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Darryl Sittler's 10-point night still NHL record

Single-game mark hasn't been approached in 40 years

by Tim Wharnsby / NHL.com Correspondent

Darryl Sittler Ceremony

Pre-game ceremony honouring Sittler's 10-point game.

Check out tonight's pre-game ceremony honouring Darryl Sittler's 10-point game.

  • 09:11 •

TORONTO -- Forty years have not diminished Lanny McDonald's memory of Darryl Sittler's special evening.

"I will never forget the record-tying point," McDonald said of his Toronto Maple Leafs linemate's NHL-record 10-point game on Feb. 7, 1976. "There was such a buzz in the dressing room in the second intermission, especially after [team statistician] Stan Obodiac came in and told Darryl that he was one point shy of tying Rocket Richard's record [of eight points in a game]."

Richard set the NHL single-game record when he had five goals and three assists for eight points in the Montreal Canadiens' 9-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 28, 1944. Montreal's Bert Olmstead also had eight points (four goals, four assists) in a 12-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 9, 1954.

Sittler joined them when he soared past the Boston Bruins' defense 44 seconds into the third period at Maple Leaf Gardens to score his fourth goal and eighth point of the game.

"He was off-balance on one skate; he slams up against the boards," McDonald said. "He had an ear-to-ear grin and held his arms high. It was unbelievable."

Sittler didn't need much longer to break the record; he earned his ninth point when he cut across the top of the slot and beat Bruins rookie goalie Dave Reece with a wrist shot at 9:27. The Maple Leafs captain scored his sixth goal and 10th point at 16:35 when he tried a pass to his other linemate, Errol Thompson, in front of the net, only to have the puck hit the right leg of Boston defenseman Brad Park and deflect past Reece to complete an 11-4 win.

"As happy as I was for Darryl, I felt bad for Dave," said Toronto goalie Wayne Thomas, now the San Jose Sharks' assistant general manager. "Back then, not many players from U.S. college [hockey] were in the NHL, but Dave was one. I knew of him and wanted him to do well."

Reece had performed well leading up to the game. No. 1 goalie Gilles Gilbert was injured and Reece helped the Bruins extend their winning streak to seven games by making 20 saves in a 5-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins two nights earlier. But the rookie knew his days were numbered when the Bruins brought back Gerry Cheevers after a four-year hiatus in the World Hockey Association. Cheevers, in his first game since rejoining the Bruins, dressed as Reece's backup.

Video: Sittler speaks on 40th anniversary of 10-point game

Bruins coach Don Cherry seldom pulled goalies during a game because he didn't want them looking to the bench after allowing a few goals. But after one of Sittler's three goals in the second period, Cherry did look Cheevers' way at the end of the bench.

"He put a towel over his head as if to say, 'I don't want any part of this,'" Cherry said. "But I wanted to save [Cheevers] for the next night because we were back at home and it was a homecoming for him.

"I know I took a lot of slings and arrows for keeping Davey in there. But I always felt you sometimes you had to lose a battle to win the war."

Cheevers and the Bruins defeated the Detroit Red Wings 7-0 at Boston Garden the next night to begin a four-game winning streak. Boston finished first in the Adams Division and Cherry won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach. However, Reece never played another NHL game. He was demoted to the minors following Sittler's big night, left pro hockey after one more season and went on to a successful career as a high school guidance counselor.

Reece has accepted his role in Sittler's big night. He joined Sittler for a television special to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the game in 2006 and attended a ceremony for the 40th anniversary at Air Canada Centre on Thursday.

Sittler had his own reason to play to well that night. There had been a story in the local newspapers that week that quoted colorful Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard as saying he wished his team could find a center to play between McDonald and Thompson.

"It was a shot at me," Sittler said.

Three nights earlier, coach Red Kelly had put together the line of Sittler, McDonald and Thompson, who replaced Dave (Tiger) Williams. The new line scored twice in a 4-4 tie at home against the Washington Capitals.

But at practice a couple of days later, Kelly informed the new linemates they were going to be split up.

"Red told us he didn't want to put all his eggs in one basket," McDonald said. "Errol, Darryl and I went in to see Red after practice and begged him to give us a week."

The line stayed together for more than two years until Thompson was traded to the Detroit Red Wings on March 13, 1978.

"That line was so explosive, especially when [defensemen] Borje Salming and Ian Turnbull were out there with them," Thomas said.

Sittler, now 65, agreed.

"Playing with Borje and Ian was like having an extra forward because one of them often jumped up into the play," he said.

Sittler remembered wishing he had some extra time in the hours leading up to that game. He had his usual pregame nap, but because he was running some errands he was worried that there wasn't enough time for his usual pregame meal of pasta and either chicken or steak; his late wife, Wendy, was eight months pregnant with their second of three children, Meaghan, who was born five weeks later. So instead of his wife's cooking, Sittler stopped at a Swiss Chalet restaurant for a takeout chicken dinner with fries. He "wolfed" down the meal in his car on his way home.

"I tried it, but it never worked like that time," Sittler said when asked if Swiss Chalet became a ritual.

Sittler felt he had better games than his 10-point performance, but said there was magic in the air that night, when everything he touched resulted in a point.

"You know what happened after [that night]," queried Sittler, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989. "I scored [a record] five goals against the Philadelphia Flyers in a playoff game and the overtime winner for Canada against Czechoslovakia to win the [1976] Canada Cup. I guess it was the year of Darryl Sittler.

"There was a lot of excitement for that game. The Bruins had been playing well, it was a Saturday night, two Original Six teams, on Hockey Night in Canada, and because the Canadiens were on the road, everybody was watching our game."

Since that memorable evening four decades ago, 11 players have had eight points in a game. That last was Sam Gagner, who did it for the Edmonton Oilers against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 2, 2012.

"Every year that goes by, the magnitude of the 10 points gets bigger and means more to me," Sittler said. "Here's a tidbit: my father [Ken] passed away on Feb. 4 [1985] when I was playing in my final NHL season for Detroit. He meant so much to our family. So we remember him, especially this time of the year, and that has made the anniversary of the 10 points more special."

 

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