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NHL Centennial

Gretzky trade to Kings resonates 29 years later

Great One sent to Los Angeles by Oilers on Aug. 9, 1988, still reigns in NHL record book

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor

Aug. 9, 1988, was a day that changed the NHL forever.

Twenty-nine years ago today, the League was rocked by a trade the likes of which it had never seen and never may see again. The Edmonton Oilers, who had won the Stanley Cup four times in five seasons and appeared poised to dominate for years to come, traded Wayne Gretzky, the centerpiece of their dynasty and the greatest scorer in hockey, to the Los Angeles Kings for forwards Jimmy Carson and Martin Gelinas, three first-round draft picks and $15 million.

Gretzky already had turned the NHL record book inside-out while helping the Oilers terrorize goaltenders like no team in the history of the League. The trade stunned Edmonton and the rest of Canada, which still was recovering from Gretzky's marriage to United States-born actress Janet Jones less than a month earlier.

Gretzky turned the Kings into an attraction in star-driven Los Angeles, drawing sellout crowds and leading them into their first Stanley Cup Final, in 1993. He played 11 seasons after the trade and retired in 1999 following three seasons with the New York Rangers. He left the NHL with more than 60 records.


[RELATED: Wayne Gretzky: 100 Greatest NHL Players | NHL Centennial coverage]


In honor of the 29th anniversary of the trade that resonates throughout the NHL more than a quarter of a century later, here's a look at 29 of Gretzky's records that never may be broken:

Most career points: 2,857

How safe is this record? A player who averaged 125 points for 20 seasons would still be 357 points shy of Gretzky's career record. The last player with that many points in one season is Joe Thornton, who had 125 in 2005-06 with the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks. And Jaromir Jagr, who is second to Gretzky with 1,914 points, is 943 points behind and is unsigned for this season.

Most career goals: 894

This is another mark that figures to last for a long time. The top goal scorer among active players under 40 is Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals with 558; he turns 32 on Sept. 17. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who turned 30 on Aug. 7, has 382 goals, the most by any active player 30 or younger. Neither is likely to catch Gretzky.

Video: Memories: Wayne Gretzky scores his 802nd career goal

Most career assists: 1,963

Gretzky often seemed to have eyes in the back of his head, that's how good he was at finding teammates for what turned into easy goals. His assist total is 714 more than runner-up Ron Francis, and Gretzky has more assists than any player has points. Among active players, Jagr leads with 1,149 assists.

Most goals, one season: 92

Gretzky's record-setting 1981-82 season blew away the previous mark of 76 by Phil Esposito of the Bruins in 1970-71. Esposito's total was regarded at the time as a record for the ages. As things turned out, it lasted barely a decade. Gretzky, then 21, scored his 77th goal on Feb. 24, 1982, finished the season with 92 and has said he was disappointed he didn't get more.

The only players in the 21st century to reach 60 goals are Ovechkin with 65 in 2008-09, and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning with 60 in 2011-12. Crosby led the NHL last season with 44.

Video: Memories: Gretzky breaks Esposito's record

Fewest games needed to score 50 goals, one season: 39

This also happened in 1981-82, and it was capped by perhaps the greatest night of Gretzky's career. He had scored 45 goals in Edmonton's first 38 games when the Philadelphia Flyers came to Northlands Coliseum on Dec. 30, 1981. Gretzky beat goaltender Pete Peeters four times to help the Oilers to a 6-5 lead, then scored into an empty net for his fifth of the game and 50th of the season. Only Maurice Richard of the Montreal Canadiens and Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders had scored as many as 50 goals in 50 games.

Most goals, first 50 games of a season: 61

Gretzky didn't stop scoring after getting 50 in the first 39 games in 1981-82, though he did slow down a bit. He had 11 goals in the Oilers' next 11 games to give him 61 through 50 games. Mario Lemieux is next with 54 in 50 games in 1988-89.

Longest single-season point-scoring streak: 51 games

As remarkable as Gretzky's 92-goal season in 1981-82 was, he might have been even more dangerous in 1983-84, when he opened the season by getting at least one point in Edmonton's first 51 games. Perhaps most astonishing is that the streak was ended by journeyman goaltender Markus Mattson and the defensively challenged Kings, who defeated Edmonton 4-2 on Jan. 28, 1984. It was the highlight of a season for Los Angeles, which would go on to allow 376 goals and miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Lemieux's 46-game streak in 1988-89 is the second-longest in NHL history. Gretzky also had streaks of 39 and 30 games. Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks had a 26-game streak in 2015-16, the longest since Mats Sundin had points in 30 straight games for the Quebec Nordiques in 1992-93.

Most points, one season: 215

Then again, maybe 1985-86 was Gretzky's best season. He broke his record of 212 points, set in 1981-82, by scoring or assisting on 215 (52 goals, 163 assists) of Edmonton's 426 goals. It was the fourth and final 200-point season of his career; he's the only player to have that many in a season. Of the 13 seasons in which a player had 160 or more points, nine belong to Gretzky and the other four to Lemieux, whose NHL career high was 199 points (85 goals, 114 assists) in 1988-89.

Most assists, one season: 163

Setting up teammates was what Gretzky did best, and he never was better at it than in 1985-86, when he had an NHL-record 163 assists, breaking the mark of 135 he had set the previous season. In fact, Gretzky owns the top seven single-season assist totals in NHL history. For comparison, the highest assist total in one season by a player in the 21st century is 96 by Thornton in 2005-06.

Most consecutive 40-goal seasons: 12

Scoring 40 goals is a lot tougher now than it was in the 1980s and 1990s, but scoring 40 12 times in a row is a remarkable achievement in any era. Bossy is next with nine straight, followed by Luc Robitaille of the Kings with eight.

Most 100-point seasons: 15

Not only has Gretzky lapped the field in this category (Lemieux is next with 10; no one else has more than eight), in all but one of those seasons he put up at least 120 points. In 11 of those seasons he'd have reached 100 points without scoring a goal.

Most consecutive 100-point seasons: 13

This streak might have lasted a few more seasons, but a back injury that limited Gretzky to 45 games (and 65 points) in 1992-93 ended it, although he led the Kings to their first Stanley Cup Final in 1993. Six Hockey Hall of Fame members -- Lemieux, Bossy, Bobby Orr, Guy Lafleur, Peter Stastny and Steve Yzerman -- are next with six.

Video: Wayne Gretzky all-time leader in goals, points

Highest points-per-game average (50 or more points), season: 2.77

If averaging a point per game in a full NHL season is impressive, what's a good term for a player who averages more than 2.75 points per game, as Gretzky did by putting up 205 points (87 goals, 118 assists) in 74 games in 1983-84? "The Great One" fits the bill perfectly.

Most games with three or more goals, career: 50

No one was better than Gretzky when it came to scoring in bunches. He had 37 three-goal games, nine games in which he scored four times, and four in which he scored five. Lemieux is next with 40 hat tricks, one more than Bossy and six ahead of Brett Hull. Ovechkin's 17 hat tricks are the most among players active in 2016-17. A player entering the NHL now would have to average three hat tricks for 17 seasons to top Gretzky's record.

Most shorthanded goals, career: 73

Gretzky was one of the first NHL superstars who was used to kill penalties, giving opposing power plays something else to worry about. Since shorthanded goals became an NHL-recognized statistic in 1967, Gretzky's career total is 10 more than runner-up Mark Messier (63) and 23 more than third-place Yzerman (50). Marian Hossa leads active players with 34, tied for 11th all-time.

Most games with three or more goals, season: 10

It must have been fun to be an Oilers fan in 1981-82; you had a one-in-eight chance of seeing Gretzky get a hat trick. He had six three-goal games, three four-goal games and one five-goal game. Gretzky matched his own record in 1983-84 with six three-goal games and four four-goal games. Bossy and Lemieux each had nine hat tricks in a season; no one since Alexander Mogilny of the Buffalo Sabres in 1992-93 has more than seven. Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets led the NHL last season with three.

Fewest games to 500 goals: 575

The 500-goal mark is an elite achievement by an NHL player; 45 (most recently Patrick Marleau on Feb. 2, 2017) have reached it. Gretzky got there when he was 25 years old, scoring his 500th goal on Nov. 22, 1986. Three players (Lemieux, Bossy and Bobby Hull) scored 500 goals in fewer than 700 games; Ovechkin (801) was the last to do it in fewer than 1,000 games.

Fewest games to 1,000 points: 424

Gretzky got assists even faster than he scored goals, so it's not surprising that he reached 1,000 points before he scored his 500th goal. Appropriately, it was an assist on Dec. 19, 1984, about a month before his 24th birthday, that made Gretzky the fastest to reach 1,000 points. Lemieux is next at 513 games; Jagr (763) is the fastest in the past 20 seasons to get to 1,000 points.

Most career playoff points: 382

Gretzky's domination of this category isn't quite as thorough as his record for regular-season points. Runner-up Messier's total of 295 postseason points is 77.2 percent of Gretzky's Stanley Cup Playoff mark; Jagr's 1,914 regular-season points are 67.0 percent of Gretzky's total. Fellow Oilers forwards Jari Kurri (233) and Glenn Anderson (214) are next. Jagr's 201 points are fifth and most by anyone who never played for the Oilers.

Video: Memories: Gretzky sets playoff points record

Most career playoff goals: 122

Gretzky's record owes much to his skill, endurance and success of the teams he played on. You can't score a lot of playoff goals if you're injured or if your team gets knocked out early. Messier is second with 109 goals, three more than Kurri, Gretzky's longtime linemate. The only player with more than 100 to skate in a playoff game in the 21st century is Brett Hull, who's fourth on the list with 103.

Video: Memories: Gretzky records his 8th playoff hat trick

Most career playoff assists: 260

Gretzky is unparalleled as a setup man. Messier is a distant second with 186 playoff assists, and Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque is third with 139, two more than Gretzky's teammate Paul Coffey. Gretzky's assist total alone would put him second all-time in playoff points, behind only Messier's 295.

Most points in a single playoff: 47

Gretzky broke Bossy's single-season playoff points record of 35 by getting 38 in 1983 (although Bossy and the Islanders swept the Oilers in the Final), then torched that mark with 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists) in 18 games in 1985. Lemieux got close with 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 1991, and Gretzky twice reached 40 points (1988, 1993). Though teams can play more games in a postseason now than when Gretzky set the record, the most points by a player since he had 40 in 1993 are the 36 (14 goals, 22 assists) by Penguins center Evgeni Malkin in 2009. Crosby (31 in 2009 with the Penguins), Daniel Briere (30 in 2010 for the Flyers) and Logan Couture (30 for the Sharks in 2016) are the other players to have at least 30 points in one playoff in the 21st century.

Most playoff games with three or more goals: 10

There were four three-goal games in the playoffs this spring, so Gretzky's mark for playoff hat tricks seems safe for a long time. Kurri and Richard are second with seven, followed by Dino Ciccarelli with six and Bossy with five.

Most consecutive scoring titles: 7

Though Gretzky won the Hart Trophy in his first NHL season, he didn't get credit for leading the League in scoring. Gretzky and Marcel Dionne of the Kings tied for the scoring lead with 137 points, but Dionne won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer because he had 53 goals to Gretzky's 51. Gretzky launched his run of seven consecutive scoring titles in 1980-81; only Jagr, Esposito and Gordie Howe have had as many as four in a row.

Most consecutive MVP awards: 8

The NHL might as well have given Gretzky the Hart Trophy and had a new one made, as it did with the Lady Byng Trophy for New York Rangers center Frank Boucher, who won it seven times in eight years in the 1920s and 1930s. Gretzky won the MVP award in each of his first eight seasons before Lemieux broke the streak in 1987-88. Since Gretzky's streak ended, Ovechkin (2007-09) and goaltender Dominik Hasek (1996-98) have won as many as two in a row.

Video: Memories: Gretzky wins his ninth Hart Tophy

Most consecutive 70-goal seasons: 4

Gretzky's historic 92-goal performance in 1981-82 began a streak of four seasons in which he scored 70 or more goals (71 in 1982-83, 87 in 1983-84 and 73 in 1984-85). Hull is next with three, including 86 in 1990-91.

Longest consecutive assist streak: 23 games

This is one of the few records Gretzky holds that had nothing to do with his time in Edmonton. He had 48 assists during a record-setting streak with the Kings in 1990-91. Adam Oates, then with the Bruins, is second with an 18-game streak in 1992-93.

Most points in a Stanley Cup Final: 13

Gretzky was unstoppable during the 1988 Final against the Bruins, finishing with three goals and 10 assists in the Oilers' four-game sweep (a fifth game was suspended because of a power failure but the individual records stood). Briere is the only player in the 21st century to have as many as 12 points in the Final; he did it in six games with the Flyers in 2010.

Most All-Star Game points: 25

Gretzky put on some of his most spectacular performances in the All-Star Game. Most notably, he became the first player to score four goals in an All-Star Game, and he did it by scoring four times in the third period at Nassau Coliseum in 1983. His career point total in 18 games is two more than Lemieux, and Gretzky's 13 goals are tied with Joe Sakic for the All-Star Game record.

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