Etched in Stone: The Top 20 Most Unbreakable Records in NHL History
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In any professional sport, records can be fabricated or broken in each and every game. A stroke of luck, burst of talent or couple of lucky bounces could lead to a record being broken before you realize that you just witnessed history.
Focusing on the NHL, records can be pretty tough to break, as a result of the fact that the league has been around since 1917, over 90 years. Since that's such a lengthy time span, there are no records that are "easy" to break. The easy records have already been torn down and replaced by a more difficult marker.
It's always exciting watching a record be dethroned, especially if you get to witness it firsthand.
However, some records are essentially etched in stone, set to live forever in the record-holder's name. They're just too incredible to ever be seen again.
Now, approaching this article, there have got to be a few things that you were thinking. You likely considered who holds these records, what they are, and how old they are. You may have even been wondering if your buddy would bet you 20 bucks that Gretzky owns at least three of them.
In the words of the NHL's latest slogan, "questions will become answers." Here are the top 20 NHL records that will likely never be broken.
Honourable Mention: Terry Sawchuk: Most Career Ties by a Goaltender
Sawchuk's record of 103 career shutouts was broken in 2009 by Martin Brodeur, but this record is almost guaranteed to stand forever.
In reality, this record is actually the most unbreakable out of them all, but for all the wrong reasons.
Due to the fact that ties have been eliminated from NHL play, Terry Sawchuck's record of 172 career ties as a goaltender should stand for eternity. That is, unless the league re-introduces the tie function for a lengthened amount of time.
Putting this record at No. 1 felt like a letdown because it's so obviously unbreakable. On the other hand, putting it anywhere else in the list felt like a lie, for the same reason stated above. Therefore, it has been given the "honourable mention" status, because technically it is a record, but since it physically can't be broken, it's kind of cheating.
Sawchuk played in the NHL from 1949 until 1970, suiting up for the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers. He tallied more than half of his ties (65) in his first stint with the Detroit Red Wings, which lasted from the 1949-50 season until the 1953-54 season.
20. Bill Mikkelson: Worst Plus/Minus in a Single Season
Bill Mikkelson: The defenseman that couldn't defend.
This is just incredible. Incredibly bad, that is.
Somehow, Bill Mikkelson finished the 1974-75 season with a glaring plus/minus of minus-82. How a player manages to finish a season with a plus/minus of minus-82 astonishes me to the point of insanity. It seems unbelievable, impossible even. What makes it even worse is that he only appeared in 59 games all year.
Mikkelson played 147 career NHL games, amassing a startling plus/minus of minus-147. For those of you who have had too much to drink or are mathematically dumb, that equals out to an average of minus-one per game. Quite the defenseman, eh?
After 1974-75, Mikkelson would only play one more NHL game in his career. Good riddance.
19. Mario Lemieux: Most Goals Scored in Different Ways
Lemieux was one of the best, but had his career ended early due to injury.
Lemieux scored five goals in one game in five different ways. He notched a short-handed, power-play, even-strength, penalty shot and empty-net goal all within 60 minutes.
Pretty impressive, if you ask me.
This record isn't exactly impossible to break, but it would be pretty darn tough.
18. Dave Williams: Most Career Penalty Minutes
Williams was famous for his stick-riding goal celebration.
Williams posted 3,966 penalty minutes. That's more than two-and-a-half days spent sitting in the sin bin.
NHL players just don't play the same penalty-filled game they used to. The next closest active player to Williams is Ian Laperriere, and he "only" has 1,956 minutes. I can't see this record ever being broken.
17. Bobby Orr: Most Points by a Defenseman in a Single Season
Orr's infamous dive.
Bobby Orr posted 139 points in the 1970-71 NHL season. What's different about that record is the player closest behind Orr was only a point away. Paul Coffey put up 138 points in 1985-86.
The reason this is still considered an "unbreakable record" is that Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey were extremely special players. Only five defensemen in NHL history could even break the 100-point mark (Orr, Coffey, Al MacInnis, Brian Leetch, Denis Potvin).
It's worth noting that Orr broke that mark six times in his shortened career, and Coffey reached the plateau five times.
16. Bobby Orr: Highest Plus/Minus in a Single Season
Orr posted a plus-124 in the 1970-71 season, which is coincidentally the same season that he set the record for most points by a defenseman.
I can't see this record ever being beaten, because Orr played in a very high-scoring era, which can equal in a very high—or very low—plus/minus. That fact combined with his incredible skill level resulted in a plus-124.
The highest appearance from the 2000s on the leaderboard for highest plus/minus is a plus-52, coming in at 95th place. Peter Forsberg recorded it in 2002-03.
15. Martin Brodeur: Most Career Wins by a Goaltender
Brodeur could very well be the best goaltender of all time. Thoughts?
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Brodeur hasn't retired yet, so this record will just keep getting higher and higher. It currently sits at 606, and Brodeur is just starting to hit the downside of his career. Look for the number to rise slightly.
Patrick Roy (551) and Ed Belfour (484) are the second- and third-place goalies. Chris Osgood (396) and Nikolai Khabibulin (307) are the closest active goaltenders, but you can barely call them active as they are both 37 and have younger goalies moving in on their turf as starters.
It's safe to say that nobody will ever eclipse Brodeur's mark.
14. Doug Jarvis: Most Consecutive Games
The NHL's reigning iron man.
Doug Jarvis earned the nickname "Iron Man" due to the 964 consecutive games that he played in the NHL. He played every game from the 1975-76 season to the 1984-85 season, and kept the streak going partially into '86.
Nowadays it's often hard to find a player that plays every game in a single season.
13. Gordie Howe: Oldest Player
52 years and 11 days.
That's how old Gordie Howe was when he retired from NHL action. They don't call him Mr. Hockey for nothing.
Considering that today, players rarely play past the age of 40, I don't think Howe's record will ever be touched. Simply imagining a 50-year-old playing in the modern-day NHL is brutal. It would be nearly impossible for him to keep up with the pace of its newer, faster game.
Not even Chris Chelios could do it.
Unless we find a way to halt the aging process, Howe will hold this record forever.
12. Wayne Gretzky: Most Assists in a Single Season
Gretzky hoisting the cup.
And so marks the first appearance of Wayne Gretzky on this list. Keep track of how many more times he appears.
Gretzky tallied 163 assists in 1985-86 on an 80-game schedule. For comparison's sake, the next closest player who isn't Gretzky on that list is Mario Lemieux. Lemieux, widely considered to be Wayne's only competition for the title of "Best Player In History," comes in a tie for eighth with Gretzky at 114.
11. Bill Mosienko: Fastest Hat Trick by a Single Person
Mosienko and his prized three pucks. Ironically, the record set for the fastest three assists was set by the player who set up all three of Mosienko's goals.
Bill Mosienko scored three goals in 21 seconds on March 23, 1952.
I can't see that record ever being touched, simply because I don't think that anyone else will have the same amount of good fortune Mosienko did. The feat of scoring three goals in 21 seconds is probably made up of about 10 percent skill and 90 percent luck. At those odds, I just can't see this happening again.
He first beat Rangers goaltender Lorne Anderson at 6:09 of the second period, and then again at 6:20 and 6:30. Altogether, that makes 21 seconds.
Nobody has ever even come close to Bill's record (Jean Beliveau is in second place with three goals in 44 seconds).
Hey, it's not impossible, but it's darn close.
10. New York Islanders: Most Consecutive Playoff Series Victories
James Wisniewski suits up for the modern-day Islanders.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The New York Islanders won 19 consecutive playoff series from 1980-84.
This streak occurred during the Islanders dynasty of the '80s. The streak of 19 consecutive playoff series victories just shows the pure dominance the Isles enjoyed.
Their streak was ended in the 1983-84 playoffs, when they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Finals.
9. Wayne Gretzky: Most Assists in a Career
Gretzky holds a 61 NHL records; They don't call him "The Great One" for nothing!
Wayne Gretzky tallied 1,963 assists in his career. That total alone is enough to put him at number one on the all-time points list (Messier is number two with 1,887).
8. Wayne Gretzky: Most Career Points
Just in case you've lost count, this is Gretzky's third spot on this list. What a guy.
I could easily just say "See Previous Slide" and be done with this one, but I think I'll break it down a bit more.
Wayne Gretzky posted 2,857 career points in 1,487 games. That evens out to about 1.92 points per game.
As I mentioned in the previous slide, his assist total alone is enough to eclipse each and every NHL player in history as the record holder for most points. I also mentioned that the player closest to Gretz is Mark Messier with 1,887 points.
Strangely enough, Messier played 269 more games than Gretzky, yet he could only get to within 970 points of him.
Gretzky was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player, and I just can't see his points record being broken.
7. Teemu Selanne: Most Goals by a Rookie
Selanne played for the Winnepeg Jets in his rookie year.
I'm sure you all knew this record would be on the list somewhere.
Teemu Selanne posted the highest goal total he would ever achieve in the 1992-83 NHL season, notching 76 markers as a rookie. That is not only the highest goal total by a rookie, but it's the sixth-highest goal total in NHL history.
"The Finnish Flash" also added 56 assists for 132 points that year.
6. St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins: Fastest Two Goals (Both Teams)
Alex Steen (STL) and Dennis Wideman (BOS).
This is one of those records that was pretty much a complete fluke.
The Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues each scored a goal two seconds apart on December 19, 1987. The Bruins were down 6-4 in the third period when Ken Linesman scored with 10 seconds remaining. The slim chance that they could score once more was slashed when Blues center Doug Gilmour scored off the faceoff into an open net.
In my opinion, that's pretty crazy.
It's almost guaranteed that this won't be broken, unless it's broken by a tenth of a second or something. I don't think you can get much faster than two seconds.
5. Washington Capitals: Fewest Wins in a Single Season
Nicklas Backstrom and company steered the team to 54 wins last year. That's a heck of a lot better than eight.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Eight wins. Eight stinkin' wins in an entire 80-game season.
A final record of 8-67-5. Twenty-one points out of a possible 160.
I think you get the point. Need I say more? Didn't think so!
4. Jean Beliveau: Most Stanley Cup Rings in a Lifetime
Beliveau is considered by many to be the greatest player ever to suit up for the Canadiens.
Most players don't ever get to lift the Stanley Cup. The perfect feeling of skating around the ice holding hockey's most prized possession is one that most NHLers don't get to enjoy. However, some have lifted the Cup more than once.
In his lifetime, Jean Beliveau captured the Stanley Cup 17 times—10 times as a player and seven as a member of Montreal's front office.
That's a tough stat to wrap your head around. Seventeen times? How does that happen?
The inflated number could be attributed to the fact that the NHL was a six-team league when Beliveau played.
3. Montreal Canadiens: Most Consecutive Stanley Cup Finals Appearances
Brian Gionto (21) was named the 28th team captain for the Canadiens in history.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The Montreal Canadiens appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals 10 times in a row from 1951 to 1960. Sounds impossible, right?
Well sure, it looks great and everything, but this record was set when the NHL was a six-team league. Starting to look less impressive now, eh?
Today, a 10-year streak in the Finals would be pretty much impossible. This record, like many others, can be attributed to a lack of teams. However, that doesn't change the fact that this is one of the most unbeatable records in the league.
The Canadiens were enjoying a dynasty, something that is unfamiliar in today's NHL. In modern times, the closest thing we've seen to a dynasty is the Detroit Red Wings' run since the late '90s.
2. Glenn Hall: Most Consecutive Complete Games by a Goaltender
Glenn Hall without a mask. Imagine a goaltender playing without a mask in today's NHL; it wouldn't be pretty.
This record is truly incredible, especially considering Hall played in an era where goaltenders didn't wear masks.
Glenn Hall played in 502 consecutive games as a goaltender, a record which spanned over eight seasons, from 1955 to 1963.
Today, goaltenders wear an insane amount of padding and equipment, but Hall played his streak donning the simple equipment shown in the picture to the left. Even with the excess of equipment that modern-day goalies wear, they still don't play complete seasons. Hall played almost eight full seasons without missing a game.
1. Henri Richard: Most Career Stanley Cup Wins as a Player
Richard holds a record that will almost undoubtably never be broken.
Before I start I would like to get one thing straight.
I, as a Leafs fan, would like no wisecracks about how the Canadiens and their players hold three of the top five spots on this list.
Henri Richard won 11 Stanley Cups in his 19-year career. I can pretty much guarantee that this record will never be broken, due to the number of teams in the NHL.
In the 30-team NHL, a player making it to the Stanley Cup Finals 11 or more times in his career is nearly impossible. For the bulk of his career, Richard played in a league that only contained six teams, the “Original Six.” In 1967, the league expanded to 12 teams, but that’s still a significantly smaller number than 30.
Bottom line is, if it was hard to accomplish half a century ago, it will be impossible to achieve now.
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