The greatest player in the history of the National Hockey League took his place at the top of the scoring list on this date. Plus, if you wore a hat to a game on Oct. 15, there is a really good chance you threw it on the ice before the end of the night.
No. 99 Becomes Number One
Packing the Northlands Coliseum to see Wayne Gretzky play was nothing new for Edmonton Oilers fans, but things were a bit different on Oct. 15, 1989. On this night, Gretzky was a member of the visiting Los Angeles Kings and entered the game trailing the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, Gordie Howe, by one point.
Gretzky, who scored the first 1,669 points with the Oilers, gets an assist on Bernie Nichols’ first-period goal to tie Howe at 1,850 points. A decade and a day after scoring his first career goal, he broke the record by tying the game with just 53 seconds left in regulation.
The fans in Edmonton gave their former hero a three-minute standing ovation for his achievement. Then the game was paused for a 15-minute ceremony that included Howe and Gretzky’s parents.
The game eventually went into overtime and Gretzky scored the game-winning goal to put the cherry on top of the memorable evening. The most impressive part about breaking this record was how fast he was able to do it. Howe scored his 1,850 points in 1,687 games and Gretzky needed just 780 games to score 1,851.
Lemieux Racks Up the Points
Mario Lemieux had himself one heck of a night, on Oct. 15, 1988, in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 9-2 win over the visiting St. Louis Blues. He factored in eight of the nine goals by scoring two of them and assisting on six others. His linemate Rob Brown benefitted by scoring the first hat trick of his career. Lemieux’s eight points are still tied for the second-most all-time in a single game.
Three years later, on Oct. 15, 1991, the Penguins entered the third period trailing the New York Islanders 6-2. Lemieux scored the 27th hat trick of his career to lead a huge comeback which ended with Pittsburgh scoring in overtime for the stunning 7-6 victory. Derek King scored the fastest hat trick in Islanders’ history with three goals within a span of 1:18.
A Big Date for the Blackhawks
When you talk about the history of the Chicago Blackhawks, it is impossible to not mention the legendary Stan Mikita. On Oct. 15, 1972, Mikita became just the sixth player in NHL history to 1,000 career points. The milestone came with an assist on Cliff Koroll’s goal, the only one in a 3-1 home loss to the St. Louis Blues.
The Blackhawks traveled to Toronto, on Oct. 15, 1983, and played a crazy game versus the Maple Leafs. The two squads combined for five goals in a span of 1:24, which set a league record for the fastest five goals scored in a game. Denis Savard scored his first career hat trick in the 10-8 loss. Rick Vaive, who eventually played for the Blackhawks, had a goal and three assists.
On Oct. 15, 1989, goaltender Jacques Cloutier recorded his second career shutout as the Blackhawks won 3-0 over the visiting Detroit Red Wings. This was his first shutout with Chicago and the second of his career. He got one more with the Blackhawks, later in the 1989-90 season, and retired with three career shutouts in 255 total NHL games.
Throw Your Hats
On Oct. 15, 1970, Walt McKechnie scored his first of two career NHL hat tricks to lead the Minnesota North Stars to a 4-2 win over the Penguins. Bill Goldsworthy had three assists in the game. Exactly five years later, on Oct. 15, 1975, Goldsworthy became the first player from a 1967 expansion team to score 250 career goals as the North Stars beat the California Golden Seals 4-1.
Esa Tikkanen recorded his first NHL hat trick, on Oct. 15, 1986, as the Oilers beat the Quebec Nordiques 5-2. Gretzky assisted on all five Edmonton goals. Tikkanen went on to score seven more hat tricks in his career, all with the Oilers.
Dan Quinn scored five hat tricks in his NHL career and two of them came on this date. On Oct. 1987, he scored his first one, and added two assists, in the Penguins 6-5 win over the Rangers. Lemieux also had a hat trick for Pittsburgh, the eighth of his Hall of Fame career.
Eight years later, on Oct. 15, 1995, Quinn scored the final hat trick of his career as a member of the Ottawa Senators. He added three assists to set a team record for six points in the Senators’ 7-4 victory at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The third and final hat trick of Doug Gilmour’s career was scored on Oct. 15, 1993. He also added two assists to lead the Maple Leafs to a 6-3 win over the visiting Red Wings. This was the only hat trick he had in Toronto after two with the Blues.
The Colorado Avalanche blew out the Oilers, 7-2, on Oct. 15, 1996. Eric Lacroix scored his only career hat trick while Joe Sakic had a goal and five assists in the victory.
Fabian Brunnstrom scored just 19 goals in his NHL career, but three of came on this date in 2008. Making NHL debut, he scored three times in the Dallas Stars’ 6-4 win over the Nashville Predators. He was the fifth player in league history to score a hat trick in his first game.
Odds & Ends
In his first game in four years, on Oct. 15, 1964, Ted Lindsay became only the fourth player in league history to play in 1,000 games. At the time, only Howe, Bill Gadsby and Red Kelly were the only other players on this list. Lindsay played in 999 games when he retired in 1960, but was convinced to put the skates on again. The Maple Leafs beat the Red Wings 5-3 to spoil his return to the ice.
The Buffalo Sabres played their first home game, on Oct. 15, 1970, at the Memorial Auditorium. The Montreal Canadiens spoiled the party as Yvan Cournoyer scored a pair of goals and netminder Phil Myre earned his first NHL shutout in a 3-0 win.
Four years later, on Oct. 15, 1974, it was the Washington Capitals turn to play their first-ever home game. Yvon Labre scored the first Washington goal at the Capital Center, in Landover, MD, in a 1-1 tie with the Kings.
On Oct. 15, 1984, Philadelphia Flyers’ rookie Rick Tocchet scored his first NHL goal in a 5-2 loss at the Canadiens. Tocchet scored 439 more goals before he retired in 2002.
Tom Barrasso and rookie Patrick Roy traded shutouts, on Oct. 15, 1986, as the Sabres and Canadiens battled to a 0-0 draw in Buffalo. This was the first scoreless tie in the NHL since 1983. It was Barrasso’s 10th career shutout and just the second for Roy, who retired with 66.
The Pittsburgh Penguins fired head coach Ivan Hlinka, on Oct. 15, 2001, and replaced him with assistant coach Rick Kehoe. The move was made after the Penguins lost their first four games of the 2001-02 season. They missed the playoffs after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final the previous season.
Later that night, New York Rangers’ 18-year-old rookie goalie Dan Blackburn picked up his first NHL victory with a 2-1 win at Montreal. Blackburn became the fourth-youngest goalie ever to start an NHL game.
On Oct. 15, 2003, Daniel Alfredsson scored twice to become the Senators’ all-time leading scorer with his 492nd career point. He broke the previous franchise record held by Alexei Yashin. The milestone came in a 4-3 loss at the Kings.
Nicklas Lidstrom made history, on Oct. 15, 2009, in the Red Wings’ 5-2 victory over the Kings. He picked up two assists to become the first European-born defenseman to ever score 1,000 points in the NHL.
Happy Birthday to You
Just 13 current and former players share birthdays on this date. On the top of the list is Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree, who turns 85 today. Although he only played in 45 career games for the Boston Bruins, he left his mark on the game as the first black player to skate in an NHL game.
Other notable birthday boys include Brock Nelson (29) and Julien Gauthier (23).
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.