Feb. 24 has been a big day for two of the National Hockey League’s “Original Six” franchise. In addition, the greatest of them all had two early-career memories where he continued to raise the bar. It is time for our daily trip back through time to relive all the best moments this date has given us over the years.
Two More Firsts for Wayne Gretzky
It is hard to look at the calendar and not find a day that doesn’t have multiple big performances by the Great One. On Feb. 24, 1980, both Gretzky’s and the Edmonton Oilers’ first year in the NHL, he had an assist in a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins. This gave him 100 points on the season in just 61 games. He became the first player in league history to score 100 points before his 20th birthday.
Two years later, on Feb. 24, 1982, Gretzky scored for the 77th time to break Phil Esposito’s single-season record for the most goals in one season. He scored two more goals late in the game to finish with a hat trick as the Oilers picked up a 6-3 road win at the Buffalo Sabres. He finished the 1981-82 season with 92 goals, still the league record and probably one that will never be broken.
A Busy Date for the New York Rangers
The New York Rangers have had many big dates in their long and storied history and Feb. 24 is right up there with the best of them. Starting in 1938, when Lester Patrick became the first NHL head coach to win 250 games as the Rangers beat the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.
Exactly 30 years later, on Feb. 24, 1968, Rod Gilbert set a league record with 16 shots on goal. He finished the night with a .25 shooting percentage as he scored four times in a 6-1 road win at the Montreal Canadiens. His record stood until March 21, 1991, when Ray Bourque of the Boston Bruins put 19 pucks on the net.
Moving to the glory days of the early 90s, on Feb. 24, 1991, Brian Leetch had three assists in the first period of a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. This gave him 57 assists, tying Brad Park’s single-season team record for defensemen set during the 1973-74 season.
Three years later, on Feb. 24, 1994, Mark Messier had a pair of assists in another Rangers’ win over the Devils, this time by a 3-1 score. This made him the 13th player in NHL history to score 1,300 career points. The Blueshirts swept the regular-season series from New Jersey before they later met in one of the most memorable Eastern Conference Finals ever played.
Chicago Blackhawks Make Memories
The Blackhawks are another team that has made a lot of history over the decades. On Feb. 24, 1963, Stan Mikita scored his third career hat trick and added an assist in a 4-3 victory against the visiting Bruins. Exactly five years later, Stan Mikita became the third player in franchise history to score 250 goals, when he lit the lamp in a 3-3 tie with the Los Angeles Kings.
Eric Nesterenko became just the second player to play in 1,000 games for the Blackhawks, on Feb. 24, 1972, and picked up an assist in a 5-3 loss at the Buffalo Sabres.
On Feb. 24, 1988, Denis Savard, playing in his 600th NHL game, scored a shorthanded goal in the second period of a 6-4 victory over the Oilers. This was his seventh shorthanded goal of the season, breaking the club record set by Nesterenko during the 1964-65 season.
Andrew Shaw scored the only goal, on Feb. 24, 2013, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves as the Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 1-0. This extended their league-record point streak to start the season to 18 games (15-0-3).
Gold Medals on Both Sides of the Border
Two days after pulling off the greatest upset in hockey history, on Feb. 24, 1980, the United States Olympic team took on Finland for the gold medal. After falling behind 1-0 and then 2-1, the Americans scored the final three goals of the game to win 4-2. Rob McClanahan scored the game-winning goal as Steve Christoff, Phil Verchota and Mark Johnson all found the back of the net, as well.
On Feb. 24, 2002, Canada won its first Olympic gold medal in 50 years by beating the United States 5-2 in Salt Lake City, UT. Joe Sakic had two goals and an assist, while Jarome Iginla also scored twice. Goaltender Martin Brodeur made 33 save to earn the win.
Odds & Ends
Doug Harvey picked up an assist, on Feb. 24, 1955, in the Canadiens 1-1 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. This was his 40th helper on the season, tying Babe Pratt’s NHL record for the most assists in a season by a defenseman.
Garry Unger started a games-played streak of 914, on Feb. 24, 1968, when the Maple Leafs beat the Bruins 1-0. This streak lasted until Dec. 21, 1979, and remained the longest in NHL history until Doug Jarvis played his 915th game in a row on Dec. 26, 1986.
The city of Vancouver was awarded the rights to an NHL expansion team, on this date in 1970. The Canucks joined the league eight months later, at the start of the 1970-71 season.
Colorado Rockies’ blueliner Barry Beck scored his 18th goal of the season, on Feb. 24, 1978, in a 3-2 win over the Minnesota North Stars. This broke Denis Potvin’s record for goals by a rookie defenseman he set during the 1973-74 season.
Mike Bossy scored twice to extend his team-record goal-scoring streak to 10 games, on Feb. 24, 1979, as New York Islanders won 3-1 over the visiting Detroit Red Wings. The two goals gave Bossy 50 for the second straight season.
The Philadelphia Flyers became the first post-1967 expansion team to record 700 NHL victories, on Feb. 24, 1985, when they defeated the Calgary Flames 4-1. The win also extended their winning streak to seven games.
Steve Yzerman had a big night, on Feb. 24, with a goal and three assists in a 10-7 loss at the Sabres. The four points gave him 1,000 in his career and 100 for the sixth straight season. On the winning side, Alexander Mogilny scored four goals to become the first player in team history to score 60 in a season. Pat LaFontaine chipped in with two goals and three assists.
Mark Recchi scored his 200th career NHL goal, on Feb. 24, 1994, as the Flyers beat the Islanders 5-4 in overtime.
On that same night, rookie goaltender Chris Osgood recorded his first career NHL shutout, while Sergei Fedorov picked up three assists in the Red Wings’ 3-0 win over the Hartford Whalers.
Happy Birthday to You
A total of 21 current and former NHL players share a birthday on Feb. 24. The most notable of the bunch are Murray Costello (87, Hall of Fame), Mike Vernon (58), Brian Savage (50), Alex Kovalev (48), Wojtek Wolski (35), Phillip Danault (28) and Tyler Bertuzzi (26).
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.