This is a very important date in hockey history as one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of skates was born on March 31. There were plenty of huge milestones that were reached on this date by some of the legends of the game, including a Hall of Famer’s final game.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockey
We usually wrap up this daily post with mentions of who is celebrating their birthday on a given day, but today we will start with the birthdays to honor one of the greatest hockey players who ever lived. Gordie Howe was born in Floral, Saskatchewan on March 31, 1928
Howe made his NHL debut with the Detroit Red Wings as an 18-year-old. He went on to play 1,767 games over 25 seasons with the Red Wings and one with the Hartford Whalers. He originally retired in 1972, but returned to the game with the Whalers in 1973 to play on the World Hockey Association.
His final season was back in the NHL, along with his sons Mark and Marty, when the Whalers joined the league in 1979. He scored 15 goals and 41 points while playing in all 80 games at the age of 51. When he retired for good, he was the all-time NHL leader in goals (801), assists (1049) and points (1850). He held all of those records until some guy named Wayne Gretzky showed up.
Howe was so well respected around the league, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a Gordie Howe Night on March 31, 1971, to honor him before he and the Red Wings played them. Mr. Hockey passed away at age 88 on June 10, 2016, and will never be forgotten.
Other players who unfortunately have their birthdays overshadowed on this date include Bob Pulford (84), Gilles Gilbert (71), Brad Marsh (62), Tom Barrasso (55), David Clarkson (36) and Jakob Chychrun (22).
Hall of Famer Pavel Bure is celebrating his 49th birthday today as well. The “Russian Rocket” scored 437 goals and 779 points in his career with the Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. He was one of the first players to bring lightning-fast speed to go along with deadly goal-scoring ability over from Europe.
A Big Day for Coffey
Paul Coffey hit a couple of big milestones on this date during his Hall of Fame career. On March 31, 1984, Coffey became just the second defenseman in NHL history to score 40 goals in a season. His 39th and 40th goals of the season came in the Edmonton Oilers’ 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings. He and Bobby Orr remain the only two defensemen to score 40 goals in a single season.
On March 31, 1996, Coffey became the eighth NHL player and first defenseman to score 1,400 career points when he picked up three assists in the Red Wings’ 8-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Ray Bourque is the only blueliner to have more goals, assists and points than Coffey produced in his career.
History for the Hulls
March 31, 1990, Brett Hull scored twice to set a new NHL record for most goals by a right wing with his 71st and 72nd goals of the season. Hull broke the previous record set by Jari Kurri, who scored 71 for the Oilers in 1984-85. He shattered his own record the following season by scoring 86 goals for the Blues. Howe and Jaromir Jagr are the only two right wings in league history to score more goals than Hull’s 741.
Seven years later, Bobby Hull had to make room for another one of the all-time greats. Mario Lemieux scored his 610th goal to tie Hull for 6th place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list during a 4-3 Pittsburgh Penguins’ win over the Panthers.
Welcome to the Century Club
The magic number for March 31 in hockey history is 100. On March 31, 1973 Orr scored his third career NHL hat trick during the Boston Bruins’ 7-3 loss at the Maple Leafs. The three goals gave him his fourth straight 100-point season.
He would extend that streak for two more seasons which was an NHL record at the time. His six straight 100-points seasons are still tied for the second-longest in league history with six other Hall of Famers. Gretzky’s record of 13 100-points seasons in a row will likely never be beaten.
On March 31, 1982, Glen Sather became the first coach to win 100 games with the Oilers, in a 7-3 win over the visiting Kings. He still holds the franchise record for wins with 464. Craig MacTavish, Ron Low and Todd McLellan are the only other coaches to win at least 100 games behind the bench in Edmonton.
On March 31, 1990, Joe Sakic scored a goal in the Quebec Nordiques in a 3-2 loss to the Whalers. He made history by becoming the first player in NHL history to score 100 points in a season while playing on a last-place team.
In that very same game, Ron Francis became the third player in Whalers history (and first in 10 years) to get 100 points in a season with an assist. His 69 assists in 1989-90 still remain the Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes’ single-season record. His 101 points are second only behind Mike Rogers who scored 105 points in 1979-80 and again the following season.
On March 31, 1997, Ken Wregget became the second goaltender in Penguins’ franchise history to record 100 wins. The milestone came in a 4-3 victory over Panthers. His 104 wins are fourth in franchise history behind Matt Murray (117), Barrasso (226) and Marc-Andre Fleury (375).
Bossy is the Boss
On March 31, 1984, Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders became the first player in league history to score 50 goals in seven straight seasons. He scored goals 50 and 51 in a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals to break the tie he had with Guy Lafleur.
His streak would go on for another two seasons before being snapped after nine 50 goal seasons in a row. Not even Gretzky had nine 50-goal seasons in a row, he only had eight. When you do something offensively that the Great One couldn’t do, you have really have done a remarkable achievement.
Messier Says Goodbye
On March 31, 2004, Mark Messier played the final game of his Hall of Fame career. After scoring a goal in the first period, he takes a victory lap around the Madison Square Garden rink following the New York Rangers’ 4-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
Messier officially announced his retirement from the league in September of 2004. His name is all over the NHL record books as he is third all-time with 1,887 points and eighth with 694 goals.