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The Top 5 Most Unbreakable NHL Records

Posted by AJ Lee on

The National Hockey League recognizes 430 individual NHL records. These records range from feats of longevity (most seasons played) to quick flashes of brilliance (fastest hat trick) and everything in between.

While all of these records are tremendous achievements, and should be acknowledged as such, there are a certain number of these records that many in the hockey community have deemed to be “unbreakable”.

Here are our Top 5 Most Unbreakable NHL Records:

#5 – 50 Goals in 39 Games (Wayne Gretzky)

It’s only fair to start our list off with one of The Great One’s 61 NHL records, right?

Let’s set the stage:

During the 1980-81 NHL season, Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders ties Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s record of 50 goals in 50 games – a record that stood for 35 years and many thought would be impossible to break.

So, naturally, Gretzky went out and demolished the record the very next season.

In Gretzky’s 38th game of the 1981-82 season, he scored 4 goals to bring his goal total to 45 on the season. The very next game, Gretzky scored 5 goals against the Philadelphia Flyers to hit the 50-goal mark – annihilating the record with 11 games to spare. He would finish the season with an NHL-record 92 goals.

#4 – 3966 Career Penalty Minutes (David “Tiger” Williams)

Tiger Williams was, well, an animal out there. The Wayne Gretzky of accumulating penalty minutes, Williams racked up 3966 penalty minutes in just 14 NHL seasons.

Here are a couple of facts to put into perspective how absurd this total is:

Williams ended his career with 401 more penalty minutes than #2 on the all-time list, Dale Hunter, despite playing 445 less games.

Zdeno Chara is the NHL’s active leader in penalties in minutes – he has just 1956.

A player would need to earn a fighting major (5-minute penalty) in every game for nearly 10 seasons to exceed his record.

Fighting in the NHL is becoming less and less common each year as the NHL shifts towards a cleaner, more skill driven game. Unless there are drastic rule changes made, there just isn’t any room on an NHL roster for a player averaging nearly 4 PIM per game.

#3 – Three Consecutive 200-Point Seasons (Wayne Gretzky)

Throughout NHL history, there have only been 4 seasons in which a player has recorded 200 points.

Wayne Gretzky is responsible for all of them.

Between the 1983-84 and 1985-86 NHL seasons, Gretzky amassed season totals of 205, 208 and 215 points, respectively. The only other player to get close (and man do we mean close!) was another hockey legend, Mario Lemieux, who fell just short with 199 points in just 76 games during the 1988-89 NHL season.

The next closest player that isn’t Gretzky or Lemieux? Steve Yzerman with 155 points. (Also in 1988-89.)

Nikita Kucherov’s 128 points during the 2018-19 season is the closest any active player has been to the 200-point mark since Joe Thornton’s 125 points in 2005-06.

We could be convinced that at some point the stars may align just right and a player could have a career year to join Gretzky at the 200-point plateau…but for three consecutive seasons?

Not a chance.

#2 – 76 Goals as a Rookie (Teemu Selanne)

Another Mike Bossy record obliterated by a future all-time great.

Despite being the 10th overall pick in the 1988 Entry Draft, Teemu Selanne took the league by storm in his first NHL season. He scored an incredible 76 goals and added 56 assists for 132 points (also an NHL rookie record) while breaking Bossy’s rookie goal record (53) with over a month left on his team’s schedule.

To make it even more impressive, his record-breaking 54th goal capped off one of his five hat tricks that season and sparked his famous “machine gun” celebration.

There have only been three other players to reach the 50-goal mark in their rookie year, the most recent being Alex Ovechkin (52), while another 11 rookies have hit the 40-goal mark.

While Selanne’s 76 goals in his rookie season did end up being his career high, it also landed him among the top 5 for most goals in a season – just behind a few guys named Gretzky (x2), Hull and Lemieux.

Not bad for a rookie.

#1 – 502 Consecutive Starts (Glenn Hall)

Glenn Hall started, and finished, every single game from the 1955-56 season until 12 games into the 1962-63 season. That’s 502 complete games in a row.

Oh, and we should mention that that’s not including the 50 straight complete playoff games he played during this insane ironman streak.

Think about this: Glenn Hall played every single game for the entire season…for nearly 7 years in a row.

Since the NHL switched to an 82-game regular season in 1995-96, the most games played by a goalie in a single season is 79 – set by Grant Fuhr later that year. Martin Brodeur came close to tying Fuhr’s record during the 2006-07 season but fell one game short (78).

While Hall’s record is impressive, and it truly is an incredible accomplishment, what makes his record is so unbreakable has a lot to do with the changes within the game of hockey.

In today’s NHL, it’s a rare sight to see a goalie play both games of a back to back. There’s a much stronger emphasis on goaltender tandems and a better understanding of the positive effects that a day of rest can have on performance.

Even the players themselves are bigger, faster and more skilled than ever. Equipment is constantly improving and the league itself is adopting new rules to increase scoring. Goalies need to stay razor sharp both mentally and physically in order to perform their best despite all these changes working against them.

Sounds like an improbable task for a goalie starting their 500th consecutive game.

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