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Gretzky still savors memories of goal No. 802

Passed his idol, Gordie Howe, 22 years ago to set NHL record

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director, Editorial

Gretzky All-Time NHL Goals Leader

Wayne Gretzky breaks Howe's record with goal no. 802

Mar 23, 1994: The Great One smashes Mr. Hockey's all-time mark at home in LA with a power play goal against the Canucks' Kirk McLean

  • 01:03 •

LAS VEGAS -- The memory remains fresh for many of those involved in one of the most historic moments in the unparalleled career of Wayne Gretzky.

On this date 22 years ago, Gretzky broke the goal-scoring record of his idol, Gordie Howe, with goal No. 802 during the second period of the Los Angeles Kings' game against the Vancouver Canucks at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

"One of the greatest parts of 802 was I got to spend a lot of time with Gordie and his wife Colleen because Gordie was following me around," Gretzky said Wednesday from his fantasy camp here. "A lot of times when you meet your idol, you're somewhat taken aback or disappointed. For me, when I met Gordie, he was bigger and better than I thought.

"When I had an opportunity to be around his record and break his record, I found it really fascinating to be around him, ask him questions and talk about stories."

Video: Wayne Gretzky talks about his fantasy camp

The goal came at 14:47 of the second period. Gretzky took a cross-ice pass from defenseman Marty McSorley on a give-and-go that left Vancouver goalie Kirk McLean badly out of position and allowed Gretzky to score into a virtually empty net.

"Luc [Robitaille] made a nice play to Marty and Marty made a really nice play to me to get me the puck and I basically had an empty net to throw it into," Gretzky said. "If you look at the play, {McSorley] made such a good play that everybody, defense and the goalie, were over this way. I don't think Marty could have drawn it up better.

The sellout crowd erupted as teammates, led by Luc Robitaille and followed closely by McSorley, mobbed him in the moments after Gretzky raised his arms in triumph.

"It was really cool," McSorley said Wednesday while serving as a coach at the Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp. "People always say to me, 'You were responsible for the record.' No. I feel zero responsibility because Wayne is going to break the record. Somebody is going to assist on it and it was a real pleasure that it was me that got that honor."

Video: Gretzky recalls scoring 802

McSorley said he has two pieces of hockey memorabilia in his house; one is the iconic painting of the moment done by Leroy Neiman.

A 15-minute on-ice ceremony featuring Gretzky's parents, then-Kings owner Bruce McNall and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, followed before the game resumed. The Canucks won the game, 6-3, but the outcome remains a footnote on what was a magical night.

Gretzky surpassed Howe during his 15th NHL season; Howe took 26 NHL seasons to score 801 goals. Gretzky finished his NHL career with 894 goals and 2,857 points, records that have yet to be approached.

But 802 remains a magical number for the players who have followed.

"It was the ultimate goal," said Brett Hull, who scored 741 goals in a career that led him to the Hockey Hall of Fame. "To pass Gordie, to be the No. 1 goal-scorer of all time, that's the pinnacle of scoring goals and who's better than Wayne Gretzky at scoring goals."

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