat the Chicago Blackhawks 7-4. Jean Beliveau was the offensive star of the night by scoring two goals and assisting on three others.
Beliveau came up big again, on Dec. 30, 1967, with a goal and an assist as the Canadiens beat the Oakland Seals 2-0. Hall of Fame goaltender Gump Worsley recorded the 33rd shutout of his career.
Meet Me in St. Louis
Fans of the St. Louis Blues can look back on this date for plenty of fond memories. On Dec. 30, 1969, goaltender Glenn Hall recorded his 82nd career shutout in a 5-0 road win in Montreal. Gary Sabourin led the scoring with two goals and an assist.
The Blues reacquired Red Berenson from the Red Wings, on Dec. 30, 1974, in exchange for Phil Roberto and a third-round pick in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft. In his two stints with the club, Berenson scored 172 goals and 412 points in 519 games. Shortly after retiring, he became the head coach of the Blues for three seasons. He went on to coach the University of Michigan from 1984 until 2017.
Wayne Babych was the hero of the night, on Dec. 30, 1980, when he scored his second of three career hat tricks in the Blues’ 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Blues retired the No. 11, on Dec. 30, 1980, which was worn by Brian Sutter their head coach at the time. He spent his entire 12-season NHL career in St. Louis, scoring 303 goals and 636 points in 770 games. His team scored two goals in the final 18 seconds of the third period to earn a point in a 5-5 tie with the Minnesota North Stars.
One year later, on Dec. 30, 1989, the Blues hosted the North Stars once again. Brett Hull began his team-record 20-game point streak with an assist and the game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory.
An Important Date for Kings
The Los Angeles Kings played their first game at their long-time home, on Dec. 30, 1967, as the doors to the Forum opened up. The team played the first 17 home games in franchise history at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and Long Beach Arena. The large crowd was sent home disappointed as the Flyers won the game 2-0. In a strange scheduling move that we would never see today, the two teams met again in Philadelphia the very next night.
Marcel Dionne scored three goals, on Dec. 30, 1983, as the Kings picked up a 9-3 road win at the Hartford Whalers. This was the 27th hat trick of his Hall of Fame career.
On Dec. 30, 1999, the Kings earned their 1,000th victory in franchise history with an 8-2 win versus the visiting Oilers. Luc Robitaille was the offensive hero with a goal and four assists for a five-point night.
Leaving Your Mark on a Franchise
Gordie Howe scored his 254th career goal to become the highest goal-scorer in Red Wings’ history, on Dec. 30, 1954, in a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs. He moved ahead of his teammate Ted Lindsay, who was sidelined with an injury at the time.
Dave Keon became the fourth player to score 250 goals in a Maple Leafs uniform, on Dec. 30, 1970. He also had an assist in a 3-1 victory over the visiting Seals.
Bobby Schmautz scored four goals, on Dec. 30, 1972, as the Vancouver Canucks beat the Islanders 5-2. He became the first player in the short franchise history of the team to net three hat tricks in one season.
Thomas Gradin became the first Canucks’ player to register 300 career assists, on Dec. 30, 1984, as Vancouver scored four third-period goals to earn a 7-7 tie with the Oilers. Moe Lemay led the scoring with three assists.
Steve Yzerman, on Dec. 30, 1988, became the eighth player in franchise history to score 200 goals with Red Wings. The milestone goal and two assists came in a 4-3 loss at the Whalers.
Martin Brodeur earned a shutout, on Dec. 30, 2006, as the New Jersey Devils beat the Islanders 2-0. This was his 86th career shutout, setting the NHL record for the most shutouts with one team. He broke the old record held by Terry Sawchuk, who had 84 shutouts with the Red Wings. Brodeur retired with 125 shutouts, the most in league history, with 124 of them for the Devils and one for the Blues.
Odds & Ends
Ernie McLea scored the first hat trick in Stanley Cup history, on Dec. 30, 1896, as the Montreal Victorias won the famous trophy with a 6-5 victory over the defending champion Winnipeg Victorias. Yes, both teams were named the Victorias.
Goaltender Tiny Thompson and Dave Kerr battled it out, on Dec. 30, 1934, in a scoreless tie between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. This started a 37-game undefeated streak in overtime games for the Bruins. They went 10-0-27 during this four-year stretch, the longest such streak in NHL history.
Frank Udvari was called into emergency duty, on Dec. 30, 1978, to become the oldest man to referee an NHL game. At nearly 55-years-old, and 12 years since retired, the supervisor of officials was needed on the ice when referee Dave Newell suffered a bad cut. Udvari had to borrow a pair of skates from Islanders’ great Bryan Trottier. The Islanders beat the Atlanta Flames 4-2 despite Udvari, ironically, disallowing a Trottier goal.
Btw that's the classic photo of Gordie Howe checking Toronto's Gordie Hannigan while ref Frank Udvari takes cover pic.twitter.com/h102nVp32H— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) November 8, 2017
Goaltender Greg Millen extended his personal undefeated streak to 10 games (5-0-5), on Dec. 30, 1979, as the Penguins beat the Flames 3-2 at the Civic Arena.
Al MacInnis made his NHL debut, on Dec. 30, 1981, in a 4-2 Calgary Flames loss to the Bruins. He went on to play in 1,416 games during his Hall of Fame career with the Flames and Blues. He retired in 2003 with 1,274 points, the third-most in league history among defensemen.
Grant Fuhr recorded his first career NHL shutout, on Dec. 30, 1983, to lead the Oilers to a 2-0 win over the Bruins. Fuhr made 36 saves in earning the first of 25 shutouts in his 19-season career.
Captain Dale Hawerchuk picked up two assists to give him 400 in his career, on Dec. 30, 1987, as the Winnipeg Jets lost 6-4 in Los Angeles.
On Dec. 30, 1989, the Maple Leafs found themselves down 6-1 to the Bruins with just over a minute to play in the second period. The home team stormed back and scored six goals in a roll, with the last one by Wendel Clark in overtime, to steal a 7-6 victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Peter Forsberg set a World Junior Championship record with 10 points, on Dec. 30, 1992, in Sweden’s 20-1 win over Japan. He ended the tournament with a record 31 points in seven games.
Tomas Sandstrom picked up an assist to become the highest-scoring Swedish player in NHL history, on Dec. 20, 1997, in the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim’s 2-1 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes. His 818th career point moved him ahead of Thomas Steen. He retired with 856 points, which are currently the 10th most all-time among Swedish-born NHL players.
Teemu Selanne lit the lamp, on Dec. 30, 2002, to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 2-1 win versus the Flyers. This gave him 20 goals for the 2002-03 season and at least 20 in each of first 11 seasons in the NHL.
Happy Birthday to You
There are 15 current and former NHL players who were born on this date. The most recognizable names of the bunch are Rob Scuderi (42), Igor Shesterkin (25) Lawrence Pilut (25) and the late Hockey Hall of Famer Lester Patrick.