The Great One is at the top of almost all the statistics sheets, so it should not be surprising that he tops the records for having the most hat tricks. At the time of his retirement, after playing 20 seasons, Wayne Gretzky retired with 50 games in which he scored three or more goals in a game. He had 37 hat tricks, nine games where he scored four goals and four games where he notched five goals.
But perhaps one of the strangest hat tricks in his career was the one he scored on February 4, 1989, his first wearing the Los Angeles Kings sweater during his first season after the biggest trade in all of NHL history that had taken place in August of 1988. That night the Kings played host to the Buffalo Sabres at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
The Kings didn’t start off the night on the plus side of the scoreboard. In fact, the Buffalo Sabres were up 2-0 at 13:10 of the second period before the Kings got on the scoreboard—a shot from Steve Kasper on the power play. The third period saw five additional goals—four of which were for the Kings. Seven minutes into the final period Luc Robitaille, assisted by Gretzky and Dale Degray tied the game. Gretzky would get his first goal of the game at 10:34 of the game to give the Kings their first lead of the game. At 17:20. Christian Ruuttu tied things up for the Sabres, but Gretzky was still to get credit for two more goals on the night—both unassisted—the first at 18:12 and the second at 19:59.
Given his statistics, and his ability to put the puck in the net, he certainly didn’t need any help in the scoring department, but that turned out to be the case on two of the goals he was credited with during that game in which the Kings would win 5-3 over the Sabres. One of the goals was actually knocked into the Sabres net by a Buffalo player. But perhaps the hardest one for the Sabres to swallow had to be Gretzky’s last goal of the game with one second remaining on the clock. He was awarded the empty-net goal after the referee ruled that the Buffalo net had been intentionally dislodged by a Buffalo player.
Any doubt as to Gretzky’s abilities of course couldn’t be questioned, and just eight days later while the Kings were on the road in Chicago, Gretzky got his 45th hat trick in a 6-2 win over the Blackhawks. The first of his goals tied him with Marcel Dionne for most 40-goal seasons.
Ten years later, again on February 4, Gretzky was now wearing a New York Rangers sweater. With his only goal of the game at 16:21 of the second period against the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden, Gretzky tied Gordie Howe for total career goals scored—1,071 professional goals (which included all goals in regular season and playoffs in both the NHL and WHA).