Today in Hockey History: Oct. 20

Two of the greatest goal scorers in National Hockey League history excelled on this date. Plus, a whole slew of Hall of Fame goaltenders left their mark on the game, and this proved to be a very big date for southern California hockey. So, let’s take a trip back in time and revisit all the great memories from Oct. 20.

A Great Date for Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky had a handful of memorable games on this date throughout his legendary career. On Oct. 20, 1978, he scored his first two professional goals playing for the Indianapolis Racers in the World Hockey Association (WHA). The 17-year-old lit the lamp twice, appropriately enough, against the Edmonton Oilers. He only played in six more games for the Racers before being traded to the Oilers, with forward Peter Driscoll and goaltender Eddie Mio, for $700,000.

On Oct. 20, 1985, Gretzky picked up 700th and 701st career assists in his 478th game. Goaltender Grant Fuhr earned his 100th career victory on this night in an 8-5 road victory at the Los Angeles Kings.

Now a member of the Kings, on Oct. 20, 1993, Gretzky had a goal and two assists in a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. This also marked the first time Wayne and his younger brother Brent, who was a center for the Lightning, played against each other in the NHL.

Finally, on Oct. 20, 1995, Gretzky had four helpers to become the first player in NHL history with 1,700 career assists. His linemate, Jari Kurri, scored his 23rd career hat trick as the Kings beat the Washington Capitals 7-4.

Ovechkin Leaves His Mark

Future Hockey Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin had a pair of big moments on this date. On Oct. 20, 2015, he picked up the 900th point of his career with a goal in the Capitals’ 6-2 road win at the Calgary Flames. He was the first player in team history ever to score 900 points. He also moved to within four goals of tying Sergei Fedorov for the most goals in league history by a Russian-born player.

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals
Ovechkin has had a lot of success on this date. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Two years later, on Oct. 20, 2017, Ovechkin scored in overtime to beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3. The goal was already his 10th goal in just seven games. It was also the 20th regular-season overtime goal of his career, breaking Jaromir Jagr’s record of 19 for the most in NHL history. The victory moved head coach Barry Trotz ahead of Dick Irvin for sixth place on the league’s all-time wins list with 1,450.

Brodeur’s First Shutout

Moving on from elite goal scorers to elite goaltenders, on Oct. 20, 1993, the New Jersey Devils beat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 4-0 in the first-ever meeting between these two franchises.

In just his sixth-ever start, rookie goaltender Martin Brodeur stopped all 17 shots he faced to earn the first shutout of his legendary career. The Devils clung to a 1-0 lead heading into the third period before giving Brodeur some breathing room with goals by Alexander Semak, Randy McKay, and Claude Lemieux.

Brodeur recorded 125 career shutouts, the most in NHL history. All but one of them came in a Devils uniform. He picked up the final shutout of his career in his brief seven-game stint with the St. Louis Blues during the 2014-15 season.

More Hall of Fame Shutouts

Terry Sawchuk picked up a pair of shutouts on this date. First, on Oct. 20, 1951, he led the Red Wings to a 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The shutout was the 14th of his career and the second in his last four games.

Nine years later, on Oct. 20, 1960, Sawchuk earned the 82nd shutout of his career in a Red Wings’ 5-0 beating of the Boston Bruins. He retired in 1970 with 103 career shutouts, which were the most in NHL history until Brodeur broke his record on Dec. 21, 2009.

On Oct. 20, 1973, Rogie Vachon recorded his 18th career shutout as the Kings beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0. The two-time Stanley Cup winner finished his 16-season career with 51 shutouts.

It took them 161 games, but the New York Islanders finally got their first shutout in franchise history on Oct. 20, 1974, in a 5-0 win at the Capitals. Billy Smith made 26 saves for the first of his 22 shutouts during his Hall of Fame career.

Billy Smith
The Islanders and Billy Smith earned their first shutouts on Oct. 20, 1974. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bernie Parent earned his 44th career shutout on Oct. 20, 1977, in the Flyers’ 11-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Spectrum. Fellow Hockey Hall of Famer, Bobby Clarke, led the scoring with a goal and three assists.

Finally, on Oct. 20, 2001, Patrick Roy picked up his 53rd career shutout, leading the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-0 victory at the Columbus Blue Jackets. The current Avalanche general manager, Joe Sakic, had three assists in the first period.

Odds & Ends

On Oct. 20, 1971, Bobby Orr scored a goal and added two assists to give him 400 career points in 333 NHL games. The milestone came in the Bruins’ 4-3 win over the Red Wings.

Bobby Orr
Orr picked up his 400th career point on this date in 1971. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Reggie Leach scored his 200th career goal with the Flyers on Oct. 20, 1979, in a 7-3 road win at the Red Wings. Rookie Brian Propp added two goals and two assists as Philadelphia began a team-record 16-game road winning streak, which saw them go 11-0-5.

Marcel Dionne and J.P. Kelly scored three goals each on Oct. 20, 1981, as the Kings beat the Islanders 9-6. It was the 22nd hat trick of Dionne’s NHL career and Kelly’s first and only one.

Bernie Nicholls scored four goals and added two assists on Oct. 20, 1983, to lead the Kings to a 7-2 win over the Oilers at the Forum. It was the fourth hat trick of his career. Exactly 13 years later, on Oct. 20, 1996, Nicholls appeared in his 1,000th NHL career game and assisted on the game-winning goal as the San Jose Sharks won 3-2 at St. Louis.

Bernie Nicholls Los Angeles Kings
Nicholls had two big nights on this date. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

On Oct. 20, 1984, Mike Gartner became the first player to score 200 goals in a Capitals’ uniform in a 6-5 loss to the visiting New York Rangers.

Another member of the Kings hit a personal milestone on Oct. 20, 1992, when defenseman Paul Coffey recorded his 800th NHL assist in a 6-2 loss at the Calgary Flames.

The Kings played their first-ever game at the Staples Center on Oct. 20, 1999. The game drew the largest crowd to watch a hockey game in California, with 18,188 fans packing the new arena. Jozef Stumpel scored with just over a minute to play in regulation as the Kings and Bruins tied 2-2.

Related – 6 Hall of Famers You Didn’t Know Were LA Kings

Scotty Bowman became the first and only head coach to win 1,200 regular-season games on Oct. 20, 2001, as the Red Wings beat the Kings 3-2. He retired at the end of the season with 1,244 wins. No other coach in league history has even won 1,000 games.

On that same night, the Islanders retired Brian Trottier’s No. 19 in a pregame ceremony before a 2-2 tie against the visiting Sharks. Trottier still leads the franchise with 1,123 games played, 853 assists, and 1,353 points. He scored exactly 500 goals for the team, second only behind Mike Bossy’s 573.

Bryan Trottier New York Islanders
Trottier was one of the greatest players to wear an Islanders sweater. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Kirk Muller became the 30th player in NHL history to play in 1,300 games on Oct. 20, 2002, when his Dallas Stars beat the visiting Capitals 5-2.                                                                                                      

The Bruins acquired forward Daniel Paille from the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 20, 2009, for a third-round draft pick. This was the first trade between these two teams since the Sabres entered the league in 1970. Paille played six seasons in Boston and was a member of their 2011 Stanley Cup championship team.

On Oct. 20, 2016, Jagr scored his first goal of the 2015-16 season in the Florida Panthers’ 4-2 loss to the Capitals. He joined Gretzky and Gordie Howe as the only three players in NHL history to score at least 750 goals.

Happy Birthday to You

Oct. 20 has seen the birth of 16 current and former NHL players. The most notable birthday boys include former first overall pick by the Canadiens, Garry Monahan (75), 50-goal scorer for the Atlanta Flames, Guy Chouinard (65), Colin Wilson (32), Gustav Lindstrom (23), and Evan Bouchard (22).


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