Even those who don’t know hockey usually recognize the name of Wayne Gretzky—the “Great One.” There really are no words that do justice to a player who made such an impact on the game that every team in the NHL elected to “retire” his sweater number of 99. However, on December 27, 1981, Gretzky garnered his 100th point in just the 38th game of the season—with his four goals and an assist in the Edmonton Oilers game against the LA Kings, the team Gretzky would be traded to seven years later.
“Wayne Gretzky scored four goals, two of them shorthanded, to give him 45 in 38 games as the Edmonton Oilers blasted the Kings 10-3 in National Hockey League action Sunday night.”
Gretzky got his Oilers on the board 1:39 into the first period, assisted by Doug Hicks and Mark Messier. Paul Coffey would get a power play goal at 16:13. With just 17 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Gretzky would get his second of the game, giving the Oilers a 3-0 lead to take into the first intermission.
As the second period got underway, the Kings got close to tying the game when Steve Bozek scored two of his three goals of the game; the first at 9:25 and the second at 13:08. Gretzky would give the Oilers an important cushion, shorthanded, just two minutes later. And Jari Kurri would make it 5-2 going into the second intermission.
Glenn Anderson, who had assisted on Gretzky’s first goal as well as Coffey’s during the first, would get his 15th of the season 21 seconds into the final period. Ken Berry would earn his first NHL career goal at 3:52. Gretzky got his second shorthanded goal, unassisted, at 7:26 and four minutes later would be the secondary assist on Hick’s goal at 11:27. Bozek notched his third of the game just 13 seconds later for the LA Kings. And Kurri would put the Oilers into double digits with his second, and the Oilers 10th, of the game.
With his four goals he brought himself to 45 goals in 38 games and his assist gave him his 100th point in just 38 games—averaging 2.6 points per game.
“Gretzky, who set NHL records for points (164) and assists (109) last season, also had two <sic> assists and now has 102 <sic> points. It was the third time this season Gretzky has put in four goals in one game and the second time he’s done so against the Kings.”
In the very next game three days later, December 30, 1981, at home against the Philadelphia Flyers, Gretzky would add five goals and an assist, giving him 50 goals in 39 games, achieving the 50 goal mark in 11 games fewer than Maurice “Rocket” Richard did during the 1944-45 season, and which had been equaled by Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders during the 1980-81 season.
Averaging 203.2 points per season between 1981-82 and 1986-7 impelled E.M. Swift of Sports Illustrated to write “What was he doing? Bowling?”
By the time he retired, Gretzky played in 1,487 regular season games, in which he amassed 894 goals, 1,963 assists for 2,857 points and an astounding +520. In the 208 playoff games he played, he scored 122 goals, added 260 assists for 382 points and was a +67.
“No player is bigger than the game,” Gretzky said at retirement. Of course that was anything but true in his case. His skill, hockey IQ and ability to see plays before they happened, earned him that nickname, “The Great One,” and not surprisingly finds him compared not to hockey players but those in other sports who did the impossible: Muhammad Ali, Pelé, Jack Nicklaus, and Secretariat.
- Elite Prospects – Wayne Gretzky
- “Great Gretzky sinks Kings, 10-3,” The San Bernadino County Sun, December 28, 1981, p. 39.